Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)The Associated Press
Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)The Associated Press
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) shoots over Chicago Bulls guard Richard Hamilton during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)The Associated Press
CHICAGO – LeBron James scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and the Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 86-67 Thursday for their season-high ninth straight win.
James also had seven assists in another big performance after ending his franchise-record seven-game streak of scoring at least 30 the previous night in Atlanta.
Dwyane Wade added 17 points, and the Heat took control in the first half, sending the Bulls to their fifth loss in seven games on a night when the Derrick Rose recovery story took another twist.
After saying last week that he wouldn't rush back from his knee injury to play this season if he wasn't ready, Chicago's sidelined superstar had to go into damage control mode after his older brother Reggie blasted the organization in an ESPNChicago.com article for not making a move before Thursday's trade deadline.
Things didn't get much better for the Bulls once the game started.
Nate Robinson scored 14 points, Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Joakim Noah added 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but he also committed four of the Bulls' season-high 27 turnovers.
Chicago was particularly bad in the first half, coughing it up 17 times as the Heat built a 45-35 lead, and the Bulls came up short after winning at Miami last month. This time, the Heat took control in the second quarter, scoring 13 straight points during a 4 1/2-minute stretch to turn a two-point deficit into an 11-point advantage even though James was on the bench for much of the run.
It started after a soaring right-handed dunk by Taj Gibson to give Chicago a 28-26 lead with 8:16 remaining. Allen answered with a driving layup, Wade followed with two jumpers and the Bulls turned it over five times as the Heat built a 39-28 lead.
Marco Belinelli ended the scoring drought for Chicago with a free throw, and Boozer then nailed a jumper after Bosh buried a 20-footer. But it was a rough night all around for Chicago, even before the Bulls took to the court.
Rose, recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, found himself at the center of attention after his brother went off, and he wound up releasing this statement in response: "I have always felt that the Bulls organization's goals have been the same as mine and that is to bring another championship to this city."
That comment came after Reggie Rose ripped the Bulls, telling ESPNChicago.com they don't have the talent to compete for a championship and that their decision to stand pat before the trade deadline could be a "big factor" in whether Derrick plays at all this season.
"It's frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him," said Reggie Rose, Derrick's manager.
NOTES: Bulls G Kirk Hinrich sat out because of soreness in his right elbow. The veteran Hinrich missed seven games with an infection in the elbow before delivering 10 assists Tuesday in a win at New Orleans. The Bulls visit Charlotte on Friday, and Thibodeau expects him to make the trip. ... The Heat traded backup center Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick in this year's draft to the Grizzlies on Thursday for the rights to center Ricky Sanchez. ... Mike Miller remained in Miami because of ear problems resulting from a head cold. He also missed Wednesday's game at Atlanta but could be available in Saturday at Philadelphia.