The Chicago Bulls (38-17) may have been caught looking ahead to Thursday’s marquee matchup with the Miami Heat (42-15) on national television.
The Bulls did not turn in a good defensive effort on Wednesday as they suffered a 118-113 loss at Toronto, despite having center Joakim Noah back in the lineup after missing 30 games with a thumb injury.
The Raptors shot 58.1 percent from the field in the victory against one of the NBA’s top defensive teams, perhaps giving the Heat (-2) a blueprint to attack a Chicago team returning home and playing back-to-back nights.
Fatigue should not be too much of a factor though, considering both teams will each have one game under their belts since the All-Star break.
Rust certainly played a role for Noah in his return, after his early excitement enabled him to grab seven of his 10 first-quarter rebounds in the first six minutes of the game. He finished with a game-high 16 boards, but could not prevent Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan from attacking the paint.
Bargnani and DeRozan each scored 24 points and made a combined 18 of 19 free-throw attempts between them.
Derrick Rose continued his push for the MVP award by scoring 19 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls to go along with 10 assists, but it was not enough. Rose had led his team to wins in 10 of 12 games prior to the All-Star break and saw a string of four straight covers snapped with the setback. The OVER has also now cashed in the last four games.
Miami got off to a strong start following the break with a 117-97 rout of Sacramento on Tuesday.
The trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 76 points, 25 rebounds and 11 assists after each of them started for the Eastern Conference All-Stars on Sunday.
Wade had tweaked his ankle in the All-Star Game, but showed no ill effects of the injury against the Kings. However, key reserve Mike Miller (5.9 points per game) will not travel with the team to the Windy City due to an ear infection.
The Heat have not beaten the spread in consecutive games since covering five in a row from January 30 to February 6.
Miami lost the first meeting with the Bulls 99-96 at the United Center back on January 15 without James, who missed the game due to a sprained ankle. Instead, it was Chicago natives Wade and Rose that went toe-to-toe in an offensive duel before Kyle Korver hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 25.5 seconds remaining.
Rose scored a game-high 34 points while Wade finished with 33.
According to OffshoreInsiders.com Miami is (-2.5) with a total of 192.