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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, February 24th (All times eastern)

Miami Heat (42-15) at Chicago Bulls (38-17), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A pair of Eastern Conference heavyweights clash in the Windy City Thursday when LeBron James and the star-studded Miami Heat visit the class of the Central Division, the Chicago Bulls.

The Heat, who lead the Southeast Division and are just percentage points behind Boston for the top spot in the conference, returned from the All-Star break in fine fashion on Tuesday when James scored 21 of his 31 points in the first half, getting plenty of help from fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as Miami cruised to a 117-97 victory over lowly Sacramento.

Wade scored 23 points, Bosh had 22 and the Heat moved to 11-1 in their last 12 games overall. They also ran their home winning streak to six in their first game at American Airlines Arena since Feb. 8.

"Me and D. Wade talked before the game and were like, 'Let's go out and try to dominate this game and not allow this team to get any sense that they can play with us," said James.

Miami has also been stellar on the road this season and will carry a 21-10 mark as the visitor into the Second City. As good as the Heat have been generally, they have struggled against top NBA's other top teams compiling a 1-6 mark against Boston, Chicago, San Antonio, Dallas and the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

The Bulls weren't as successful coming out of the break, losing to a bad Toronto team north of the border on Wednesday despite Joakim Noah's return to the lineup. DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani each scored 24 points in that one as the Raptors survived a furious onslaught by Derrick Rose to down Chicago, 118-113.

Rose scored 19 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, dished out 10 assists and made 14-of-16 foul shots, many of them on drive after drive to the basket in the final period. Carlos Boozer added 24 points and six rebounds, while Luol Deng contributed 19 points.

Noah, in his first game back after missing 30 contests with a right thumb injury, posted seven points and 16 rebounds for Chicago, which saw its four- game winning streak come to an end.

"I felt better. It's not the result I wanted. We have to come with a better edge. It was tough loss tonight," said Noah of his return.

The 118 points allowed were the second-most allowed this season by the Bulls, who are limiting opponents to 92.4 per game.

Miami has topped Chicago in seven of the last 10 games in the series but the Bulls downed the Heat at United Center, 99-96, back on Jan. 15 and have compiled a gaudy 25-4 record as the host so far this season.

02/24 10:45:22 ET


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