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‘Small ball’ leads to big win as Heat scorch Bulls 86-67 at United Center

Heforward LeBrJames brings down rebound first quarter Chicago Bulls-Miami Hegame Thursday February 21 2013 United Center . | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Heat forward LeBron James brings down a rebound in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Miami Heat game Thursday February 21, 2013 at the United Center . | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 23, 2013 6:39AM

Chalk one up for “small ball.’’

After the Bulls beat the Heat down in Miami back on Jan. 4, All-Star center Joakim Noah insisted that the “small ball’’ that the defending NBA Champions play wasn’t going to work against his bigger, more physical Bulls.

Noah got his reply on Thursday.

The Heat dismantled the Bulls (31-23) in the United Center, beating them 86-67, as well as handling their Eastern Conference rivals their third loss in their last four games, and their sixth loss in their last nine. The Heat looked quicker offensively, they forced the Bulls into a season-high 27 turnovers defensively, and they even held their own on the glass.

But even as one-sided as it was, Noah didn’t regret his assessment afterward.

“Nah, they shot the ball great, they played very well, you got to give credit when credit is due,’’ Noah responded, when asked if he regretted his comments from January. “They kicked our ass, but we’ll be back.’’

They very well could be, but it better come with a different plan.

Of the 27 turnovers, Miami (38-14) scored 24 points. Add in an 11-for-15 shooting night for LeBron James on his way to a game-high 26 points, as well as 12 rebounds and seven assists, and it was a far cry from the performance the Bulls had in Miami.

“We have to understand what we have to do against that team to have a chance, and we made the wrong type of plays against them,’’ Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I have to make our team understand the type of plays that we have to make to give ourselves a chance. When you turn the ball over like that, that part is on me.’’

The Bulls started out the game just fine, with the score tied at 22 after the first 12 minutes. With Kirk Hinrich out with an elbow problem again, and Nate Robinson in foul trouble, rookie Marquis Teague was forced into heavy minutes and had four of those turnovers.

Thirteen total points in the second and then again in the final quarter, along with all the turnovers, and it was an uphill battle.

“You can call it ‘small ball’ or whatever you want, but it’s what we do,’’ Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra replied, when asked about what Noah said. “We’ve proven that it works against anyone and anywhere.’’

Meanwhile, the Bulls were led by Robinson’s 14 points.

“Foul trouble, turnovers, rhythm … ‘’ Thibodeau added. “Nobody played well.’’

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