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Heat Vs. Bulls Preview: Miami Still Chasing The East's No. 1 Seed In Chicago

The Bulls may be without Derrick Rose, but that may not be a problem if the Heat can't play defense in Chicago on Thursday

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The Miami Heat stand three games behind the Chicago Bulls for the top seed in the Eastern Conference entering Thursday's game against the Bulls. The Heat have two games in hand on the Bulls and have one other game against Chicago left during the regular season. The game Thursday at the United Center is an opportunity to gain ground on a Bulls team that may or may not have reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose available.

Rose, who has missed 13 of the last 14 games with injuries, will be a game-time decision for the Bulls. However, even without Rose at their disposal, the cast of role-players on the Bulls have helped maintain the top seed in the conference. The Miami Heat will need to rebound on defense after allowing 115 points and 60.6 percent shooting from the field to the Boston Celtics in their loss on Tuesday, their worst defensive showing since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade.

Versatility is the reason that the Bulls have been able to cope with Derrick Rose's absence. In the last 14 games five players have scored more than 20 points including John Lucas III and Richard Hamilton. The Heat will have to clamp down on the Bulls and slow their pace down if they are going to prevent another defensive collapse.

The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip off. National television coverage will be provided by TNT.

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.