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.