The way everything was crumbling, the Chicago Bulls sure needed a reprieve. Knocking off the defending champions was a nice one.
Carlos Boozer scored 27 points, and the Bulls pounded LeBron James and the Miami Heat 107-87 on Thursday night.
Luol Deng had 20 points, Taj Gibson chipped in with 19, and Joakim Noah added 17 points and 15 rebounds as the Bulls had no trouble taking out the Southeast Division leaders.
Chicago took control early on and hung on down the stretch after watching a 25-point lead in the third quarter dwindle to 12 late in the game.
It was an impressive showing by a team that had dropped six of seven and is once again trying to get by without the injured Derrick Rose.
"Our team needed it," Noah said. "We went through a lot the past couple of weeks. It’s really hard to play without Derrick. I want to win with Derrick Rose."
The Bulls shot 50 percent and were 10 for 19 on 3-pointers — four by Deng and three by Kirk Hinrich, who scored 13. They also outrebounded Miami 49-27.
James scored 21 points for Miami, but the Heat shot a season low for the second straight game, converting 41.6 percent from the field after hitting 43.9 percent in Tuesday’s loss to Detroit.
"We can’t just brush this loss aside," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We have to really own it, to understand what happened. They just got whatever they wanted, right in the paint, at the rim and if they missed those, then they’re just beating us up at the glass."
It didn’t help that Dwyane Wade stayed back at the hotel with an illness after sitting out the previous game because of knee soreness.
Chris Andersen missed this one for personal reasons, but the Heat will get no sympathy from Chicago.
After all, the Bulls lost Rose to a torn meniscus in his right knee in a game at Portland on Nov. 22, and although the former MVP left the door slightly open for a playoff return earlier in the day, the team has ruled him out for the rest of the season.
"We really got snake-bitten," Gibson said. "When that happened to Derrick, that was really like, `Wow.’ We’re a family in here. When that stuff kind of happens, it was just … tough. We were on the road, odds were against us."
And as if that six-game trip wasn’t difficult enough, there was a triple-overtime loss to New Orleans on Monday in their first game back at the United Center.
The Bulls did just fine on Thursday, although things got a little tight down the stretch.
Miami cut it to 93-81 on Norris Cole’s runner with 5:38 remaining. But Gibson answered with a jumper and blocked a layup by Udonis Haslem.
Deng made a 3 with just under four minutes left to make it 98-81, and Chicago hung on from there.
Before that, the only tension came early in the third quarter when Hinrich took a shot to the neck from Cole away from the ball. The result was an angry exchange, a flagrant foul one for Cole and a technical for Hinrich.
The Bulls’ guard hit both free throws after James missed a foul shot, making it 67-45.
Boozer led a scorching start by Chicago, scoring 19 points as the Bulls built a 58-44 halftime lead.
But in the end, it was the Bulls’ rebounding and defense that had the Heat shaking their heads.
"We’ve never been a great rebounding team but we’ve been able to overcome that," James said. "Teams have done a much better job of rebounding against us. It could be an effort thing, it could be a lot of things but we just got to go out and just go get them.
"I’m going to do a better job of that, get more rebounds. But it’s a group thing for a team. We don’t have a Kevin Love or Joakim Noah or Dwight Howard, those types of guys who can get you 15-plus, we have to do it as a collective group."
NOTES: There was a moment of silence before the game to honor Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95. … This was the Bulls’ most lopsided win over the Heat since a 126-96 blowout at Miami on Jan. 16, 2008. … Andersen expected to rejoin Miami on Friday in Minnesota. The Heat play the Timberwolves on Saturday.