MIAMI -- The trend was established long before the Bulls arrived in South Florida this weekend.
The Miami Heat's three-superstar lineup has had no success against the NBA's best teams and is ill-equipped to excel in close games.
While the Bulls have guys like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng making the small plays that make a difference, the Heat has one star taking the final shot and two others wishing they had the ball.
Dwyane Wade made a telling comment after watching LeBron James come up short for the third time this week in a late-game situation.
"I'm used to, of course, coming down the floor having the ball, making mistakes, getting a chance to make up for them," Wade said. "It's hard. It's just trying to get comfortable with whatever role I have to play at the moment.
"That was one of the things we had to understand when we all decided to come together. We knew the sacrifices we had to make. You live with the consequences."
Great as he's been, James has never been able to match the clutch-shot success that made legends out of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. For now, James will try to talk himself into hitting more game-winning baskets.
"I told my team I'm not going to continue to fail them late in games," James said. "I put a lot of blame on myself tonight, just telling the guys I just keep failing them late in games and I won't continue to do that."
For now, fans can revel in the failures of three coveted free agents who snubbed the Bulls this summer. But keep in mind, this was a season sweep, not a playoff sweep.
The Bulls have every reason to worry that the next meeting with Miami, which seems almost inevitable in the postseason, could be a completely different story. I mean, these guys are going to figure things out eventually, aren't they?
Asked about this notion in the locker room, the Bulls generally ignored the issue. Miami in the playoffs? Sorry, all coach Thibodeau told us to think about is New Orleans on Monday at the United Center. We can't afford a let down.
Derrick Rose didn't really want James as a teammate. At least, that's the story that has been going around since last summer and was revisited in the latest Sports Illustrated.
After Sunday's win, Rose did share his thoughts on what it means to go 3-0 against James, Wade and the Heat.
"If you have an opportunity to beat a team like this, you've got to," Rose said. "You can't give them any confidence or whatever. They're a good team. You know how players are in the league, if you give them confidence, they're going to definitely take advantage of you. To sweep them is great."
Miami is 0-9 against the four teams with the best records in the NBA -- the Bulls, Boston, San Antonio and Dallas. But the line between winning and losing in three games against the Bulls was razor thin.
The Heat lacks inside strength, has an unreliable bench and very little late-game chemistry. But one more miracle shot by Wade, James or even James Jones could have turned any of those three games in Miami's favor. Mike Miller won't be useless in every game, will he?
Before heading home on Sunday, Noah gave a reminder that the Heat isn't the only team filled with newcomers.
"We're still getting used to playing together," Noah said. We're making a lot of mental errors out there. We're finding a way to win games against some good teams. We've got to keep it up and keep getting better."
The season series is complete, but Noah seemed to understand the battle with the Heat is likely far from over.
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