Heat, Bulls set for matinee affair

9:34 AM, Mar 9, 2014   |    comments
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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Miami Heat hope to close out a three-game road trip on a winning note when they visit the Chicago Bulls Sunday afternoon at the United Center.

The Heat lost the opener of the trip at Houston on Tuesday, then sustained a 111-87 loss to San Antonio two nights later. In a rematch of last season's NBA Finals, the Spurs laid the wood to the two-time defending champion Heat and took advantage of 21 Miami turnovers by posting 21 points.

San Antonio had a 37-22 advantage following 12 minutes of play and later scored 29 of the 42 points in the fourth quarter to dispatch the Heat, who were led by Chris Bosh's 24 points. The Heat trailed by as many as 14 early in the third before fighting back and a pair of LeBron James free throws pulled them within 79-74.

San Antonio led by as many as 24 down the stretch.

James had 19 points and has amassed 41 points in the last two games after a career-high 61-point explosion on Monday versus Charlotte. James talked about the longsleeved jerseys the Heat wore against the Spurs.

"I'm not making excuses, but I'm not a big fans of the jerseys. Every time I shoot it feels like it's just pulling right up underneath my arm," James said. "I already don't have much room for error on my jump shot. It's definitely not a good thing."

James also took off the protective face mask he was wearing for a broken nose suffered in Oklahoma City on Feb. 20.

"I don't like it," James said of the mask. "It's that simple, just got frustrated with it early on so I took it off. It didn't help me, taking it off. It's probably a game-to-game thing."

Dwyane Wade scored 16 points in the loss, Miami's second in a row on the road after a four-game winning streak as the guest. The Heat, who are 1 1/2 games behind Indiana for the East's top seed, had won eight in a row and 11 of 12 games before the recent slide and are 19-12 away from South Beach.

After visiting the Bulls, Miami will return to south Florida for the next four games versus Washington, Brooklyn, Denver and Houston.

The Bulls are coming off Friday's tough loss versus Memphis in the opener of a six-game homestand, but have been a bright spot since the calendar turned. In the 85-77 setback to the Grizzlies, Chicago couldn't get much going offensively and its traditional defense was suspect at times.

Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol each had a double-double for Memphis, which held the Bulls to 41.3 percent shooting and 2-of-13 from 3-point range. The Bulls were led by Taj Gibson's 18 points off the bench, while Joakim Noah and D.J. Augustin scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. Noah was coming off his third triple-double in a span of 22 days.

Chicago was outscored 50-38 over the last two quarters.

"We didn't play well in the second half," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "In this league you usually get what you deserve. Missed shots are part of it. You can deal with that, but your defense and your rebounding you have to be able to count on."

The Bulls, owners of a 22-10 mark since Jan. 1 and fourth in the East standings, had won five in a row at home until Friday's loss and fell to 18-11 in the Windy City. They will also welcome San Antonio, Houston, Sacramento and Oklahoma City to the United Center on the current stay.

Chicago is still 10-3 in the last 13 games and will close out a four-game series with the Heat in the regular season. Miami has won two of the first three matchups, but is just 3-11 in the last 14 trips to Chicago.

Miami is averaging 104.4 ppg and the Bulls are allowing 92.2 ppg. Opposing teams are shooting just 43.3 percent against the Bulls.

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