Shaquille O'Neal took a seat near his locker, wearing a gray vest and slacks, a tie and pinstriped shirt. He looked sharp during the game, too.
O'Neal dominated, Dwyane Wade played well despite a bruised left hip and the Miami Heat never trailed in eliminating the feisty Chicago Bulls 113-96 on Thursday night.
The second-seeded Heat won the best-of-seven series 4-2 and will meet the third-seeded New Jersey Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Miami swept the Nets in the first round last year.
O'Neal had 30 points and 20 rebounds while staying out of foul trouble as Miami won its first playoff series against the Bulls and its first postseason game in Chicago.
"I knew coming into the game that I was going to my finesse game," said O'Neal, who was 13-of-24 from the field. "I wasn't really trying to use the power because I was going to go to my jump hooks, turnarounds, fadeaways. I came in with the mind-set I was going to stay out of foul trouble -- don't help, don't commit any silly fouls."
Wade scored 23 points, and although he spent more time on the perimeter than usual, he was 7-of-12 from the field, including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers.
Wade injured his hip late in the first half of Game 5 on Tuesday, when he landed awkwardly after having his layup blocked by Michael Sweetney. He was injected with a painkiller at halftime, returned midway through the third quarter and scored 15 of his game-high 28 points to lead the Heat to a 92-78 victory.
James Posey scored 18 points for the Heat on Thursday, while Udonis Haslem added 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Chicago's Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon scored 23 and 21 points, respectively, after shooting a combined 6-for-29 in Game 5. Andres Nocioni added 20 points.
After shooting just under 35 percent in Game 5, the Bulls missed 11 of their first 12 shots Thursday and finished 31-of-75 (41 percent). They were 10-for-30 on 3-pointers.
The Heat finished 38-of-77 from the field, including 11-of-25 on 3s.
"For a team that's supposed to hang its hat on defense, we just did a pretty poor job this series," Hinrich said.
Trailing 64-48 early in the third quarter, the Bulls scored seven straight points, capped by Nocioni's transition basket that brought the crowd to its feet. But after a timeout, O'Neal went 1-of-2 from the line and jammed in a miss by Wade to make it 67-55.
The Bulls pulled within 97-88 on Gordon's three-point play with 4:58 left, but Haslem converted a three-point play after a miss by Posey at the shot-clock buzzer, and then hit a jumper. A steal and layup by Posey made it a 16-point game. O'Neal punctuated things with a dunk that made it 106-88 with 3:06 left.
But from the start, this was a different Shaq from the one who had struggled the previous few games.
"I told them, 'Just give me the ball,'" he said. "They knew what I wanted to do tonight. They knew I wasn't going to be in foul trouble. I wanted to close these guys out."
The Bulls could not stop it.
"He was definitely aggressive out there," Bulls center Tyson Chandler said. "He kind of took the game into his hands. He was probably the liveliest I've seen him the whole series. He played like Shaq tonight."
The Heat were 0-9 in postseason games in Chicago and had lost three previous playoff series against the Bulls. Nothing about this series was easy.
Haslem tossed his mouthpiece toward an official in Game 1 and served a one-game suspension. Posey knocked down Hinrich in Game 3 and was suspended for Game 4. O'Neal couldn't avoid foul trouble in the first five games and got fined US$25,000 after criticizing the officiating in Game 3. And teammates Gary Payton and Wade exchanged words near the end of the first half of Game 4.