The Heat know their matchup with the Bulls tonight at the United Center will feature a playoff-type atmosphere.
But with the guarantee that the outcome won’t be the determining factor in either teams’ seasons, the Heat players are readying themselves for some mind games that could serve as a precursor for the playoffs.
“They want to protect their home court and it’s always a psychological battle especially late going into situations like this because you never really want to give teams an advantage of thinking they can come on your home court and beat them,” Heat forward Chris Bosh said at his team’s shoot around Thursday morning at the United Center. “So it will be an emotionally game tonight.”
Instead of trading barbs in the hours leading up to the matchup, the two teams have been complimentary of one another.
The Bulls maintain they’re chasing the Heat after Miami need only five games to beat them in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat, however, defer to the Bulls’ record which is tops in the NBA.
Maimi guard Dwyane Wade attempted to put an end to it.
“We can go back and forth with this soap opera,” Wade said. “They’re the best team right now in the NBA. They can say something nice about us, we can say something nice about them. At the end of the day, they’re a helluva ball club.”
The Heat sit three games behind the Bulls for first place in the Easter Conference and need to win tonight if they hope to have a chance at home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Miami has gone 3-3 over its last six games and particularly struggled against playoff-bound teams on the road. Over the last 16 days the Heat have dropped games in Oklahoma City, Indiana and Boston. Tuesday they lost to the Celtics 115-107 at home.
But the Heat denies that it felt any need to gain ground in the standings while Derrick Rose was out with a groin injury.
“You play the games, you try to win them all,” LeBron James said. “Sometimes you don’t win them all. You win games, lose games. It has nothing to do with D-Rose being out. It’s a really good team, it’s a great team when he’s in the lineup. For us we try to worry about what we can control and live with it.”
The game should serve as a barometer for both teams, especially if Rose is able to return from an ankle injury that sidelined for one game.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s searching for a signature road win to gain some momentum heading into the playoffs.
“We’re not playing our best basketball but we’re about to,” Bosh said. “We’re about to turn the corner. The playoffs are coming up very close. It’s going to be a great atmosphere tonight, a playoff atmosphere. I understand the psyche that they have right now but in all actuality they have the best record. They are the number-one team in the East right now so we’re chasing them.”