LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined to win a championship. Well, now they have their shot.
James scored 28 points, Wade added 21, and they led a furious rally in the final minutes as the Miami Heat eliminated Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 83-80 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday.
James and Wade were simply spectacular down the stretch, each scoring eight during a game-ending 18-3 run as Miami wiped out a 12-point deficit to win the series.
Now, the Heat are headed back to the NBA finals for the first time since 2006, and in a fitting twist, they'll be facing the Mavericks. Back then, with Wade leading the way, Miami beat Dallas to capture the championship. This time, it'll be James and Dirk Nowitzki going for their first rings.
The Heat will host Game 1 on Tuesday night.
"We had to go through a lot of adversity," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That struggle that we went through in March, where we lost five straight — all of them close games, where we didn't execute down the stretch and weren't able to close games out — that helped us. As painful as that was, we had to go through that fire together to be able to gain the confidence where we could be successful now in the postseason."
For Miami's Big Three, this was the plan right from the start. The Heat had their difficulties along the way, but look at them now.
They just knocked off the team that won more games than any other, that boasted the league's MVP in Rose and sent expectations soaring around Chicago in a way not seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were racking up championships.
Rose led Chicago with 25 points but hit just 9 of 29 shots. He fouled Wade on a key four-point play and missed a tying free throw with 26.7 seconds left.
James had 11 rebounds and six assists. Wade's late surge helped negate his nine turnovers. Bosh added 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Heat pulled out a dramatic win.
The Bulls looked like they were in good shape up 77-65 with about three minutes to go, but Wade started the deciding run with a runner and layup. A 3 by James pulled Miami within 77-72 with 2:07 left. Rose then scored on a spin move in the lane, but fouled Wade as he nailed a 3, resulting in a four-point play.
Then, after a miss by Rose, James tied it at 79 with another 3 with 1:01 remaining, sending a loud groan through the arena.
James buried another jumper to put Miami ahead 81-79 with 29.5 seconds left. Rose immediately got fouled by James, but missed the second free throw after making the first.
Kurt Thomas then tipped the inbounds pass, but the Heat recovered, leading to two free throws for Bosh. The Bulls still had one more chance to tie it, but Kyle Korver got doubled up top and passed to Rose on the wing. His 3-pointer got blocked by James, with Udonis Haslem doubling him as time expired.