The Heat may be the hottest team in the NBA right now, but they wouldn't let themselves get complacent against the Bulls Thursday night.
Miami has won eight straight and boasts the top record in the Eastern Conference, five games up on the second-place Knicks. The Bulls sit at fifth, seven games behind the Heat.
"We still have to try to find ways to get better," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said prior to the nationally-televised matchup with Chicago. "There are going to be certain games that we'll play that we'll realize we have to get better. When we win games, a lot of things can get overlooked. Once you lose a game, once you lose two games, you can kind of hone in on what you need to do.
"We need to continue to understand what it takes to win ballgames for us. A team like Chicago is a great measuring stick. They play the game hard. They play the game physical. You play teams like that in the playoffs, you've got to bring it. There's still some areas we need to get better. They beat us by 20 on the glass [last time we played]."
Indeed, the Bulls did dominate on the glass (48-28) Jan. 4 in Miami, as Chicago pulled off a 96-89 victory. In that matchup, LeBron James was the only Miami player to pull down more than five rebounds, and he only totaled six. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer each had 12 boards, while Taj Gibson had nine.
Wade pointed to the Heat's rebounding as a definite area of need, as they are last in the NBA with just 38.8 rebounds per game. The Bulls are fifth, averaging 43.8 boards per contest.
"We're not blessed with a lot of bigs, but we're blessed with other things," Wade said. "I'm not saying we're gonna come in every night and out-rebound every team, but we have to do our job of containing it, and not giving up as many offensive rebounds.
"We're not as big as Chicago or certain teams, but that's fine. We won a championship without that, we can win games without that. So we don't focus on that, but there are games where we get out-rebounded pretty bad. But that doesn't mean that just because you have a big, you don't get out-rebounded."
The Heat tried to turn Chicago's size into a disadvantage in that January matchup in South Beach, but Boozer and the Bulls fought their way through Miami's "small ball lineup" the first time around.
As the season has worn on, Wade says Miami has improved its rebounding, and the results have shown in the win column of late.
"We understand that if we get out-rebounded by 20 on the glass, it's going to be very hard to win that game," Wade said. "We've done a better job of everyone collectively coming back and being a part of it and not just leaving it up to Chris [Bosh] or Udonis [Haslem] or LeBron. Our guards have been mixing it up a little bit and the concept of 'OK, let's get stops and then we can get out in transition.'
"Early in the season, we were trying to get out, to run. And in the sense of that, when the ball would get up, we'd get out instead of coming back and helping block out or helping rebound. We're doing a better job of that as the season has gone on."
The Heat are dominant at home (23-3), but have not found the same groove on the road, where they stand at just 14-11. This is the first time Miami is making the trek to Chicago -- Wade's hometown -- this year.
At age 31, the perennial All-Star said he's able to temper his excitement when he returns home to Chicago for a game.
"I don't think about it as much as I used to," he said. "When I was younger, I wanted to play so great here and now I just want to win."