Heat start road trip against familiar foe

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat start a four-game road trip tonight against a team Miami knows well: the Chicago Bulls.

After the Detroit Pistons surprisingly defeated the Miami Heat at home to snap the two-time defending NBA champions' 10-game winning streak, the Heat now embark on a four-game road trip to a couple cold cities. Miami will visit the a familiar foe, the Chicago Bulls, tonight at 9:30 on TNT.

Since the announcement of Derrick Rose's season-ending surgery, the Bulls have not played well. Chicago has dropped its last two games and gone just 4-6 in its last 10 contests. (As an aside, it's also legitimate to point out that Rose wasn't playing at his 2011 MVP season level before he got hurt.) But even when decimated with injuries, Chicago has managed to give the Heat trouble -- at least during the regular season. The Bulls snapped Miami's historic 27-game winning streak last March and went 2-2 against the Heat last year.

Moreover, it's unknown whether Dwyane Wade will play tonight. Wade sat out of Miami's loss to the Pistons a couple nights ago, and may have helped Miami shoot more efficiently. My guess, though, is that Wade will lace 'em up for a game in front of his hometown friends and family on national television. Wade has played very well since taking a week off to recover from general soreness, so one hopes that his night off Tuesday will enable him to remain strong.

The Bulls will obviously play physically against the Heat, sending hard fouls to LeBron James when he drives to the basket. Chris Bosh will need to fend off Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Michael Beasley will need to contribute not just with scoring but also in rebounds. But the most important facet of the game tonight will simply center on whether Miami will play with the intensity needed to win. The Heat have played lackadaisically against Charlotte and Detroit recently, and the Miami players know that they have more talent than the Bulls. We just need to see if the Heat respond to the Bulls with a casual shrug or strong force.

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