Paraphrasing Yogi Berra, it’s getting dark early for the Miami Heat (40-16) as it tries to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference, with the Chicago Bulls (44-14) owning a three-game cushion. The Heat, however, still has some time to turn back the clock, beginning tonight when it visits the front-running Bulls (8 p.m. ET, TNT). The teams will play once more, in Miami, April 19. They have split the first two games of their regular-season series. The Heat won the first matchup on Jan. 29, in Miami, 97-93, with LeBron James scoring a game-high 35 points for Miami, while Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 34. In their second head-to-head, the Bulls defeated the Heat at home, 106-102, as John Lucas posted 24 points off the bench for Chicago, while Dwyane Wade (36 points) led the way for the Heat.
Miami has posted a 24-4 (.857) home record at the AmericanAirlines Arena this season. The 24 wins are tied for the most home wins in the NBA this season and their .857 home winning percentage is the best in the league. Additionally, their .857 home winning percentage would rank as the best in team history. Overall this season, the Heat is averaging 100.3 points, fourth in the NBA, while holding opponents to 93.6 ppg. Miami’s +6.7 point differential is the second highest in the NBA. Among league leaders, The Heat ranks second in field goal percentage (.474) and seventh in three-point field goal percentage (.369). Defensively, Miami ranks third in steals (9.13 spa) forced turnovers per game (16.9), and seventh in opponent field goal percentage (.432). Miami, however, has had a tough time scoring post All-Star Game and is 13-9 (.591) since the break. Over this stretch, according to NBA.com/Stats, the Bulls have the fourth stingiest defense, allowing only 91.6 ppg, but rank 23rd in scoring (95.1 ppg).
Surprisingly, considering reigning MVP Derrick Rose has missed 13 games since the break (23 overall) due to injury — including 12 straight (March 14 through April 5) — the Bulls have not experienced much of a drop off from their first half performance. In fact, during the stretch of 12 straight games without Rose, the Bulls maintained the 2 1/2-game lead they had built over Miami. According to NBA.com/Stats, Chicago owns the league’s best winning percentage in the second half (17-6, .739) and ranks third in point-differential (+5.6). Defensively, the Bulls rank second in points allowed, giving up 89.6 ppg — only slightly more than the 88.6 ppg they are allowing overall, which also ranks second — and third in opponent field goal percentage (.429). Their three-point defense is among the best in the league, allowing the fewest threes per game (14.3) and ranking fifth in opponent three-point field goal percentage (.329). The Bulls’ perimeter defense is forcing teams to shoot .347 from 20-24 feet and .398 from 15-19 feet.
Stats & Stuff:
- Boston’s Rajon Rondo has recorded double-digit assists in 19 straight games, the longest such streak since John Stockton had 29 straight games of at least 10 assists (Jan. 25-March 30, 1992) Rondo is the fourth player in NBA history to have a single-season assist streak of at least 16 games, joining Stockton, Magic Johnson and Kevin Porter. Stockton’s streak in 1992 is the longest during a single season … Rondo recorded his 13th career regular-season triple-double in last night’s 88-86 win over Atlanta, tying Antoine Walker for the second most in Celtics history. Only Larry Bird has more (59).
- Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 16 games and is averaging 14.9 points on .472 shooting during the 16-game stretch. Henderson has scored in double figures 33 times this season, including 10 games of 20 points or more.
- Dallas is averaging 40.6 points off the bench this season, which ranks third in the NBA behind Denver’s 42.0 ppg and Philadelphia’s 40.8 ppg. Jason Terry has led the Mavericks in scoring 11 times as a reserve this season (including ties). Dallas led the NBA in bench scoring in 2010-11 with 40.4 ppg.
- Over the last 15 games, Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey is averaging 19.0 points, 4.0 assists and shooting .470 from the field.
- Miami’s Dwyane Wade has played in 592 games for the Heat, one shy of the franchise’s all-time leader Alonzo Mourning (593 games). Udonis Haslem ranks in third place with 585 games played.
- Phoenix’s Steve Nash needs 37 assists to pass Oscar Robertson (9,887) for fifth on the all-time list.
DOC RIVERS, on Rajon Rondo’s streak of 19 straight double-digit-assist efforts, including 20 last night, to go along with 10 points and 10 rebounds:
“He’s playing extremely well, he’s just been spectacular. And that’s why we?re winning. It’s not just him, it’s everybody. But we need a locked-in effort from him every night and he?s doing that.”
Boston Globe April 12, 201