Heat-Bulls Preview

Despite the Chicago Bulls’ best efforts over the summer, Dwyane
Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh will only be coming to the United
Center as visitors this season.

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.

Miami is optimistic James will play Saturday. 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, 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.”

Derrick Rose had 29 points and 10 rebounds, scoring 20 points in
the second half. Rose is averaging 27.6 points the last five
games.

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.