Bulls, Heat coaches play it coy about top seed
Before Wednesday's game, both coaches were asked about the importance of getting the top playoff seed — and both issued similar coach-speak answers.
"I think you want to put as many things in your favor as you can," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The big thing is, just go step by step. Strive for improvement each game and again, you want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season and you want to be as healthy as possible."
Countered Miami's Erik Spoelstra: "Our most important thing is to be playing at our highest level. Two weeks ago, before the break, we were playing at an extremely high level. Since then, we haven't played quite at that level, either home or on the road, and that's our biggest concern, to get our game back on track against a quality opponent."
Heading into Wednesday's action, the Bulls had a one-game edge on Miami in the loss column for first place in the East. Their lead was 2˝ games overall because the Heat has played fewer games.
The schedules are similar the rest of the way. The Bulls face 11 teams in playoff position, five on the road. Miami plays 14 overall and six on the road. The Bulls and Heat play twice more in April.
The Bulls had homecourt advantage last season and lost to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, so history has proved finishing first is a limited advantage.
Heat is road wary:
Miami entered Wednesday's action with 3 straight road losses, so the Heat was concerned about a trip that included games in Orlando, Chicago and Philadelphia in a span of four days.
"Usually, I only know the schedule until Sunday," Chris Bosh said in the Miami Herald. "But we've been knowing this was coming — at least I've been knowing this was coming — for a while. It's a great challenge."
Miami went on a 20-0 run at Orlando on Tuesday, but ended up losing the game 104-98 in overtime. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that ended a streak of 21 straight wins by NBA teams that had 20-point runs during a game. The last time it happened was by San Antonio against Utah on Jan. 20, 2010.
The Heat's previous two games both went to overtime, against Indiana and Orlando. The Bulls have yet to play an overtime contest this season.
When the Bulls lost at Miami 97-93 on Jan. 29, they set season-highs in fouls (28), opponent's free throws (30) and free-throw attempts (40). ... The previous four regular-season games between the Bulls and Heat were decided by 4 points or less. Including playoffs, although the Bulls have dropped five straight in the series. ... Former NBA player Walter McCarty sang the national anthem before Wednesday's game.
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