Heat 108, Bulls 95
The Heat-Bulls rivalry came back to life Friday night, replete with three technicals, a flagrant foul, and an ejection - all on the same possession.
Fighting words followed, too.
Yep, playoff time must be near.
Jermaine O'Neal scored a season-high 25 points, Quentin Richardson added 23 and the Miami Heat beat a Chicago team playing without its three top scorers 108-95 - not only sending the Bulls to their seventh straight loss, but sending their emotions boiling over as well.
``Typical,'' Dwyane Wade said of another heated Chicago-Miami matchup. ``Nothing out of the ordinary happened tonight.''
Well, not until the 4:43 mark of the fourth quarter.
Wade drove the lane, got fouled by Brad Miller, and the downward spiral for the Bulls quickly got underway. Wade started jawing at someone, Kirk Hinrich argued the foul call, and the whistles just kept coming. Hinrich got a technical, Miller was issued another one after questioning why his foul was deemed flagrant, and moments later, Hinrich earned technical No. 2 and drew an automatic ejection.
The sequence began with the Heat leading 87-77. After six free throws and Wade's floater from the left baseline 18 seconds after the initial whistle of the possession, Miami was up 95-77.
Let the postgame back-and-forth begin.
Said Miller: ``They were trying to be tough guys, and we get to see them again.''
Countered Wade: ``Brad can stop crying.''
By the way, the teams play again in Chicago on March 25.
``That's going to be a very compelling game when we play in Chicago,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ``There'll be a lot of stakes for that game and I think both teams will be motivated for that one.''
Wade scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half for Miami, which extended its season-best home winning streak to five games and passed idle Toronto for the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are now 2 1/2 games clear of No. 9 Chicago in the playoff chase.
``We want to win every game and we've put ourselves in position where we've got to scrap,'' O'Neal said. ``We can't blame anybody else but ourselves. So every game we have in this building, we've got to take full advantage of it.''
James Johnson and Jannero Pargo each scored 20 for Chicago, which lost its seventh straight and played without Derrick Rose (sprained left wrist), Luol Deng (strained right calf) and Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in left foot). Rose could be back when the Bulls try to snap their longest losing streak since 2005-06 at Memphis on Tuesday.
Until then, this loss might sting the Bulls more than a little bit.
``I was just standing there with my damn arm up and he comes like he always does and I just don't fall down,'' Miller said of the play where Wade drew the flagrant. ``You get a flagrant for taking a hit, and that's the joy of certain people against certain people.''
Replays appeared to show Hinrich brushing referee Tom Washington on the arm while pleading his case with referee Bennie Adams after the second technical, meaning a suspension could be forthcoming.
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said he didn't expect that to happen.
``I'll have to look at the film to make a better assessment of it,'' Del Negro said, speaking of the whole sequence. ``You can't always worry about the referees, but sometimes you have to make your point. Bottom line is you have to do it on the court. You have to play and keep battling.''
The Heat beat the Bulls in the first round of the 2006 playoffs on their way to the NBA championship, then opened the next season by getting drubbed at home by 42 points against Chicago. The Bulls swept Miami out of the playoffs that season, and the 2008-09 series had some memorable moments as well, like Wade making a running 3-pointer to beat Chicago in double overtime on March 9, 2009.
Miller had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago, and Flip Murray added 15 points off the Bulls' bench. Mario Chalmers scored 17 on 6-of-9 shooting for Miami, which played without Michael Beasley (left thigh bruise).
NOTES: Richardson had four 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes. ... O'Neal didn't score in his final nine minutes of court time, meaning his 25 points came with him logging 24 minutes. ... Chicago is now 4-17 all-time at AmericanAirlines Arena. ... The Bulls have given up at least 100 points in 10 straight games. ... Rose was sidelined for the first time this season.