Heat think Bulls are elite team, too

CHICAGO -- Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh said Thursday he and his teammates don't care what Charles Barkley and others say about them after Barkley recently opined that the Chicago Bulls are better than the Heat.

The first-place Bulls hold a three-game lead on the Heat in the Eastern Conference standings heading into their meeting in Chicago on Thursday night. The Heat have played two fewer games than the Bulls.

"Not at all (do we care)," Bosh said after the Heat's shootaround on Thursday. "People are going to have their opinions, and you can have them. That's great. But you still have to go out there and play the game. It doesn't matter who thinks who is better, who is the underdog, who is the favorite. You still have to go out there and play the game. And you have to play a series when it's all said and done, so it's a series of games."

Barkley was a guest on the "Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 in Chicago on Wednesday and stated the Bulls had overtaken the Heat as the top team in the East. A year ago, the Heat defeated the Bulls in five games in the conference finals.

"People talk about how they played the Bulls last year, if you go back and look at those games, every one of those games was tied with two minutes to go," Barkley said. "Every one of those games. And if Rip Hamilton can play anything like he played (Tuesday), I think the Bulls have a really good chance against the Heat. I do. I like that team.

"I think the Bulls are better."

Bosh didn't believe it was that simple to proclaim one team was clearly better at this point. He felt determining the better team could come down to a given game between the Bulls and Heat.

"When you have two elite teams like that, it's not much separation," Bosh said. "It's game to game. Whoever makes the most mistakes is going to lose. No team is better than the other. I think we're both equal. The winning team is going to play the better game."

Heat guard Dwyane Wade had a similar feeling. Although the Bulls have said they view the defending Eastern Conference champs as the team to beat, the Heat realize they're chasing the Bulls just as much.

"We can go back and forth with this soap opera," Wade said. "They're the best team right now in the NBA. They can say something nice about us; we can say something nice about them. At the end of the day, they're a hell of a ballclub. They're very deep. They're tough to beat them. Last year, it was really close.

"Yeah, we're the Eastern Conference champs, and you have to knock down the champs, but at the same time we're still chasing a team who has gotten better from last year, a team who is the best team in the NBA right now, and we have to chase them."

The Bulls and Heat split their two games this season.

The Heat defeated the Bulls 97-93 in Miami on Jan. 29. LeBron James had 35 points in the win. Derrick Rose had 34 points, but missed two free throws and a game-tying jumper in the final minute.

The Bulls avenged the loss by defeating the Heat 106-102 in Chicago on March 14. The Bulls played without Rose and were led by John Lucas III's 24 points. James and Wade combined for 71 points in the loss.

James isn't sure which team is the favorite heading into their third meeting.

"Honestly, we don't know who has the edge on who right now," James said. "Both teams are just trying to play at a high level and gear yourself towards the playoffs and be consistent.

"This is a tough environment to play in. We understand that. They're well coached and they have great players. Any team who can come in and get a win will feel good about that win. We're looking forward to coming here and playing to our abilities, and hopefully we will walk out of here with a win and be happy about our play."

Scott Powers is a staff reporter for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.