Chicago Bulls face stiff test vs. Heat

Mike Ehrmann

The Chicago Bulls are set to clash with the Miami Heat on Friday night, and the game marks a big challenge for a Bulls team still trying to scrape by without Derrick Rose.

The Chicago Bulls (17-13) are in the thick of the playoff race, but the Eastern Conference is weak enough that they can slide by without actually being very good. Derrick Rose's return has the potential to significantly reshape the trajectory of the team for 2012-13 and beyond, but for now the Bulls are a scrappy defensive team that needs to muck up games to beat good opponents. Chicago's 12-9 record against .500+ teams will change after they play the Heat on Friday night, and Carlos Boozer knows it will take a very strong effort to put another game in the win column (via ESPN Chicago):

"They're the champs, man," Carlos Boozer said Wednesday. "Any time you get a chance to play the champs ... we get excited for every game, but they are the champs so we look forward to matchups like that. You get a chance to test how good your team is against the champs, so until somebody beats them that's what they are and we look forward to playing them."

The Bulls have dropped three of their last five games -- including an embarrassing loss to the Bobcats on Dec. 31 that ended Charlotte's 18-game losing streak -- while the Heat have dropped games to the Pistons and Bucks over their last five contests.

Miami hosts Chicago on Friday night at 7 p.m. CT, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

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