Bulls, winners of five straight, welcome battle with Heat

Bulls, winners of five straight, welcome battle with Heat
February 22, 2014, 6:45 pm
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Mark Strotman

There are two schools of thought for the Bulls' matchup tomorrow afternoon against the defending champion Miami Heat.

On one hand, the Bulls have won five straight and arguably are playing the best basketball they've played all year, most recently blowing out Denver in a 117-89 victory Friday night.

On the other hand, the Heat are 7-1 in February, just torched Kevin Durant and the Thunder in Oklahoma City and certainly remember the 20-point loss they suffered the last time they faced the Bulls.

Either way, it's undeniable that Tom Thibodeau's group is excited for tomorrow afternoon's matchup.

"They’re the back-to-back champions. So you want to play against the best just to measure yourself against the best," said Joakim Noah, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Denver. "But we feel like we can compete against them. We’ve beaten them before. They’re playing at a high level. They’re playing really good basketball, they’re locked in. But we’re locked in, too. So we’re confident we can go out there and get it done."

The Bulls' five-game win streak is currently the longest in the NBA, one better than Miami's four-game win streak (all of which occurred on the road), and the Heat certainly will be anxious to get back to the American Airlines Arena, where they haven't played since Feb. 3.

[MORE: Confident Bulls having fun during win streak]

And like Noah said, the Bulls have had success against Miami. Two weeks after losing Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer scored 27 points in a 107-87 win over the Heat in Chicago. Windy City native Dwyane Wade didn't play in that game, and while he's expected to be in the lineup tomorrow, the same can't be said for LeBron James.

The reigning MVP suffered a broken nose in the Heat's 103-81 victory over the Thunder on Wednesday and is listed as questionable for Sunday.

For the Bulls, they realize the path to a road victory in South Beach would be easier without James in the lineup, but the competitors in them want to see him on the court.

"Yeah, of course we want LeBron to play. I hope his nose is OK," Noah said. "Always look forward to going down there."

If James does play, Taj Gibson said, it'll make more than just one player to slow him down.

"You just have to try to throw as many bodies at him as you can, try to force him to take the long-range jump shot," he said. "But it’s going to take the whole team."

Thibodeau, who admitted at shootaround Friday that Miami was still the favorite until someone dethroned it -- was less intrigued by the notion that his team's five-game win streak would be put to the test against a team that has lost just four times at home this season, saying the Bulls need to focus on their commitment to self-improvement."

"I don’t look at it that way. For us, it’s what are we doing each and every day? Are we getting better, are we improving? Are we putting everything we have into it?" he said. "And I think if you start looking at it…the important thing is to not look backwards and stay locked in to getting ready for Miami."