BY K.C. JOHNSON
CHICAGO – When the Bulls beat the Heat in Miami in January, Joakim Noah, pointing to a huge rebounding edge, said he didn’t know “if that small ball is going to work against us.”
It will if the Bulls play fall ball. And drop ball, and dribble-off-the-foot ball.
The Heat possess enough talent that they don’t need gift-wrapped opportunities. But that’s exactly what the Bulls gave them in a dismal 86-67 loss Thursday night that dropped their United Center mark to a pedestrian 15-13.
Besides season-low scoring, the Bulls committed a season-high 27 turnovers – 17 in the first half – that the Heat converted into 24 points.
LeBron James didn’t miss a shot in the first half and finished with 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting to help run the Heat’s winning streak to nine.
“When you turn the ball over against them, they convert so quickly with their athleticism,” coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. “You have to take care of the ball and make quick decisions against them.”
Kirk Hinrich sat again after re-injuring his right elbow Tuesday night at New Orleans. Add in the fact Nate Robinson endured foul trouble, which meant heavy playing time for rookie Marquis Teague, and the Bulls’ point guard woes were in full effect.
And that’s not even accounting for the pregame hubbub over critical comments Derrick Rose’s brother, Reggie, made to ESPNChicago.com about lack of moves from the organization, which forced Derrick to release a statement.
“We all want the same things,” Thibodeau said. “We’re trying to pursue a championship. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. It’s not a big deal.”
The Bulls used defense to pull within seven midway through the third, but James scored eight straight points, including three straight jumpers.
“Because of the greatness of their players and the way they move the ball, you can’t overcommit in one area. They’ll make you pay,” Thibodeau said. “They won a championship last year, and they’re probably better this year.”