NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, March 12th (All times eastern)
Chicago Bulls (31-33) at Miami Heat (33-32), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - A pair of teams battling for playoff spots in the Eastern Conference square off tonight at Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena, where the surging Heat continue an important homestand by taking on the slumping Chicago Bulls.
Although only 1 1/2 games separate these clubs in the East standings, the Heat and Bulls have been going in opposite directions as of late. Miami posted its fourth win in its last five outings with Wednesday's 108-97 verdict over the Los Angeles Clippers, while Chicago's current losing streak reached a season- worst six games in last night's 111-82 defeat at Orlando.
The Bulls' slide has dropped them into ninth place in the conference race, with the Heat tied with Toronto and Charlotte for the final three postseason berths at the moment.
Miami has an opportunity to enhance its playoff chances with a six-game home stretch that began with Wednesday's victory over the Clippers. The Heat have won their last four tilts as the host, improving to 18-14 at AmericanAirlines Arena for the season.
"We've been playing better at home," said Miami's Dwyane Wade after Wednesday's game. "That's what we all wish we would've done all year, but we can't live in the past."
Wade led the way against Los Angeles with 27 points and eight assists, with Jermaine O'Neal contributing 19 points and nine rebounds to the win and Michael Beasley adding 15 points for Miami.
Chicago's losing streak is its longest since a six-gamer from November 14-24, 2006. Injuries have played a large part in the team's recent nose dive, and the Bulls suffered another significant one when point guard Derrick Rose had to exit last night's contest after one quarter due to a sprained left wrist.
Rose, averaging a team-best 20.4 points and 5.7 assists per game this season, will join two other key Chicago players on the sidelines tonight. An MRI this morning confirmed a sprain to his left wrist, with no fracture or ligament damage and his status will be listed as day-to-day after tonight. Meanwhile, Luol Deng is expected to miss a second straight night because of a strained calf, while fellow forward Joakim Noah is out indefinitely with a plantar fasciitis injury to his left foot.
Deng is second on the team with an average of 18.0 points per game and Noah leads Chicago in rebounding (11.4 rpg).
Rookie James Johnson led shorthanded Chicago with 13 points in Thursday's defeat, with Hakim Warrick and Taj Gibson each finishing with 12 points on the night.
Having Rose potentially unavailable doesn't figure to help the Bulls improve upon a 12-20 road record for the season. Chicago will be playing the second test of a critical four-game trip that also includes stops in Memphis and Dallas.
The Bulls have also lost in four straight visits to Miami, including a 95-87 decision on November 1. Chicago did get a measure of revenge with a 95-91 win over the Heat in the Windy City on February 6, in which Deng scored 25 points and Rose netted 24.
Miami may possibly be without bench player Dorell Wright for tonight's matchup after the 24-year-old was arrested Thursday morning for driving under the influence and having a suspended license.
03/12 15:02:25 ET