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Heat battles Bulls

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MIAMI HEAT (37-14) at CHICAGO BULLS (31-22)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Miami -3.5 & 186

Smoking-hot Miami hopes to get revenge for an early-January loss to Chicago when the teams square off Thursday night.

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The last time the Heat played against the Bulls on Jan. 4, they put on a very poor offensive performance with just 89 points, well below their current 103.2 PPG average (5th in NBA). But Miami's offense has been rolling during its current eight-game SU win streak (6-2 ATS) with 107.6 PPG on 51.4% FG and 39.8% threes. In Wednesday's 103-90 win over Atlanta, the Heat made at least 47% of their shots for the 10th straight game. Chicago's offense also showed great improvement with 96 points on 46% FG in Tuesday's 96-87 win at New Orleans. In the Bulls previous game, they scored 69 points on 36.5% FG in a two-point defeat in Boston. The Bulls do a very good job defensively against the Heat, holding them to 86.0 PPG on 44% FG in the past three meetings. Not only do they play incredible defense, but Chicago, which is 4-1 ATS in the past five meeting with Miami, is also one of the NBA's best rebounding teams. The Bulls are fourth in the NBA in rebounding margin (+3.0 RPG) and fifth in total rebounds (43.8 RPG), while the Heat have the fewest rebounds (38.8 RPG) in the entire league. When the met last month, Chicago outrebounded them 48 to 28. One thing the Bulls are more than willing to do is let the Heat's big three beat them. Their main goal as a team defense is to make sure all of the other role players aren't doing their jobs. The tandem of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah inside with Taj Gibson off the bench is a little too much for Chris Bosh to handle on his own for Miami.

In Atlanta on Wednesday night, the Heat actually came away with the win due to superb play from their bench. SF LeBron James played the best for Miami with 24 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, but he wouldn't have been able to do it without PG Mario Chalmers. Chalmers was feeling his shot all night and it was really opening up the floor for Miami. He ended up with 14 points and two steals. SG Ray Allen was also a very good source of offense for Miami, finishing 6-of-12 from the field with 15 points. The biggest spark however, came from SF Shane Battier. Battier has been an incredible role player ever since he signed with Miami, but his defense and three-point shooting were spot-on against Atlanta, as he went 5-of-8 from three with 17 points and a +18 rating on the floor. SG Dwyane Wade is a big reason this offense has played so well, averaging 22.6 PPG on 49% FG during his team's eight-game win streak. Wade scored 22 points (7-of-11 FG) in the home loss to Chicago last month, while James scored 30 points (8-for-14 FG, 13-of-16 FT), but had just two assists and two turnovers in that defeat.

SF Luol Deng played extremely efficient offense for Chicago on Tuesday, scoring 20 points on just 13 shots. But he shot horribly in Miami last month with six points on 2-of-9 FG. PF Carlos Boozer was also a major spark defensively for the Bulls on Tuesday, adding four steals to go along with a typical 17-point and 10-rebound performance. Boozer carried his team in the last meeting with Miami, scoring 27 points (12-of-17 FG) and grabbing 12 rebounds (six offensive). However, the biggest game for Chicago on Tuesday came from C Joakim Noah, who looked eager to show people why he was included in this past All-Star weekend. Noah finished the game with 15 points (6-of-11 FG), 17 rebounds (five offensive), five assists and three blocks. Noah has now grabbed 15+ rebounds in three straight games despite his recent struggles with plantar fasciitis. Starting PG Kirk Hinrich finally returned to the court for the first time all month in Tuesday's victory. He scored just five points (2-of-7 FG), but dished out 10 assists with three steals and only two turnovers.

  
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