The game got started exactly how you expected it might – Dwyane Wade scoring. The Bulls got off to a great start the offensive boards, but the Heat did the same. Most things that Chicago would want to happen did in the early part of the game. Dwyane Wade scoring early, getting to the free throw line, grabbing offensive rebounds and getting Jimmy Butler involved. Still, the Bulls had major issues dealing with Hassan Whiteside, which is to be expected, and Goran Dragic, who thrashed Rajon Rondo in the pick-and-roll. The game remained even throughout the early portion of the game.
The first subs for the Bulls were Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, both subbed in at the 5:34 mark with the scored tied 15-15.
The Heat found their way to a small lead after the substitutions, but Jimmy Butler was firing early in this game and after an and-one 3-point play, the Bulls took the lead back at 24-23.
And then we got our first #FreeFelicio sighting of the night. Great to see Felicio getting minutes more frequently and consistently getting into the game during the first quarter in a contested game instead of garbage minutes. Chicago also brought Denzel Valentine in during the first quarter, which is more interesting because of how little time he’s spent on the floor. He’s still lingering somewhere between DNP-CD and garbage time. Seeing him in the first quarter feels like a big sign for where he’s at and how they feel about him.
The Bulls finished the first quarter with a Dwyane Wade bankshot that was waived off because it was after the buzzer sounded to end the quarter. The finished with the lead, 29-27. Butler finished the first quarter with 11 points for Chicago, Hassan Whiteside had 11 points and five rebounds for Miami.
The two teams ran an even race early in the second quarter, Fred Hoiberg going with a mostly bench lineup of Wade-Mirotic-Valentine-McDermott-Felicio. Regardless of who was in the game, Chicago wasn’t doing anything to show they could extend a lead, running a close game that was ever so slightly in their favor.
At the 8:40 mark, they took Valentine out, after around four minutes on the court, bringing Butler back in.
Throughout the remainder of the first half, several things became clear. First, the Bulls were completely unable to get the outside game working. They relied on inside scoring for everything. In fact, they had zero points on efforts outside of about 12 feet. They shot 10-for-25 in the second quarter, attempted just two 3-pointers. Second, Chicago – specifically Rondo – could not deal with Goran Dragic. And he was killing the Bulls in the same way that they were getting work done, by converting looks in the paint area. He also had seven assists in the first half.
A prime example of differences in starting point guards came toward the end of the first half when Jimmy Butler hit the deck and stayed down briefly. That gave the Heat a five-on-four possibility. They pushed the ball and it ended up back with the Bulls who tried to quickly push in transition. Rondo received the ball and attempted a pass to Butler since he was still in the offensive frontcourt. The idea was nice, but the execution was quite poor and resulted in an easy steal for Miami. Moments later, the Heat pushed the ball in transition, a Dragic pass finding its target precisely for a successful conversion. It’s small differences like this, differences that don’t have on every possession, but several times during a game, that can turn the outcome. This is true in all games, but more so in close games.
This game was 55-55 at halftime.
The third quarter was best described as all Chicago. The Bulls went on a huge run, pushing their lead as far as 13 points. That run was highlighted by 11 points from Dwyane Wade, pushing his game total to 22. Butler was also at 21 point by the time the Heat righted their ship and showed some signs of recovery from a disastrous start to the half.
Notable during the third quarter for lineups, Hoiberg opted for Jerian Grant in the third quarter. During the first half, those minutes were being absorbed by Valentine. The early Valentine appearance may have led to false hope that he is going to be a more active contributor moving forward, instead just another blip on the radar. Also, the appearance of Grant and Valentine supplanted the Isaiah Canaan role. Canaan did not play at any point during the first three quarters and appeared to be headed for a DNP-CD.
Chicago’s bench continued to be a rough spot:
Heat bench outscoring Bulls reserves 27-17. Bulls bench poised to be outscored for the 13th straight game.
Despite the bench struggles, the Bulls hung on to their advantage, taking an 83-75 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter tightened up and Miami pulled to within one point late in the game. There were a lot of calls going both ways that were interesting. One play that stuck out as an example was when Tyler Johnson had multiple reach-ins that could have been called before Wade punched him in the face with the basketball. And that action was called an offensive foul. I tend to cook some inconsistent officiating into any close game and don’t get surprised by it.
A lot of the play in the fourth more or less resembled what we’ve already discussed as the game continued on trajectory. The closing group was again the hot topic. Hoiberg continues to choose Rondo with his closing lineups. He missed a jumper and a wide-open 3, and because he provides no spacing, he is helped off and that resulted in a poor entry pass from Jimmy being picked off and turned into a quick Miami two because they doubled the receiver in the lane. It was so congested with Rondo out there and the Heat tightening up their defense that there was a stretch of more than three minutes without any Chicago points and when they finally did score, it was free throws.
The other side of this equation is that Miami is so shallow on talent right now, that they were only able to produce four points of their own during that same stretch. The Bulls locked down and forced the Heat to take a timeout to avoid a five-second inbound call with 10.6 seconds left, showing that both teams were giving no room to the other.
After the inbound, Miami committed a turnover and Jimmy sealed the win with two free throws. Final score, 105-100. Bulls win.