On Saturday night, Miami’s superstar trio will make its first trip to Chicago since all three turned down offers to play with the Bulls, as the Heat look to avoid matching a season-high three-game losing streak.
Chicago had the salary cap room to bring in two of last summer’s top free agents, but ultimately the team was spurned by Wade, James and Bosh in favor of uniting in Miami.
Of the three, the player Bulls fans may be particularly bitter toward is Wade. The Chicago native teased the hometown fans with two meetings with Bulls management during the summer talks.
“A little different,” Wade said when asked about the reaction he expects from the Chicago fans. “I don’t know what to expect but it really doesn’t matter to me. My family will be rooting for me and that’s all that matters.”
Wade, James and Bosh have been accustomed to boos on the road this season, but it certainly hasn’t affected the team, which won 13 straight away from home before consecutive losses this week.
Miami (30-11) is trying to close its five-game road trip on a high note after defeats on back-to-back nights against the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver.
The Heat fell 130-102 to the Nuggets on Thursday. Bosh scored 24 points and Wade added 16, but James sat out after spraining his left ankle the night before against the Clippers, while Miami allowed the most points it has all season.
The Heat, who gave up 111 to the Clippers the night before, are averaging 93.6 points allowed.
James is listed as doubtful to play Saturday after not participating in the team’s morning shootaround. He is averaging 29.2 points against the Bulls over his career, his second-highest average against Eastern Conference opponents he’s faced more than twice. He is also scoring 31.4 points per game in Chicago.
The Heat haven’t lost three in a row since Nov. 20-24. They’ve won seven of their last nine against Chicago.
“I think we’ll respond to these two (losses),” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The competitive nature will come out. It’ll be a big-game feel in Chicago.”
The Bulls (26-13) haven’t exactly struggled despite failing to land one of those three coveted free agents. Chicago, which ended up adding Carlos Boozer(notes), is leading the Central Division by nine games and has won 17 of 22, including seven straight at home.
The Bulls bounced back from Wednesday’s 96-91 loss at Charlotte with a 99-86 victory at Indiana on Friday. It was the third time in four games they held an opponent to fewer than 90 points, and Chicago limited Indiana to 32.6 percent shooting.
“We were just ready tonight,” said Boozer, who had 14 points. “We did a good job of focusing on what they do offensively. I thought we did a good job defensively and made them take tough shots, contested shots.”
However, Rose has struggled over his career against Miami, averaging 14.9 points in seven meetings while shooting 37.3 percent. In the last four, he’s been held to 12 or fewer points three times.
Chicago is looking to win eight straight games at the United Center for the first time since Jan. 7-27, 2005. The Bulls are holding opponents to an average of 82.4 points during the current streak there.