Heat 118, Bulls 96
CHICAGO -- The short-handed Chicago Bulls put up a good fight for three quarters, but the Miami Heat dominated the fourth to win 118-96 on Friday night at the United Center.
Chicago (32-32) played without injured starting guards Jimmy Butler (knee sprain) and Derrick Rose (groin strain).
The Bulls trailed just 84-81 starting the fourth, but were outscored 34-15 in the quarter and 64-38 in the second half.
Goran Dragic led Miami (38-27) and all scorers with 26 points, nine assists and a plus-29 rating. Heat rookie Josh Richardson scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, and former Bulls forward Luol Deng scored 10 of his 19 points in the final quarter, when Miami used a 26-4 run to seize control.
Pau Gasol had 17 points and 12 rebounds and finished an assist shy of his third triple-double to lead Chicago, which remains a half game behind the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Detroit lost 118-103 at Charlotte on Friday.
Joe Johnson had 15 points and Hassan Whiteside finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat. The Bulls got double-figure scoring from Taj Gibson (13 points), Doug McDermott (10 points), Aaron Brooks (11 points) and Justin Holiday (14 points), who started after the decision was made to sideline Rose.
After trailing most of the game, the Heat took a 73-71 lead midway through the third quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers by Dragic and Johnson. It was Miami's first lead since Johnson put the Heat up 13-12 with 5:33 left in the first quarter.
The Bulls quickly regained a 76-75 lead on a three-point play by Mike Dunleavy, but Miami outscored Chicago 9-5 in the final four minutes of the quarter.
Despite missing Rose and Butler, the Bulls started hot. They led 31-23 after the first quarter, when they shot 63.2 percent from the floor (12-of-19). The Heat cut into Chicago's lead in the second quarter, but still trailed 58-54 at halftime thanks to Gasol, who had 13 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a plus-10 rating in the first two quarters.
NOTES: The Bulls didn't have either of their usual backcourt starters. PG Derrick Rose (groin) and SG Jimmy Butler (left knee) were sidelined by injuries. Rose strained a groin in the fourth quarter of Chicago's 109-101 loss at the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night. "He does have a strain in there," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "I don't know how serious or long he'll be out. It's a day-to-day type thing is what it looks like right now." ... Butler went through a workout Friday and reported no setbacks afterward. He has missed the past two games because of his sprained left knee, which was aggravated in a March 5 game against the Houston Rockets in his first game back after missing 13. Butler will try to play three-on-three in practice Saturday, followed by five-on-five Sunday. He might return during an upcoming two-game road trip to Toronto and Washington, D.C. ... Heat PG Dwyane Wade played with a deep thigh bruise that happened during a collision in Miami's previous game on Wednesday at the Milwaukee Bucks.