MIAMI (AP) -- Cross another item off Miami's to-do list. The Heat
have wrapped up home-court advantage for the Eastern Conference
Dwyane Wade matched a career-high with 39 points, easily enough
to help offset the absence of Shaquille O'Neal and lift the Heat to
a 104-86 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night -- a win that
assured Miami the No. 1 seed for the East playoffs.
And never before has a Heat team enjoyed such home dominance.
Miami's franchise-record home winning streak is now 18 games; the
Heat have held double-digit leads in all but one of those.
Tuesday's largest lead was 23 -- against a Bulls team that came in
with a nine-game winning streak.
Miami led by 14 after one quarter and 20 at the half, even
though their 7-foot-1, 327-pound center was home, fending off a
stomach ailment that ravaged him the prior two days.
"The only thing we're going to be judged on is the playoffs.
Fine; that's the nature of the business," Heat coach Stan Van
Gundy said. "But it's a long season and you've got to take some
pride in the accomplishments along the way. ... To play 82 games
better than anybody in your conference is a heck of an
Udonis Haslem added 16 points and 15 rebounds before being
ejected late for Miami, which now has the league's longest home win
streak since Sacramento's 18-game run three seasons ago. The last
East team to win at least 18 straight at home was Indiana, back in
the 1999-2000 season.
Chicago, seeking its first 10-game win streak since Michael
Jordan's final championship season seven years ago, got 14 points
from Andres Nocioni and Ben Gordon, and 13 from Jannero Pargo.
Chicago shot 36.4 percent as a team, its fifth-worst performance of
"We just didn't play up to par," Gordon said. "We were more
frustrated with ourselves than anything."
The Bulls, who will likely earn their first playoff berth since
that 1998 season, were undermanned; Eddy Curry remained out with an
irregular heartbeat, Luol Deng is out for the season with torn
wrist ligaments and Othella Harrington missed the game to be with
his wife, who's expecting a child.
And clearly, they were missed. But Miami didn't skip a beat
without O'Neal. Wade made sure of that.
"I felt I had to take more responsibility on my shoulders and
to get everybody involved," Wade said.
He made 13 of 20 shots, added seven assists -- and capped his
night with seven points in a 38-second span after an ugly
altercation sparked by a flagrant foul by Nocioni.
Wade drove into the left corner and was fouled hard by Nocioni,
who then struck Wade a second time -- this time in the back,
knocking him to the floor. Haslem charged toward Nocioni and shoved
him, sending him sprawling over some cameramen seated near the
baseline. Haslem was ejected.
"Part of the game," Nocioni said. "Whoever knows me knows I'm
not like that."
Nocioni was called for a flagrant foul and a technical.
"I thought it was an absolute punk move," Van Gundy said.
"When you have role players like that taking free shots at the
best players in this league, it should be cracked down on."
The Heat made 12 of 15 shots in the first quarter and scored 38
points -- matching season bests in both categories, and representing
the most allowed in any quarter by the Bulls this season. Chicago
scored the first seven points of the second quarter, and was within
44-36 after Gordon hit consecutive jumpers.
But the Bulls missed their next eight shots, and Miami went on a
16-2 run to build a 60-38 lead with 1:40 left in the half. A 22-10
run pulled Chicago within 11 early in the fourth, but Wade scored
twice to push the margin to 15 -- and join Glen Rice as the only
players in Heat history to record three straight 30-point games.
"He's the best guard in the league," Bulls coach Scott Skiles
Of the last 35 NBA champions, 26 owned their conference's
top record. Yet Miami knows no assurances accompany the No. 1 seed;
the Heat had it in 1999, but lost to the New York Knicks in the
first round. ... Chicago has lost 11 straight games in Miami. ...
The last No. 1 seed from the East to win the NBA title was Jordan's
Bulls in 1998. ... The Bulls used their 12th different starting
lineup of the season. ... Damon Jones now has 208 3-pointers this
season. Tim Hardaway's former team record was 203 in 1996-97. ...
Bulls G Kirk Hinrich was 0-for-7 from the field in 16 minutes, and
had no assists. Miami's starting backcourt of Wade and Damon Jones
outscored Chicago's starting guards, Chris Duhon and Hinrich, 56-5.