The Chicago Bulls knocked off one of the NBA’s best teams in their last outing. Now they’ll look to continue their success over the league’s best squad from a year ago.
The Bulls go for their third win over the Miami Heat this season as the teams meet Saturday at the United Center.
Miami (19-24) beat Chicago in six games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season en route to its first-ever NBA championship. The Bulls (25-19) have certainly owned the matchups this season, though.
They routed the Heat 108-66 on Oct. 31, which was the worst loss for a defending champion on opening night in NBA history. Ben Gordon then scored 40 points on 11-of-17 shooting on Dec. 27 to lead Chicago to a 109-103 victory over Miami that got a little heated.
Heat leading scorer Dwyane Wade missed much of that contest after spraining his wrist coming off a screen while being guarded by Kirk Hinrich, and Miami coach Pat Riley blamed Hinrich for the injury. Riley remains on a leave of absence following hip and knee surgeries.
The Bulls will look for another win over Miami on Saturday after defeating the Dallas Mavericks 96-85 on Thursday. Chicago nearly gave up an early 17-point lead but tightened its defense to snap Dallas’ eight-game winning streak.
“Hopefully it motivates us and gives us confidence to realize we can beat anyone in the NBA, when we’re playing the right way, the way we’re supposed to play,” said Gordon, who scored 30 points.
Deng added 21 points and nine rebounds while Ben Wallace grabbed 17 boards as the Bulls’ matched their season-best with 59. P.J. Brown made clutch shots down the stretch and played tough defense on Dirk Nowitzki, helping Chicago hold its eighth straight opponent under 100 points.
The Bulls, who are allowing just 86.6 points per game and limiting opponents to 38.1 percent shooting during that span, are giving up just 88.6 points per game at home. They are 19-6 at the United Center, including 14-1 versus the Eastern Conference.
Chicago is concluding a three-game homestand against the Heat, who are trying to avoid their fifth straight road loss. Miami was outscored 38-16 in the second quarter Friday and never recovered in its 116-96 defeat to the New York Knicks.
The Heat lost for the fourth time in five games, largely because they couldn’t slow New York’s Jamal Crawford, who made 16 straight shots and finished with 52 points.
“We have to take one game at a time and take care of business, and we haven’t been doing that,” said Heat center Shaquille O’Neal, who played his second game after missing 35 straight because of knee surgery, scoring 11 points in 15 minutes. “We just have to step up and play. Everyone has to do their job and everybody has to want to be here and everybody has to want to play.
“I’m getting sick and tired of this. I’ve never been five games under .500 in my career. It’s embarrassing.”
The Heat were 25-18 at this point last season, but now they’re trying to avoid their fourth losing streak of three or more games in 2006-07. The Bulls’ 25 wins through 44 games are their most since the 1997-98 championship squad had 31.
Wade, a suburban Chicago native, has surpassed 30 points six times in the last seven games for Miami, and scored 37 on Friday as he converted 17 of 21 from the free-throw line. He is averaging 16.8 points during his career against the Bulls - his worst mark versus any opponent - and is averaging only 11.9 points and shooting 38.0 percent in seven career games at the United Center.
Wade and O’Neal will both start for the East in the upcoming All-Star game.