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Article updated: 1/5/2013 12:26 AM

Boozer, Bulls bag board-certified win

By Mike McGraw

We'd heard the stories, seen the pictures.

But until the Bulls actually got on the floor in South Florida, it was difficult to comprehend just how bad the Miami Heat rebounds the ball.

This was sort of like driving in Los Angeles for the first time or getting your first taste of near beer.

Against the Bulls on Friday night, Miami grabbed just 28 total rebounds and was manhandled 19-4 on the offensive glass.

The Bulls pulled out a big win 96-89, leading for the entire the second half. Not only couldn't Miami grab a rebound, it failed to slow down Carlos Boozer, who hit 12 of 17 shots for 27 points.

Now we're left to wonder if the Miami rebounding is a serious issue the Bulls could exploit in the playoffs or just false hope.

This victory improved the Bulls' regular-season record against the Heat to 6-2 since the summer of 2010, which is when the Bulls hired coach Tom Thibodeau and LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.

"Everybody in both locker rooms understands what the overwhelming key to the game was," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after the game. "They were throwing it up there and playing volleyball against us."

The Bulls (18-13) swept a two-game trip to Florida, beating Orlando on Wednesday just two days after losing at home to Charlotte on New Year's Eve.

"It always feels good to beat the Heat," said Joakim Noah, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds. "And we get a night out in the city, so we're hyped right now. We haven't been playing great basketball and this is probably our biggest win of the year against the defending champs.

"I don't know if that small ball is going to work against us. Not with guys like Carlos Boozer in the game."

The Bulls trailed by 7 points several times in the second quarter, but Nate Robinson (13 points) and Jimmy Butler led a late comeback and Butler's last-second jumper put the Bulls ahead 49-48 at halftime.

The visitors slowly pulled out to a 75-66 edge during the third quarter, then survived some bad circumstances in the fourth.

The Bulls got the short end of two close calls in the fourth quarter against James -- a flagrant foul on Noah when he tried to stop a drive and caught James around the neck, then a clear-path foul on Kirk Hinrich after a bad pass.

Both decisions gave Miami 2 free throws and possession, but the Heat never drew closer than 5 points in the final nine minutes. James finished with 30 points, and was also Miami's top rebounder with 6.

"It's just the will of going to do it," James said. "It's a reoccurrence. You give a team like this extra possessions, they're going to capitalize."

Robinson provided another boost late in the game. He took a charge against Ray Allen, then knocked down a 3-pointer to set the lead at 83-73 with 6:34 left.

The Bulls hit just 5 of 23 shots in the final quarter, but offensive rebounds bailed them out. They grabbed 3 offensive boards, leading to a pair of Boozer free throws that kept the lead at 10 points with 5:56 left.

The Bulls got a couple of nice hoops when Noah found Boozer for a lay in and Marco Belinelli stuck a bank shot on an inbounds play, making it 91-82 with 1:58 left.

The clear path foul brought Miami within 5 points with 1:30 remaining, but the Heat (22-9) failed to convert on the ensuing possession, then Butler rebounded his own miss and fed Boozer for a layup to clinch the win with 46.3 seconds on the clock.

Bulls could add shooter:

The Bulls may be on the verge of signing 3-point specialist Daequan Cook, who was released by Houston this week, according to several reports. The Bulls are one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, so the 6-5 Cook could help spread the floor, even though he's a career .365 shooter from long range. Cook has played for Miami, Oklahoma City and Houston during six NBA seasons and won the 3-point contest in 2009.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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