Heat vs. Bulls: Chicago searches for defensive success as it faces Miami's streak

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls are next up in attempting to halt the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak.

The Miami Heat are coasting at times and dominating in flashes. Domination is the reason they've won 27 games in a row, but the tendency to coast is evidence that hitting the wrong team on the wrong night could put an end to their streak.

A game against the Chicago Bulls in the United Center on Wednesday could be just that. Or maybe it'll just be another win tacked on to the Heat's historic run.

During a 108-94 win against the Orlando Magic on Monday, Miami showed both the coasting and the sudden flashes of outright domination. The game was tied late in the third quarter, but once LeBron James decided he'd had enough, a thunderous dunk started a 20-2 run over a span of less than five minutes, as the Heat blew the game wide open.

Chicago's stout defense might be the thing making Miami's flipping-of-the-switch questionable and a Bulls upset possible.

But the Bulls might be without potential Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, who is a game-time decision with his lingering foot problem. That is a huge hit for a Bulls team that needs their defensive leader and energy-inducing big man if they want to take advantage of Miami's relatively weak interior play. Noah has missed the last two games, which were wins against the Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

It's not like Chicago can win by being the better offensive team. LeBron James is shooting 57 percent during the Heat's last 27 games, and the team as a whole is connecting on 51 percent of its shots. Miami is the best offensive team in the league over the span of their streak, which dates back to the beginning of February.

On top of it all, Miami will probably receive a boost with the likely return of shooting guard Dwyane Wade. He missed the last two games with a knee injury but at morning shootaround said he'll be able to give it a go against Chicago, according to ESPN.

How can the Bulls stop the streak?

Chicago is fifth in points given up per 100 possessions this season, according to the NBA.com Stats tool, but that solid Tom Thibodeau defense has been erratic of late. While the team has waited for Derrick Rose's return, the Bulls have slipped in many respects, including on the defensive end. In the month of March, Chicago is ranked 19th in the league by allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions, nearly five points more than the 99.7 season average.

And during the month of March, Miami ranks only behind the Indiana Pacers in defensive rating themselves.

To pull off the victory, the Bulls' apprehensive offense must click. Turnovers and missed shots will doom Chicago against the Heat, who have taken full advantage of transition opportunities with James leading the way.

If Chicago plays its style and finds it's old self on the defensive front, it just might have a shot to break Miami's streak in front of the Bulls' home crowd.

Time: 8 p.m. ET


Odds: The Heat opened as 5.5-point favorites.

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