(Reuters) - The Chicago Bulls overcame the absence of league MVP Derrick Rose to earn a 106-102 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday with third-string point guard John Lucas III scoring 24 points to emerge as an unlikely game winner.
Lucas stung Miami with 11 points in the fourth quarter, including two clinching free throws that set the final score with six seconds left.
Rose sat out the game due to a groin injury but the Bulls still managed to open up a 3 1/2-game lead over the Heat in the Eastern Conference.
Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 36 points and LeBron James put up 35 but the Heat (31-11) fell behind by 17 in the third quarter and struggled to claw their way back.
Chicago (36-9) led for virtually the entire game and outrebounded the visitors 50-34 to help them earn a measure of revenge for last year's loss in the Eastern Conference Finals.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)