The Bulls came up short Thursday against the Heat, 83-72, giving them a 2-2 regular season split with Miami. More importantly, Chicago lost an opportunity to give themselves breathing room in the East by clinching the No. 1 seed.
The top seed is still within their grasp, but Chicago has to win the three remaining games on their schedule in order to lock it up.
Luol Deng returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two outings with a rib injury, and Derrick Rose sat out his third straight game. Rose did make the trip to South Beach with the team and received treatment on his bothersome ankle. Apparently it was taped too tightly in Sunday's game against the Pistons and fluid has built up around the tendons as a result.
Tensions between Chicago and Miami were at an all-time high and there were a lot of physical altercations between the two clubs. The Bulls fought hard after several cheap shots by the Miami players, but they could still never get within five points of the Heat. What went wrong for Chicago? Let's take a look:
The Bulls as a whole shot the ball poorly as they finished the game shooting just 36 percent from the field and 2-16 from the 3-point line. Tom Thibodeau used 10 players and no one made more than five shots in the game. Being without their best player in Derrick Rose once again, none of Chicago's starters stepped up to the Miami challenge with the exception of Joakim Noah, whose dislike of the Heat lends him to always play hard against them. Reserve guard John Lucas III led the team in scoring, but when he's the best player on the floor, that's not exactly a harbinger of good things to come.
Watson was thoroughly outplayed by his Miami counterpart, Mario Chalmers. In fact, it's safe to say that CJ had a pathetic outing. He scored just two points in the game and was 0-3 from the field with four assists and three turnovers. After playing so well in Chicago's victory over Miami last week, he was nowhere to be found Thursday night.
After playing so well the last two games, Hamilton really struggled against the Heat. He scored six points on 1-6 shooting in almost 28 minutes on the floor. But his biggest mistake may have been getting Dwyane Wade fired up. Rip threw an elbow at Wade who retaliated by shoving Rip to the ground. After some trash talking ensued, Wade proceeded to completely dominate Hamilton, scoring 18 points on him.