CHICAGO -- It all seemed so promising two years ago, the budding rivalry between the Heat and Bulls.
Now, what is it exactly? And when is Derrick Rose returning to the court? And why is Rose’s brother running his mouth?
Once one of the steadiest franchises in the league, the Bulls seem to be fraying at the edges these days. In its current form, the Heat has been swallowing whole the weak and infirm of the NBA, and right now the Bulls are certainly that.
With LeBron James turning in yet another masterful performance on the road, the Heat defeated the Bulls 86-67 on Thursday at United Center. The Heat (38-14) has defeated all comers recently, but the Bulls made it easy for the defending champions. Chicago (31-23) shot 37.3 percent from the court while committing 27 turnovers.
For James, the game was a reminder of how much the league misses Rose, who still hasn’t played this season after tearing a knee ligament in 2012.
“You miss what he’s done for the game, the way he plays the game, he has a passion for the game,” James said. “One of our best, most explosive players and most fun players to watch has not been able to play since he injured himself.
“You hate that it’s happened, but I see a brighter, brighter future for him. As well as he was coming out of college, out of high school, in the pros, he’s going to be awesome when he gets back.”
The rough night for the Bulls came on the same day Rose’s brother complained publicly that the franchise hasn’t assembled a good enough team for his brother.
“It’s frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him,” Reggie Rose said to ESPNChicago.com.
Never mind that Rose has not played since the first game of the 2012 playoffs and his return to the court this season now seems in doubt, the caustic opinion by Reggie Rose caused a big enough stir in Chicago that the Bulls felt compelled to release a statement by his more famous younger brother.
“I have always felt that the Bulls organization’s goals have been the same as mine, and that is to bring another championship to this city,” Rose said.
So, with the backdrop of the Bulls’ star player defending himself and the Bulls against his brother, the Heat seemed to all but prove Reggie Rose’s point in a blowout. Granted, not having Kirk Hinrich in the lineup added to the Bull’s ugly factor, but even that disadvantage doesn’t fully explain how much the Bulls have fallen behind the Heat.
“Look, this team is going through some adversity right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Bulls. “Hinrich being out definitely affected them and, obviously, not having Rose. The next time we play them, they likely will be a different-looking team.”
The Heat has now won nine in a row and is 7-1 on the second night of back-to-back games.
James was 11 of 15 from the field for 26 points while also collecting 12 rebounds and seven assists. He has been breathtakingly efficient during the winning streak, shooting better than 67 percent from the field.
While James was once again brilliant, the game wasn’t one for the highlight reel. The Heat outscored the Bulls 41-32 in the second half.
Like Wednesday night in Atlanta, things started sloppily at United Center. The Heat and Bulls combined for 13 turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game and 16 in the first quarter.
At halftime, the two teams combined for 27 turnovers, a staggering number. The poor ballhandling and errant passes contributed to the low score — the Heat led 45-35 at the break — but the Bulls were particularly bad to begin the game.
Chicago committed 17 turnovers in the first half while shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range.
From there, the Bulls only got worse. For the game, the teams combined for 45 turnovers.
Dwyane Wade scored 17 points, going 8 of 15 from the field. Chris Bosh had 12 points on nine shots. Ray Allen was 4 of 11 from the field for 11 points.
Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 14 points. Carlos Boozer was limited to 12 points but added 11 rebounds. Joakim Noah had 11 points and eight rebounds. All-Star Loul Deng was 3 of 12 from the field for six points.