Bulls host Heat in matchup of top two teams in Eastern Conference

It's not a question of whether or not LeBron James will cover Derrick Rose, its a question of how much.

The Miami Heat don't get much time to spend thinking about their loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday as they get right back to work tonight. After playing one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference last night, the Heat immediately jumped on a plane and headed north to the windy city where they'll play the team with the best record in the East tonight.

While the Heat played in a very tough overtime game before traveling up to Chicago, the Bulls got to spend their Tuesday night resting and waiting for Miami to arrive in their hometown. That's because Chicago played their last game on Monday night when they hosted Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks.

That was another tough game, but the Bulls came away with the win after yet another amazing performance from Derrick Rose. In what's becoming ‘just another day' for Rose, he made several highlight reel worthy plays, weaving in, out and around defenders while finishing at the rim with all kinds of moves and layups. One play that stands out was when he drove with the ball and cleared himself enough space to lift off and finish with a thundering dunk that you won't see from many point guards.

The Heat and the Bulls sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, with Chicago holding a 2½ game advantage over Miami. It helps that the Bulls have played three more games then the Heat, though Miami has just one more loss then Chicago. The Bulls are the only team left in the NBA without double-digit losses. They have lost just 9 games, while Miami and Oklahoma City are right behind them with 10 losses. The next closest teams are San Antonio and Orlando, with 13 and 15 losses respectively.

The one and only time these teams played this season, it was a very exciting and close contest from start to finish. Miami got the last laugh, playing in front of their home fans at the AAA and coming away with a 97-93 victory in which they never actually trailed. Derrick Rose led Chicago with 34 points, but needed a few more to complete the Bulls' comeback and get his team a win.

With 2½ minutes left in the 4th quarter, a pair of LeBron free throws put Miami up by 8 points. That's when the Bulls made their final run, outscoring the Heat 7-0 over the next 2:11. Rose and the Bulls were taking advantage of LeBron James' sudden struggles, even if those struggles lasted for just over ninety seconds.

Chicago's 7-0 run began following a LeBron turnover, and then the Bulls' Carlos Boozer scored on consecutive possessions that were a direct result of James missing shots on the Heat possessions that came directly before the ones that Boozer scored on for Chicago. It also helped that Boozer's first bucket came on a 4th chance opportunity for the Bulls; they grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in the span of 7 seconds.

A Derrick Rose ‘and 1' with 49 seconds left would bring the Bulls to within one point of the Heat, after which LeBron missed the second shot of those consecutive possessions. The ball was immediately put back in Rose's hands, and before the Heat defense knew what hit them, Rose had already attacked the rim and been fouled by Udonis Haslem with Chicago down by 1 and 22 seconds on the clock.

Now keep in mind that Rose is a career 81.6% shooter from the free-throw line, and that he had already gone a perfect 12-for-12 from the foul line during the games first 47 minutes and 38 seconds. That didn't matter though, as Rose missed both free throws. LeBron also missed a pair from the charity stripe, but it didn't come back to haunt the Heat as they held the Bulls without a point for the rest of the game. Now that I've given you a nice little trip down memory lane, its time to get ready for round 2 of this 4-game regular season series.

GAME NOTES

  • The Heat are 13-8 on the road. Chicago is 17-3 at home.
  • The last four regular season meetings between the Bulls and the Heat have been decided by a total of 12 points.
  • The Bulls average 4.4 less points per game then Miami, but Chicago also gives up 5.1 less points per game then the Heat.
  • The Heat have also won their last 29 games when they've had a double figure rebounding advantage.
  • Miami can also boast that they have three different starters who are shooting above 50% for the season. LeBron James (55.2%) leads the way, with Joel Anthony (52.1%) and Dwyane Wade (50.5%) nipping at his heels.
  • Chicago is 16-0 this season when scoring 100 points or more.
  • The Heat will be without Mike Miller, who is dealing with a sprained left ankle.
  • As for Chicago, forward Luol Deng and guard C.J. Watson are probable.

Tipoff from the United Center is set for 9:30. The game will be broadcast locally on Sun Sports and Nationally on ESPN.

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