It’d be hard to find a team that is currently playing better than the Miami Heat.
The defending champs have won eight straight games, and haven’t lost since Feb. 1. They are beginning to separate themselves from the East with their 37-14 record. Miami has a five-game lead on the New York Knicks for the No.1 seed, and they are 8.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks in the Southeast Division.
The Heat also have the best player in basketball. Even with Kevin Durant putting up MVP numbers, LeBron James is in the midst of a historic run. He’s averaging 27.2 points per game, and hasn’t shot less than 50 percent in a game since Jan. 27 against the Boston Celtics.
On Thursday night, the Chicago Bulls will look to slow down Miami with a high-profile contest at the United Center. Tip-off is scheduled to get underway at 8 p.m. eastern time on TNT. If viewers can’t get to a TV, they can watch a free live stream online with TNT Overtime.
Without Derrick Rose for the entire season, the Bulls have remained one of the top seeds in the conference. Luol Deng has taken over as the club’s leading scorer and scorer and propelled them to a 31-22 record. Chicago’s defense, which allows just 91.5 points per game, is the biggest reason for their success.
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Rose is rehabbing from a torn ACL injury that he suffered in last year’s playoffs, and recently began participating in five-on-five drills. With the trade deadline passing at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, the Bulls were quiet, holding on to Richard Hamilton and not making any upgrade. According to Rose’s brother, Chicago’s inaction could cause the point guard to sit out the rest of the season.
"What have you pieced together?” Reggie Rose told ESPN Chicago. “Have you made any moves? Have you made any trades to get better? You know all roads to the championship lead through Miami. What pieces have you put together for the physical playoffs?”
Carlos Boozer was in the middle of a few trade rumors this season, but wasn’t dealt. He had been linked, most recently, to the Toronto Raptors. A proposed deal would have sent Andrea Bargnani to Chicago.
Miami was also relatively quiet on Thursday. They did make one small move, sending Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for the rights to Ricky Sanchez, who plays in Argentina. The move frees up a roster spot, which the team, reportedly, may try to use on Kenyon Martin.
Betting Line: Miami -3.5, 186
Prediction: James hasn’t been the only reason for Miami’s dominance. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade are also having All-Star seasons. Without Rose, it will be hard for the Bulls to score enough points to keep up.
Prediction: Miami 98, Chicago 90