Heat cut Bulls’ lead in East
LeBron James led the way with 27 points and 11 rebounds as the host Miami Heat pulled to within a game and a half of Chicago for the top spot in the Eastern Conference with an 83-72 victory over the Bulls.
Dwyane Wade returned to the lineup and put up 18 points and five assists while Mario Chalmers scored 16 points for the Heat, who were without Chris Bosh.
Derrick Rose did not suit up for the Bulls, though Luol Deng returned following a two-game absence.
Both teams plan on meeting in the Eastern Conference finals and Chicago still holds the inside track on home-court advantage for that potential series. Even with that at stake Thursday, the playoff atmosphere that surrounded the three previous meetings was muted due to the absence of Rose and Bosh.
James put Miami out front with 18 points in the first half and added seven points in the third to ensure that Chicago would not take the lead.
Wade scored six straight points and Shane Battier hit a 3-pointer to cap a 9-2 burst early in the fourth quarter that stretched the lead to double figures.
The Heat were most impressive at the defensive end, holding the Bulls to 35.7 percent shooting in the contest and 11 points in the fourth quarter. Deng looked rusty in a 5-for-15 effort from the floor while the starting backcourt of Richard Hamilton and C. J. Watson combined to shoot 1 for 9.