Despite injuries, Heat expect physical test

The Heat have lost five of their last six at the United Center, and expect a tough test. Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- The Miami Heat, having lost five of their last six games in the United Center over the past three years, know exactly what to expect from the banged-up Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, no matter who is on the floor for the home team.

As they try to win their 28th consecutive game, the Heat won't have to face Derrick Rose (ACL), and Joakim Noah (foot) and guard Marco Belinelli (abdominal) are game-time decisions.

"That doesn't change their style," coach Erik Spoelstra said after the Heat's morning shootaround. "C'mon, we know better than that. They've dealt with injuries for the last two years. They've done that as well as anybody.

"The one thing that will always remain the same with them is that physical disposition. They're a great defensive team still even with all the adversity they've been through. They're very well coached, and the guys are committed to that side of the floor."

Spoelstra also didn't want to hear about the Bulls' ups and downs this season. He understood the Bulls were capable of beating the Heat because he's experienced it. The Bulls won in Miami, 96-89, on Jan. 4.

"That has absolutely no relevance on us," Spoelstra said of how the Bulls have fared against other opponents. "They've beaten us and what they've shown is an ability to beat us up. If we don't bring the right mentality to get into that cage fight, they can really back us up and get us on our heels.

"We're trying to get better; we're trying to improve. For us to be able to do that, we have to focus on the moment and just tonight and how physical this game will be. We haven't played an opponent that will be as physical as what we can expect tonight. We haven't had that in a few games. If we don't anticipate that and really brace for that and we get caught, it has the potential to be different than the last few handful of games. That's where our focus is and not on all this (attention on the streak.)"

Dwyane Wade is returning from a knee injury to face the Bulls.

"It's a good team," Wade said. "Chicago has been a good team. Obviously, it's a tough place to play. This team plays with so much energy. This is a team that is hard to play when you don't have a lot of time to prepare because you know they're going to come in and play hard. That's just Thibs' way. I thought we did a good job last time we came here to come in here to get a good win. Now we got to try to match their energy again and exceed it at times as well."

The Heat's lone win in Chicago in recent years came on Feb. 21 when they defeated the Bulls, 86-67. It was the Heat's ninth win of their current streak, and one of their more impressive defensive games. It was also the only game during their streak they were held to less than 97 points.

"We were aggressive," Spoelstra said. "There's no question that we came in with a disposition. We know they're capable of playing much better at home. These games usually in this building are very tough. They're physical. You have to endure the competition physically, but also mentally. We know they'll be ready and likely this game will be much different than last time."