Chicago 99, Miami 92

CHICAGO, Feb. 14 (AP) - Kirk Hinrich stuck around just long enough to stick it to the Miami Heat. Then, he made a quick exit from the United Center.

Hinrich scored 24 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 99-92 victory over Miami on Thursday night and send the Heat to their 24th loss in 25 games, despite solid outings by Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion.

Hinrich, who came off the bench for the second straight game after missing three with bruised ribs, scored nine points in the fourth quarter. But no, he has no future as the team's sixth man. Interim coach Jim Boylan said he'll return to the starting lineup after the break.

"We'll come back on Tuesday and start over again,'' he said.

For the Heat, the All-Star break has mercifully arrived.

Wade scored 30 after pouring in 29 in Tuesday's overtime loss to Denver. Marion had 23 in his third game with Miami since the deal that sent Shaquille O'Neal to Phoenix. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Heat from dropping their ninth straight.

Two years after winning the NBA championship, Miami staggered into the All-Star break with just nine wins, and the latest loss was to a team with more than its share of problems.

"This is just a totally different feeling,'' Wade said. "I'm not even looking at the record.''

He's confident that he and Marion can help the Heat build some momentum.

"There's just a couple of things, you could just tell, once we get it down we'll be a lot better than we are,'' Wade said.

Marion agreed.

"There's a lot of life out there for us,'' he said.

The Bulls saw a nine-point lead early in the fourth dwindle to 82-81 on a drive by Wade with just under five minutes left, but they hung on.

It was 89-87 after the Heat's Marcus Banks, the other player in the Shaq deal, buried an open 3-pointer. But Hinrich hit a jumper as he crashed to the floor to make it a four-point game with about 2:15 left. Thabo Sefolosha then hit two free throws and poked the ball away from Wade.

The Heat fell on the loose ball and called time. Chicago's Tyrus Thomas deflected the inbounds and then hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 94-87 with 1:43 remaining.

"It was a good way for us to end the first half of the season - or so-called first half of the season,'' Boylan said.

The Bulls would love nothing more than to call a do-over, given the way the season has gone. Expected to contend in the Eastern Conference, they fired coach Scott Skiles and entered the All-Star break at 21-31.

They envisioned more nights like Thursday, instead.

Joe Smith had 19 points and 11 rebounds and, like Hinrich, made himself scarce afterward. Andres Nocioni scored 18, while Sefolosha added 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Bulls also got 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks from Thomas, who started in Ben Wallace's place. And they held a 53-35 rebounding edge even though Wallace missed the game because of a death in his family.

Boylan hoped the athletic Thomas would be able to stick with Marion, and the results were mixed. Marion dominated at times, but Thomas also blocked him twice in transition.

"Those are kind of easy buckets that he gets, and just to take one or two of those away from him in a game, it really helps,'' Thomas said.

Notes: Heat coach Pat Riley said he doesn't think about the Hall of Fame "until I'm reminded.'' And with finalists being chosen Friday in New Orleans, he was reminded before the game. "My name's in the hopper,'' he said. "For some reason, it's in the hopper. It's in the hopper because when I started my career, I was one of the fortunate ones to start with a great, great group of players. All of them are Hall of Famers or are going to be Hall of Famers. It just sort of jump-started me. In New York, I had great players. Here, I've had great players. ... If I get selected, it would be a great honor.'' The Hall's class of 2008 will be announced April 7. ... The Bulls wore their red road jerseys in honor of Valentine's Day.


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