MIAMI—Lately, coach Scott Skiles has talked about how the combination of such a young team and a tough schedule makes the Bulls' performance as important as the final score.
The Bulls lost on both fronts Saturday night.
Shaquille O'Neal battled foul trouble, the Bulls battled sloppiness, dropping back to .500 following a 108-97 loss to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena, their third defeat in a row.
Save for an aggressive third-quarter stretch in which the Bulls trimmed a 15-point deficit to three with O'Neal on the bench, the Bulls didn't show up in their 10th straight road loss to Miami.
Not even Skiles' decision to break out the Hack-A-Shaq strategy late in the fourth quarter could prevent a fourth opponent in five games from topping 100 points. The Heat's 108 was the most points by a Bulls' opponent since Sacramento scored 113 on Nov. 16.
"Right now, we're not playing well enough to win," Skiles said. "We're not lazy or overly careless. We're just not as sharp as we were and we're playing good teams who are pouncing on any mistakes we do make."
After sitting for the final 6 minutes 29 seconds of the third quarter with four fouls, a well-rested O'Neal capped a 13-1 run to open the fourth with a monster dunk off an offensive rebound.
O'Neal had 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and added 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocks.
"I told them to just bring the ball to me," O'Neal said. "I just want to touch the ball all the time whether I'm the scorer or the playmaker.
"I know that I can get everyone else involved."
Miami went showtime in the fourth quarter, with O'Neal calmly dropping a jumper home after a rare crossover dribble from the big man froze Jared Reiner.
Earlier, Dwyane Wade set Eddie Jones up for a three-pointer with a spectacular spin move and pass. Wade finished with 25 points.
Meanwhile, the Bulls failed to score on their first six fourth-quarter possessions. The league's highest turnover team committed another 16.
"That's still a big part of the game, trying to get a shot at the hoop," Skiles said sarcastically.
Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 25 points.
Kirk Hinrich fouled out with 4:48 remaining after scoring 15 points on 6-for-19 shooting. Hinrich has shot 26.8 percent in his last four games.
Eddy Curry added 15 points but managed just two defensive rebounds in 28 minutes and seemed overpowered by O'Neal.
"I thought Jared was about the only guy who had a legitimate shot to have any effect on Shaq," Skiles said.
Added Reiner, activated earlier in the day and seeing his first action since November: "He's a beast. You can't even explain how big that man is."
Following a trend in this series, a reserve hurt the Bulls as Michael Doleac dropped in 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
The Bulls were extremely lethargic in a first half in which they shot 39 percent with 10 turnovers. It ended with Miami leading 51-36.
On the Bulls' final first-half possession, Skiles flashed the signal for one shot and Luol Deng, who had four turnovers and 18 points, was called for an offensive foul with 14.4 seconds left.
Just one more example of the Bulls being slightly off of late.