The Chicago Bulls took a step back Tuesday night as they gave up a big loss to Easter Conference foes the Miami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena, 111-129. The Bulls failed to be the front runners as the Heat led the whole game. With the loss the Bulls have gone from seventh in the Eastern Conference to a non-playoff contending seed of ninth. The loss gets them almost to 500 on the season as they drop to 30-29. As for the Heat, they have strengthened their playoff hopes going 11-5 since playing the Bulls in their last meeting. They now improve to 34-26 on the season and further distance themselves from the Bulls.
Not only did the Heat win but they won in amazing fashion. They set the franchise shooting record as they went 67.5 percent from the floor. An enormous 74 points from the paint were scored as they manhandled their opponents down low. Three Heat players scored 20 or more points in the game. Forward Luol Deng with 20 points, Joe Johnson with 24 points. A monster game from Hassan Whiteside took place as he got 26 points, 14 rebounds, and four big blocks while coming off the bench. Chicago native Dwyane Wade pitched in 18 points and seven assists. It was clear the mix of experience and youth from the Heat was too much for the Bulls as they just could not keep up.
"The game felt effortless offensively," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We're not calling specific play calls to say, `OK, this is for you, you get your shot.' It's five-man basketball, guys are making the right play and if you see somebody open you follow the fundamental law of basketball and throw it to them."
Bulls Dealing With Adversity
It has not been an easy road for the Bulls this season. Going from expectations of a second seed in the East to now fighting for playoff contention Coach Fred Hoiberg will need to keep sticking with it. Bulls players Pau Gasol and others have displeased with their performance on the defensive end.
"A terrible defensive effort on our part," Chicago's Pau Gasol said. "We knew that this team was a high-scoring team in the paint, we didn't force them to take 3s, we didn't force them to take long shots. They pretty much got everything that they wanted."
"I liked how I played," Rose said.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose did not have a bad night as he returned from a three game absence due to right hamstring tendinitis. He was often aggressive showing explosiveness while driving in the lane. He scored 17 points during the night to lead all scorers for his team. Gasol was close to a double-double with 15 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Forward Taj Gibson had an effective night with 13 points before leaving in the third quarter due to a right hamstring issue.
Bulls All-star Jimmy Butler has yet to return as he was missing in action with a left knee strain. They will desperately need him moving forward as they close out the regular season.
Heat Have Great Start
The Heat could not have had a better start to a game offensively. After a somewhat close few minutes in the first quarter the Heat started exploiting the Bulls weaknesses. The Heat started getting open shots off of offensive rebounds. An 8-0 run by Miami helped them assert their dominance as they got up 26-19. Doug McDermott showed flashes of brilliance as he made an acrobatic layup. Coach Spoelstra then decided to bring his youthful energy group from the bench on which was successful. Reserve Justise Winslow hit a jump shot to give the Heat their largest lead of the night so far. Rookie Bobby Portis helped keep the game close with great effort plays on both sides of the ball. The quarter ended 36-30 for the Heat. 36 points for the Heat was the most they have scored in a first quarter all season.
Rose was aggressive in the second as he weaved for lay ups. Reserve Josh Richardson began to get more playing time and made some contributions. The Heat were up and tried to keep momentum going. The first break points for the Bulls took place when Rose got an assist to Mike Dunleavy for 53-58. A steal and an E'Twuan Moore continued the closing of the gap, 56-58. Turnovers and loose bulls were everywhere as they happened in concession. With Gibson staying active and his 13 points in the first half helped the Bulls stay close, going in to the half down 62-65.
Bulls Get Worn Out
The Heat started the half on a 13-7 run as they maintained the lead. A Goran Dragic jump shot led to a 82-73 lead. A'mare Stoudemire made his presence known down low on several plays while finding favorable matchups. With Taj Gibson leaving the game in the third the Bulls were hanging on and having to put optimal effort in to even stay in reach. An 8-0 run lead to a Heat 16-point lead. Again Portis helped the Bulls keep their dignity as he got the Bulls on a 6-1 run closing out the third. A Wade fade away shot with half a second left in the quarter kept things at bay as the Heat started the fourth up 95-82.
Whiteside was the story of the fourth quarter. The big man started out with a big block on McDermott that kept the crowd engaged. Deng made a three that helped the home team separate themselves to a 103-84 lead. Surprisingly it did not stay that way as the Bulls stayed inspired. The away team kept moving the ball around and got within six points thanks to an Aaron Brooks three. The slimmer of hope for the Bulls was short lived as Whiteside continued to go in on the "Gibsonless" Bulls. Johnson and Dragic remained involved as they took the game back to a double digit lead. There would be no looking back as it quickly turned into a blow out with minutes remaining. The Bulls ran out of ideas as they failed to find a way to stop the up tempo Heat. The game ended 111-129 with a Heat win as both teams moved on to their respective locker rooms.
Bulls: Visit Orlando on Wednesday.
Heat: Host Phoenix on Thursday.