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updated: 2/26/2011 1:17 PM

Bulls' defense shifts from disastrous to dominating

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  • Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade, left, is forced to pass by the defense of Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik, center, and Kyle Korver, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, in Chicago. The Bulls won 93-89.

      Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade, left, is forced to pass by the defense of Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik, center, and Kyle Korver, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, in Chicago. The Bulls won 93-89.
    Associated Press

  • Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, center, puts up a shot between Chicago Bulls' Ronnie Brewer, left, and Derrick Rose, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, in Chicago. The Bulls won 93-89.

      Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, center, puts up a shot between Chicago Bulls' Ronnie Brewer, left, and Derrick Rose, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, in Chicago. The Bulls won 93-89.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Bulls' defensive success is a strangely delicate operation.

There is no logic to explain how or why they allowed Toronto to score 118 points on Wednesday, gave up 16 fastbreak points a day later in the first quarter against Miami, then held the Heat to 58 points in the final three quarters.

The Bulls beat Miami 93-89, clinching the season series against the Heat and setting up a sprint to the finish with the Heat and Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

"It just shows you, the NBA, it's so mental," Joakim Noah said after the contest. "It's all about how you come into games. We were resilient tonight."

Here's an attempt to describe the defensive discrepancy: Coach Tom Thibodeau talks often about how the team's defense requires five men tied together.

When they leave the rope in the locker room, you get nights like the one in Toronto. That doesn't happen often, though. The Bulls have allowed 100 points in just six of the past 38 games.

The Bulls haven't given up 100 points at home in 17 straight games, since the Clippers did it on Dec. 17.

It looked like Miami might score 100 fastbreak points Thursday when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade produced four breakaway dunks in a two-minute span of the opening quarter.

"When they get a head of steam, they're hard to stop," Thibodeau said. "Once we settled down, got better ball movement, were going inside more and it allowed us to set up our defense. A big part of your defensive transition is your shot selection and (not) turning the ball over."

The third wheel of Miami's power trio, Chris Bosh, had an astonishing night, hitting just 1 of 18 shots from the field.

Maybe it was all karma based on Bosh's bad acting job in the second quarter, when he threw himself backward as though he'd been flattened by a right hook from Manny Pacquiao.

Bosh succeeded in drawing an offensive foul on Carlos Boozer, who swung his elbows in front of Bosh's face, but replays showed minimal contact at best.

One could credit Joakim Noah, in his second game back from a thumb injury, for shutting down Bosh. But Noah is still a long way from being his old self after missing 30 games.

"The game's still pretty fast for me," he said. "I'm getting the hang of it."

Bosh settled for long jumpers all night and barely attempted to get close to the rim. One underrated aspect of the Bulls' defense is shot-blocking from reserves Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. The Bulls' bench outscored Miami 22-2.

"They didn't do anything," Bosh said in the Miami Herald. "I just missed shots. They played good defense when it was time. That's what they're known for, but at the end of the day, I was what we call butt-naked wide open."

The Bulls continue to get it done even though two regulars, Boozer and Kyle Korver, are poor individual defenders, and two others, Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas, belong in the "not as quick as they used to be" category.

Somehow, though, the Bulls got away with Korver guarding Wade for long stretches.

Later in the night, a Boston squad still reeling from the trade that sent center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, scored 75 points and lost to Denver.

So the Bulls sit just 1 loss behind Miami and 2 losses behind Boston for the coveted top seed in the East. The next five games will say a lot about the Bulls' chances to stay in the race -- a road trip with stops in Milwaukee, Washington, Atlanta, Orlando and Miami.

The Heat came to town aiming to send a message with their full lineup. Instead, Miami fell to 0-5 against the Bulls and Celtics this season.

"It means a lot," Derrick Rose said after the win. "They know we can compete with them."

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