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Thursday, April 19th (All times eastern)

Chicago Bulls (47-15) at Miami Heat (44-17), 8 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Another loss and the Miami Heat can forget about capturing the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Sitting atop the standings are the Chicago Bulls, who will pay a visit to the Heat tonight in South Beach.

Miami is 2 1/2 games behind the Bulls for conference supremacy, and a setback tonight would give the Bulls a 3 1/2-game advantage with three games left.

The Heat have won four in a row and will resume a four-game homestand Thursday. They are fresh off Wednesday's 96-72 victory versus the Toronto Raptors, as LeBron James led all scorers with 28 points on 12 of 15 shooting and Mike Miller added 13 off the bench.

"I was just playing the game and taking the shots that were there," James said. "I was in a good groove offensively. The ball was moving and I was the recipient of good offense tonight. I was able to make some shots."

Udonis Haslem scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Miami, which shot 52.6 percent and rested starters Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Both are expected back tonight. Mario Chalmers added nine points and seven assists for the Southeast Division-champion Heat, owners of a 26-4 record as the host.

Miami will also host Washington and Houston on the homestand before closing out the regular season with road bouts in Boston and D.C.

Chicago is looking to secure homecourt advantage throughout the conference playoffs and a win Thursday would give the Bulls the tiebreaker over Miami.

The Bulls have won five of their last seven games and recorded a 100-68 blasting of the lowly Charlotte Bobcats last night on the road. Minus guard Derrick Rose (foot) and forward Luol Deng (ribs), Richard Hamilton picked up the slack with 22 points and both John Lucas and Joakim Noah added 12 points.

"The starters did their job, got us off to a good start, then the bench came in and they were playing extremely well too," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Chicago is now 17-8 without Rose in the lineup and 23-8 as the visitor. The Central Division champs will play two of three games at home to close out the regular season with a visit to Indiana sandwiched between home bouts versus the Mavericks and Cavaliers. Rose and Deng are questionable for tonight.

The Bulls have won two of three meetings with Miami this season, including a recent 96-86 overtime triumph a week ago. Chicago has won five of six against the Heat, but has dropped six of seven trips to the shores of Biscayne Bay.

04/19 10:38:30 ET


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