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Miami Heat’s defense tames Chicago Bulls down the stretch

Other NBA locker rooms besides the Heat’s have the current analytical buzzword “efficient” in heavy rotation. It’s just that the Heat seems to be the team that can most often apply it to itself as a team and to a number of individuals.

Take Sunday’s 105-93 dumping at AmericanAirlines Arena of a short-handed (and short in height) Chicago team, Heat win No. 64 of the season.

With the win, Miami improved to 36-4 at home — besting the 35-6 mark by the 2004-05 team.

The Bulls didn’t let being without center Joakim Noah and power forward Taj Gibson keep them from physical play. Chicago made sure to earn most of its 30 fouls, a number exceeding its total field goals (29).

Still, the Heat finished shooting 51.4 percent from the field and that was after cooling off after a 62.4 percent first half. The Heat also committed only four second-half turnovers. The previous three games against the Bulls, two of which were losses, saw the Heat shoot 46.2, 50.1 and 48.1.

Mike Miller’s three-pointer with 1:17 left not only counted as benediction for this Sunday session as it put the Heat up 103-93, but also put all five Heat starters in double figures for the first time this season.

LeBron James finished with a game-high 24, and Dwyane Wade put up 22 — 12 in the third quarter — as the Heat repelled the Bulls’ last serious charge. Chris Bosh put in 12 on 6-of-8 shooting, and point guard Mario Chalmers finished with 15, including 11 in the first quarter.

“We really feel and hope that we’ve gotten better with it each month in the three years we’ve been together,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Trusting and moving the ball, getting to the other situations, allowing other people to make plays and against a team that is very good defensively, particularly on the strong side. That trust level gets tested. Guys were playing freely. We were getting the shots that we wanted.”

James, the NBA’s efficiency leader, wound up with a game-high six assists even though he uncharacteristically opened in the finisher’s role rather than setup man. James, who said assists per game is his favorite individual statistic, hit his first seven shots from the field and five shots from the line. James shoots 56.5 from the field while leading the team in assists and steals, as well as scoring.

When informed he will likely wind up leading the league in field goals made this year, James said with mild surprise, “I don’t even shoot that much. I like that stat. That’s cool.”

Chalmers said, “The biggest thing is we’re knocking down shots, from the starting five to the second starting five with Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Ray [Allen].”

In just a little more than 15 minutes off the bench, center Chris Andersen dropped in 15 points on perfect shooting from the field and 7-of-11 shooting from the line. Andersen also pulled down seven rebounds and blocked a shot. He started his coast-to-coast two-man Temple Run through the Bulls with Norris Cole and finished it by dunking Cole’s missed layup.

“He’s going to be big for us in the playoffs because now he’s getting his legs under him and he understands the culture of what we’re trying to do, understands our offensive philosophy,” Wade said.

Defensively, the Heat held Chicago without a two-point field goal in the second half until 7:52 remained in the fourth quarter. Once the Bulls’ three-point shooting cooled in the third quarter, their lack of size became too much to overcome.

“Chris Andersen hurt us with his hustle, and Chris Bosh played well by blocking shots,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said.

• Forwards Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier got the day off.

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