Daily Confidential

The Miami Heat hope their second meeting with the Chicago Bulls goes a lot better than their first.

Dwyane Wade and the Heat try to get back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 12 and avenge an embarrassing opening-night loss as they play the Bulls at the United Center on Thursday.

Since missing two games after dental surgery, Wade has carried the Heat (13-14) offensively in helping them win four of the last five games. The NBA Finals Most Valuable Player has averaged 31.0 points and 8.6 assists while shooting 54.4 percent (56-for-103) from the field in that span, helping Miami move within a game of .500 since it was 3-3 after a 94-72 loss to Houston nearly two months ago.

``We are World Champions and we haven't forgotten how to play the game at a high level,'' said veteran center Alonzo Mourning, who has been starting in place of the injured Shaquille O'Neal. ``We just haven't been consistent with it at all.

``As the season continues to progress and the injury bug leaves us, better things are going to happen for us. It's a long season. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Last season we had our ups and downs too.''

Wade had the first 40-point, 10-assist game of his career as the Heat rolled to a 101-85 victory Christmas Day over the Los Angeles Lakers. The fourth-year guard finished with 40 points, 11 assists and hit his 13th 3-pointer of the season - matching his 2005-06 total - before leaving the game in the final minute to a standing ovation.

``Makes it great, man, makes it great,'' Wade said. ``To be playing on Christmas is great. ... And we can go home and continue enjoying Christmas Day knowing that you played an unbelievable game, knowing that your team played well and that you got a win. Ain't too many things better than that.''

A suburban Chicago native, Wade has averaged just 13.8 points and 7.2 assists in six regular-season lifetime games at the United Center. The Heat, though, are 5-1 in those contests.

Miami has played well defensively at home, allowing just 94.2 points per game in 15 contests. But the Heat have struggled on the road, giving up an average of 103.3 points.

Chicago (16-12) opened its season with a stunning 108-66 rout at Miami on Oct. 31 to spoil the Heat's opening-night ceremonies during which they raised their first championship banner.

It was the worst loss of any defending champion on opening night in NBA history and also matched the fourth-worst loss in Heat history.

The Bulls, though, enter this game trying to bounce back from a tough 100-98 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. Ben Gordon led a furious rally as Chicago erased a 25-point, second-half deficit, only to lose on a layup by Randy Foye in the final seconds.

``It's obviously discouraging,'' said Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, who had 19 points. ``It's a game we probably shouldn't have won. They outplayed us most of the game, but we fought hard and came back and had a chance to win it. I gave up a big basket to Randy Foye at the end of the game where we had a chance to send it to overtime and have a fresh start.''

Gordon finished with 27 points and has averaged 24.4 points in his last five games to raise his team-leading average to 19.4 points.

Chicago has won five straight games at the United Center and 12 of its last 13 after losing 89-88 to Sacramento on Nov. 3 in its home opener.

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