Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Bulls–Heat rivalry

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First meeting  December 10, 1988
Meetings total  135 meetings
Regular season series  55–48 (CHI)
Next meeting  TBD (TBD)
All-time series  73–62 (CHI)
Bulls–Heat rivalry
Latest meeting  January 27, 2017 (United Center)

The Bulls–Heat rivalry is an NBA rivalry between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. It began once the Heat became contenders during the 1990s, a decade dominated by the Bulls. They were eliminated three times by Chicago, who went on to win the title each time.


The rivalry came back in the post-Michael Jordan era due to the Heat and the Bulls becoming favorites in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls, led by Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, battled the Heat's 'Big 3' LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for dominance. These contests were fierce and hard fought battles featuring many fouls and ejections.

Beginning: 1992–97

The first meeting occurred in the first round of the 1992 NBA Playoffs. The Bulls, led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and coached by Phil Jackson, were the defending champions and had accumulated a 67–15 record, the Central Division title, and the top seed in the East. The Heat, with Glen Rice, Steve Smith, and Rony Seikaly, reached the NBA Playoffs for the first time in franchise history with a 38–44 record, which made them the 8th seed. The Bulls swept Miami in three games en route to their second straight NBA title.

The second time the teams met, in the 1996 NBA Playoffs, the Bulls, now with Jordan, Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, and Ron Harper, had compiled the best NBA regular-season record of 72–10 and were hungry to regain the NBA title after a 2-year hiatus. Miami, now coached by Pat Riley with Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Chris Gatling, and Walt Williams, managed to clinch the 8th seed with a 42–40 record. One of Chicago's 10 losses during the seasons included a 113–104 loss to the Heat in Miami on February 23, highlighted by a 39-point performance by Rex Chapman on nine three pointers in a game where Miami only featured 8 players due to injuries. The playoffs would be a different story however, as the Bulls were too much for the younger Heat as they swept Miami 3–0 for the second straight time on the way to their fourth championship. Michael Jordan once again dominated Miami, averaging 30 points a game during the series.

The Heat took the following season to hone their plan of attack on Chicago. Utilizing the aggressive tactics he used while coaching New York, Riley conditioned a tough Miami team designed to break the Bulls. After dropping the first 2 regular season match-ups to Chicago, Riley's plan took effect. The Heat beat Chicago 83–80 and 102–92 in the last 2 regular season games. The Heat returned to the playoffs in high fashion with their first Atlantic Division title, revamped with new additions Dan Majerle, P.J. Brown, Jamal Mashburn, and Voshon Lenard and a franchise-best 61–21 record and the 2nd seed behind the 69–13 Bulls. However, when they met in the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami fell behind 3–0 to the Bulls before winning their first playoff game in the match-up in Game 4 87–80, heeding Mourning's guarantee of a victory. One of the incidents of the series was when Pippen got elbowed in the head by Mourning. Jordan took it personally and gave Chicago the spark they needed to blow Miami out in Game 5 100–87. Mourning did not make his first field goal of the game until the next-to-last possession. Overall both Hardaway and Mourning's point production fell against the Bulls, who went on to defend their title against the Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals.

2006: First Round Matchup

The rivalry went into a dormant phase due to intervention by the New York Knicks (who eliminated the Heat in the first round of the 1998 NBA Playoffs) and the dismantling of the Bulls after the 1998 Championship. The next time the two met was in the first round of the 2006 NBA Playoffs. The Heat, a year removed from a trip to the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals, were led by Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, and Pat Riley, who returned to coaching earlier in the season after a short hiatus. The Bulls, who had returned to the postseason for the second straight year, consisted of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni, Chris Duhon, and Luol Deng, forming a team that relied on accurate perimeter offense and strong overall team defense. The Southeast Division-leading Heat were the second seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Bulls were the seventh seed. Game 1 was a hard fought contest, as Miami won 111–106 led by 30 points and 11 assists for Wade with 27 points and 16 rebounds for O'Neal. The Heat followed that up with a balanced offensive attack in Game 2, in which Wade, O'Neal and Jason Williams all scored over 20 points to win 115–108 and take a 2–0 series lead. The Heat had been expected to put the Bulls away, but the young Bulls responded with a dominating 109–90 rout in Game 3, led by Gordon's 24 points and Hinrich's 22. In Game 4, Chicago managed 20 point games from Gordon, Hinrich and Nocioni to win 93–87 and tie the series at 2. Notable in this series was a flagrant foul committed by James Posey on Hinrich during a fast break. Posey was immediately ejected. After a little private squabble among Heat players, they regrouped and won Game 5 in Miami 92–78, led by Wade who scored 28 points. In Game 6 in Chicago, the Bulls again scored in bunches but were outdone by a dominating performance by O'Neal, who posted 30 points and 20 rebounds to win 113–96 and close out the series. Miami would go on to their first NBA Championship.

2007: First Round Revenge

At the start of the 2006–07 season, the Heat hosted the Bulls in the Heat's season opener. The Bulls, retooled with new players (the most notable being former Piston Ben Wallace), blew out Miami and gave the Heat the worst season-opening loss of a defending NBA champion. Throughout the season, the incident involving Posey did not remain isolated. In games between the Heat and Bulls, Posey was involved in a few hard fouls and rough plays against various Bulls' players. On opening night, he smashed Tyrus Thomas in the face, breaking Thomas' nose. In a December game, he horse-collar tackled Luol Deng as he was going for a layup. Deng fell hard on his wrist which he had had surgery on the previous year, but escaped unharmed. Bulls' fans remembered this incident, and have often expressed their dislike for Posey.

The teams met in the first round of the 2007 NBA Playoffs. The Bulls finished the season on a strong note, but lost their last regular-season game against the Nets which, along with a Cavaliers win over the Bucks, cost the Bulls the second seed, dropping them all the way to fifth. The defending champion Heat, ravaged with injuries to key players throughout the season, caught up in the standings and clinched the Southeast Division title and the fourth seed.

The Bulls had been eliminated in the first round for two straight years. They won the first game in Chicago 96–91, thanks to a stellar performance by Deng with 33 points. In Game 2, P. J. Brown bumped Posey and referee Steve Javie called Brown for a flagrant because, according to Javie, Posey was bumped while in the air. The league rescinded it after viewing the film. Near the end of the game, Chicago fans chanted, "Posey sucks!" as the Bulls dominated the Heat and won 107–89. The series shifted to Miami for Game 3 with the Heat leading at halftime. But the Bulls responded with a big third quarter, as Chicago won 104–96 led by the scoring of Gordon (27 points), Deng (24) and Hinrich (22). In Game 4, Miami again led after halftime, but Gordon (24 points) and Deng (22) once again dominated Miami and won 92–79 to sweep the defending champs. The Heat became the first defending NBA Champions to get swept in the first round since the Syracuse Nationals swept the Philadelphia Warriors in the first round of the 1957 NBA Playoffs.

Revival: 2010–16

In the 2008 NBA draft, the league-worst Heat were the favorite for the first pick, but with a 1.7% chance, the Bulls won the lottery and selected Derrick Rose, while Miami selected Michael Beasley with the second pick. During the 2010 free agency class, the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer from the Utah Jazz and the Heat formed the "Big 3" with Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Wade spurned the chance to join his hometown Bulls and the Bulls actively courted James and Bosh as well, having been considered one of the favorites to sign James.

2010–11: Eastern Conference Finals Rematch

Hyped as contenders in the east, the Bulls and the Heat faced one another in three regular season games, all of which went down to the last moments and all of which ended in Chicago victories. With a league-best 62-win record, the Coach Of The Year in Tom Thibodeau and league MVP in Derrick Rose, the Bulls ranked first in the Eastern Conference, with the Heat taking the second seed. As expected, they played against each other in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls, thanks to hot-shooting and 28 points by Rose, the Bulls won Game 1 handily at home as Bosh scored 30 points but James and Wade were both held under 20. LeBron James responded by guarding Rose in Game 2. Without a secondary scorer, and thanks to a resurgent James (29 points and 10 rebounds) and a return-to-form performance by Udonis Haslem (13 points), the Bulls lost Game 2 by 10.

In Game 3, Chris Bosh dominated on offense, scoring 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting. James scored 22 and dished out 10 assists, and the Heat managed to win the game by 9 points despite efficient games by Rose and Boozer. In Game 4, the Heat once again brought out a shared defensive effort in containing Rose, as he only managed 23 points on 8-of-27 shooting. The game went into overtime with Miami outscoring the Bulls 16–8 in the extra period to win the game and take a 3–1 series lead. The Heat were again paced by James who scored 35 points, and Bosh who scored 22.

Back in Chicago for Game 5, the Bulls held their ground for much of the game, until a late fourth-quarter Miami run and a key block on Rose's potential game-tying three cost Chicago the series. All three of Miami's stars scored 20 or more points, and the final 4 losses of the series marked the first time all season that the Bulls lost four straight games. The Heat made the NBA Finals for only the second time in the team's history, thereby denying Rose, the MVP, a chance to become the first player since Tim Duncan to win the MVP and a title in the same season. Nevertheless, the Heat would lose to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.

2011–12: Regular Season

Fresh off their previous duel, the two teams met four times in the lockout-shortened regular season, with both teams winning their home games. The first game was played in Miami, where the Bulls were without Luol Deng and C. J. Watson. Miami won 97–93 thanks to two missed free throws from Rose that could have won the game. The second and third games, played in Chicago, were without Rose and Rip Hamilton, respectively. Nevertheless, the Bulls pulled off a win despite LeBron and Wade scoring a combined 71 points. Chicago was led by John Lucas III, who scored 24 points off the bench. In the third game, Miami was without Udonis Haslem, due to illness. Rose was suffering from a foot injury and only went 1-of-13. It was very close down the stretch, as LeBron hit a 3 to put Miami up 83–81 with 49.1 seconds left. With a chance to seal it, he made one of two free throws to make it 84–81. Watson responded by hitting a 3 of his own with 2.2 seconds left to tie it and force overtime. In OT, Chicago outscored Miami 12–2 and won 96–86. In both games, the Bulls' bench gave significant contributions, outscoring the starters in the second game, and the Heat bench 47–7 in the third. The last game was in Miami, which the Heat won 83–72. The Bulls were without Rose again, and the Heat were without Ronny Turiaf and Chris Bosh. The game included a flagrant two by James Jones against Joakim Noah, a flagrant one by Wade on Hamilton followed by a double technical, and a hard but legal screen by LeBron on John Lucas, followed by a double technical. With Rose suffering a torn ACL in the first round, the Bulls were ousted in six games by the Philadelphia 76ers, denying a chance for a rematch between Miami and Chicago. The Heat went on to win the NBA title that year. In the offseason, the Bulls cut ties with Watson, Lucas, Ronnie Brewer, Ömer Aşık and Kyle Korver, dismantling their so-called "Bench Mob" in favor of Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed.

2012–13: Semifinal Matchup

With Miami as the defending NBA champions, the Heat were favored to return to the Finals after garnering a league-best and franchise-best 66–16 record. Despite various players battling injures, the Bulls remained competitive, winning 45 games and garnering the 5th seed. During the season series, the Bulls took the first game 96–89 at Miami, but the Heat responded by winning 86–67 in Chicago. The third game took place in Chicago on March 27th, when the Heat were riding on a 27-game win streak. A hard fought game included Hinrich colliding with James during a drive, as well as Taj Gibson raking James' neck while attempting to block a shot; James, displeased, stated that "those are not basketball plays" at the end of the game. Despite James' 32 points, Deng and Boozer were able to outlast the Heat 101–97, ending the second longest streak in the history of the NBA. The Heat once again avenged their loss by winning the fourth game 105–93 at Miami, splitting the season series at 2. A postseason rematch occurred shortly thereafter, with the Heat sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks and the Bulls outlasting the Brooklyn Nets before meeting in the 2013 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Coming off a seven-game battle with the Brooklyn Nets, Luol Deng was out with an illness and Kirk Hinrich sat with a sore calf. Nevertheless, under the 27-point performance of Nate Robinson, the Bulls surprised the Heat in Miami 93–86. Jimmy Butler added 21 points, his defense proving instrumental in mitigating LeBron James. The Heat, for the third time that season, avenged their loss to the Bulls by posting a blowout 115–78 Game 2 win, where Miami attained their biggest playoff win and dealt the Bulls their biggest playoff defeat in their respective franchise histories. Despite the blowout score, the teams continued their tough play; 9 technical fouls and 2 ejections, on Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, were administered.

Back in Chicago, in the second quarter of Game 3, Nazr Mohammed shoved James to the ground, resulting in Mohammed getting ejected. The game entered the fourth quarter tied at 70, but Miami won 104–94. Miami was led by James (25 points), Bosh (20 points, 19 rebounds) and backup point guard Norris Cole who scored 18 points in 24 minutes. In Game 4, the Heat held the Bulls to 65 points, a Bulls playoff-low, winning 88–65. The Bulls only scored 9 points in the 3rd quarter, while the Heat produced a balanced offensive attack led by James who scored 27 points. Game 5 in Miami characteristically went down to the wire, as the Heat finished off the Bulls by winning 94–91. The Heat rallied late in the fourth quarter with Wade posting his best game of the series (18 points), while Butler and Robinson both missed three-pointers as time expired. The Heat would go on to win the NBA championship again that year against the San Antonio Spurs.

2013–14 Regular Season

The Bulls and Heat both entered the season with championship aspirations, with them both meeting in the first game of the NBA season, with the first quarter being closely contested until Chicago's offensive woes struck. They went down by over 20 in the second quarter and rallied in the fourth quarter, but fell short 107–95. The Bulls lost their championship aspirations by their second meeting of the season due to a meniscus injury to Derrick Rose, but nonetheless dismantled the Heat 107–87 at home. In the next meeting, the Heat responded without LeBron due to an injured nose. They defeated the Bulls, winning 93–79 at American Airlines Arena. The Bulls responded a week later at the United Center when they beat the Heat 95–88 in overtime. Chicago lost in the first round to the Washington Wizards, while Miami advanced to its fourth straight NBA Finals but lost their rematch with the Spurs in 5. After the 2013–14 season, James elected to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers ending the Big Three era in Miami while former Bulls player Luol Deng signed with the Heat after playing 10 years in Chicago.

2016 Off-Season

The Heat were coming off a 48-34 season where they were knocked out the Eastern Conference semi-finals by a game 7. The Bulls were coming off a 42-40 season where they missed the Playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. However, in that off-season, Heat star Dwayne Wade, who had spent his first 13 seasons of his career in Miami, left and signed with the Bulls in free agency.

February 23, 1996 in Miami

During the 1995–96 NBA season, one in which the eventual champion Bulls finished a record-breaking 72–10, the Heat beat the Bulls 113–104, despite having only eight players on its roster after completing three trades the previous day. Having sent away five players at the trade deadline including starters Kevin Willis, Bimbo Coles, and Billy Owens, the Heat struggled to meet the league requirement of eight roster players until one of its newly acquired players, guard Tony Smith, made it on time to play in the game. Heat Coach Pat Riley said that had Smith, who started in the game and scored 16 points, not made it on time, they would have to "sign somebody off of the street". Rex Chapman was high-scorer with 39 points while hitting 9 of 10 three-pointers.

April 10, 1999 in Chicago

Chicago set an all-time NBA record low for points in the shot clock era in a 82–49 loss to the Heat. Kornel David led Chicago with 13 points. Later in the season Chicago beat Miami 101–86.

December 27, 2006 in Chicago

In this game, Dwyane Wade sprained his right wrist when he got tangled up with Kirk Hinrich coming off a screen. After the game, Pat Riley accused Hinrich of being a "dirty player."

"Hinrich pulled his hand. Hinrich grabbed his hand, which he does all of the time...That's what he does anytime Dwyane comes off screens. They always either grab his shirt or hand. It's a little bit of a tactic down below the body. The officials can't see it. So he had Dwyane's hand and tried to pull it out of there."

In his third incident with the Bulls, Posey was ejected after clotheslining Deng in midair. He was suspended for one game. After hitting the floor, Deng was grabbing his right wrist, which had surgery a year before. Ben Gordon did not appreciate Riley's comments after the game, especially since Posey was ejected for taking down Deng from behind in the fourth quarter.

"I heard him saying something about Kirk. Kirk didn't do anything dirty...he was just playing aggressive defense. Posey's was way more blatant. I don't appreciate him taking shots at our guys."

March 27, 2013 in Chicago

The Bulls ended the Heat's 27 game winning streak on March 27, 2013, with a 101–97 victory at the United Center in Chicago. Despite playing without superstar Derrick Rose, all-star Joakim Noah, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, and Marco Belinelli, the Bulls managed to end the second longest win streak in North American sports history. The game was quite testy, with Kirk Hinrich tackling, the much larger, Lebron James early in the first quarter to prevent an easy fastbreak, and LeBron James picking up a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter after an apparent flagrant foul committed by Taj Gibson was downgraded to a common foul. LeBron said after the game about Hinrich's and Gibson's play that "those are not defensive ... those are not basketball plays."

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals: May 6, 2013 in Miami

The Bulls pulled a stunning upset over the defending champion Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Heat were rested for 7 days following their sweep over the Milwaukee Bucks while the Bulls had just gotten out of a tough seven game series against the Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls were missing Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich. Joakim Noah was suffering plantar fasciitis as well. The Bulls built an early 10–4 lead, but Miami began to pick up the pace. Nate Robinson and LeBron James collided diving for a loose ball causing Robinson to smash his skull onto the court with a bloody lip. James ended the first half with only 2 points, though he did score 22 points in the second half.

Head to head

The results in parentheses concern the playoff games.


Bulls–Heat rivalry Wikipedia

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