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Smith, Bulls send Heat to 11th straight loss

Jan 17, 2008 - 5:06 AM MIAMI (Ticker) -- Joe Smith and the Chicago Bulls didn't let "The Diesel" get in their way.

Smith scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half as the Bulls posted a 126-96 blowout victory over the struggling Miami Heat on Wednesday night.

Luol Deng scored 21 points and Ben Gordon added 24 off the bench for Chicago, which snapped a mini two-game slide.

"I'm really pleased with the way our guys responded," Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said. "It has been a tough week for us and a tough road trip. We end up 2-2 on the trip, which is exactly how we needed to finish. I thought our guys really showed some character tonight."

The Bulls also have won five of six vs. the Heat, despite the presence of 13-time All-Star Shaquille O'Neal, who returned to Miami's lineup after missing eight games with a hip injury.

O'Neal, who entered this contest averaging a career-low 13.9 points, scored 24 - two off his season high - but could not help the Heat avoid their 11th consecutive loss.

"Guys were looking for me," O'Neal said. "I just continue to take my high-percentage shots like I always do. I want to play my game."

It's Miami's longest losing streak since dropping 12 straight from November 8-December 4, 2001.

"That was about as complete a loss as you can have," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "The competitiveness for 2 1/2 quarters just left quickly. The team didn't quit, it's just bad. We just played bad. When you give up 126 points points defensively at home and you've already lost ten in a row, it's bad."

After losing 102-88 to Orlando on Tuesday, Chicago turned to Smith in the first half to give them a 58-53 lead at intermission.

Smith, who connected on 9-of-10 from the floor, had 17 in the first half - missing just one of his eight shots in the process.

In the third quarter, the Bulls outscored the Heat, 35-26, behind 13 points by Deng and seven by Thabo Sefolosha.

"It's the NBA," Deng said. "You play almost every night, and we were disappointed in the way we played the last two games. From start to finish we played with a lot of energy. I don't think there was one single time during the game when we looked like we were out of it. I think the focus was there the whole game."

Sefolosha finished with 17 points and six rebounds and reserve Andres Nocioni scored 20 for Chicago, which shot a season-high 57 percent (47-of-82) from the field and saw its bench outscore Miami's reserves, 55-12.

"Tonight the Bulls came in and put one on us good," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "They played a complete game. This was a real butt-whipping from beginning to end. We played hard but we didn't play hard enough."

The Bulls, who reached their season high in points, also had four players score 20-plus points for the first time since April, 2004.

"We are still seven games under .500 and we haven't been consistent," Bulls guard Chris Duhon said. "Our longest winning streak this year is two games. It's only one game. That's our main problem this year, it's consistency. We have to show some consistency."

Wade scored 24 points, Jason Williams added 17 and Udonis Haslem had 15 and 12 boards for Miami, which shot 47 percent (36-of-77).

"Right now, we are not a good defensive team at all," Haslem said. "We can't guard the ball and we don't close out well. We are just not a good team defensively, bottom line."

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