Heat at Bulls
The streaking Miami Heat sent a loud message to the rest of the league with a dominating road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in their final game before the All-Star break. The Heat made another statement with a scintillating comeback in Atlanta on Wednesday night and will carry a season-high, eight-game winning streak into Thursday night's matchup at the Chicago Bulls. Miami blitzed the Hawks with 40 points in the fourth quarter to erase a 10-point deficit and notch their fifth straight win by double digits.
Chicago has played eight of its last nine away from home and will hit the road for two more games following Thursday's matchup. The Bulls rebounded from an ugly offensive performance in a 71-69 loss at Boston prior to the break with a solid effort in a 96-87 win at New Orleans on Tuesday night. While Derrick Rose continues to practice and make steady progress in his comeback from knee surgery, the return of point guard Kirk Hinrich gave Chicago its starting lineup intact for the first time in eight games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE HEAT (37-14): Miami typically relies on LeBron James and running mates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but the bench made the difference in Wednesday's win at Atlanta. Ray Allen and Shane Battier combined for 24 points and five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Heat shot a blistering 14 of 18 overall during the final 12 minutes. Battier was 5-of-8 from behind the arc to continue a torrid six-game stretch that has seen him connect on 60 percent (21 of 35) of his 3-point attempts. Allen is averaging 14 points in his last three games after failing to top seven points in his previous six outings.
ABOUT THE BULLS (31-22): Rose practiced 5-on-5 for the second time this week but coach Tom Thibodeau said there is no timetable for his star point guard's return. Hinrich handed out 10 assists in his return to the lineup and provided a smoother offensive flow. "He's a huge part of what we do, and it just feels good to have Kirk back," center Joakim Noah said. "What he brings to our team, it's hard to measure." Noah, who missed three games earlier this month while battling a foot injury, has registered three double-doubles in the last four games, including a 15-point, 17-rebound effort vs. New Orleans.
1. Chicago won at Miami 96-89 on Jan. 4 and has taken the last four home matchups with the Heat.
2. James had his franchise-record streak of 30-point games snapped at seven Wednesday night.
3. Heat F Mike Miller sat out Wednesday due to ear and sinus infections and backup C Chris Andersen sprained his foot in the game.