Though the Heat do have some residual talent from their championship runs, they were still another below-.500 team that the Bulls should've taken care of easily. But in their last home game before a 6-game stretch on the road (the Disney trip, the Circus-trip's little sister), it was another stinker of a performance ending in a 96-84 loss.
This harkened back to those halcyon days of...um...earlier in the week, when the Bulls were listless and requiring of a team meeting. The team followed with very impressive back-to-back wins over the Spurs and Mavericks, but this probably should've been known as a trap game given it was a noon start following just a day of rest after that back-to-back.
To begin the game, the Heat simply did a much better job attacking the basket and getting to the FT line while the Bulls did more settling outside. And when they did get inside, the Bulls were either missing or seeing their attempts swatted. The biggest story in this game was the play of Heat reserve center (and reclamation project, something the Bulls never attempt with their deep roster spots) Hassan Whiteside, who achieved the rare triple-double with Blocks, totaling a whopping 12. Whiteside came in near the end of the first quarter and led the Heat on a 10-0 run, blocking 5 shots in his first 7 minutes and scoring a couple baskets as well. The Bulls wound up going 1-11 in the paint in the 2nd quarter.
But the Bulls couldn't hit shots away from the rim either. While they hit a few threes to start the 2nd (significant, as they were 2-15 on two-pointers) they then missed 10 straight from that range. Overall the Bulls shot 7-24 from three, and outside of Brooks and Mirotic they were 1-15, 'led' by Derrick Rose going 0-6 (regression from the progression to the mean, or something).
The Heat had the lead up to 14 points in the middle quarters, and it could've been worse if they were able to hit threes themselves (they shot 1-13 for the entire game). But at one point they had a significant (and deserved) margin in FT attempts, led by Dwyane Wade and old friend Luol Deng (who received a video tribute in the first half in his first game as a visitor in the United Center). Chris Bosh was doing work as well jacking up long 2s, not converting at an especially high rate but more than enough considering the impotency of the Bulls offense. It wasn't until Derrick Rose drew a few late fouls in the 3rd quarter (he had 11 points) that the Bulls looked to be at least getting more aggressive, though they were still down 12 entering the 4th quarter.
The hope was that the Heat's awful bench (non-Whiteside division) would allow the Bulls to reel them in, as they started the 4th quarter with only Dwyane Wade from their starting lineup. But Wade, though seemingly looking hobbled and awful all the time, is the best 4th-quarter scorer in the league this season and led that very important stretch, with 8 points in the first four minutes of the 4th to stave off a rare bout of Bulls competency and the Heat lead at double-digits by the time Derrick Rose re-entered the game.
Brooks soon-after had a 4-point play to cut the lead to 7, and the closing lineup was him and Rose alongside Butler/Gibson/Gasol. But the Bulls never got closer as it turned again into the Hassan Whiteside show. Whiteside just looked to be on a different level athletically by either rim, quick-jumping his way to dunks and keeping the block rate at a ridiculous level. On one significant late play, it looked like Brooks had a transition layup that Whiteside chased down and sent the other way, where Wade then hit a jumper over Rose (who was forced to guard the SG spot) to put the lead to 11.
Whiteside set a Miami Heat record with those 12 blocks, along with 14 points and 13 rebounds in only 24 and a half minutes of playing time. Wade had 12 in the 4th quarter and a game-high 26, with Bosh/Chalmers/Deng combining for 50. The Heat ran a lot of isolation plays, and the Bulls never wound-up double-teaming in response. Outside of Wade, the Heat players actually did not shoot particularly well, but they found enough points in transition, the FT line, and on second chance opportunities to more than make up for what the Bulls were throwing up on the offensive end.
There wasn't a single Bull who played well on offense outside of Brooks, with Rose being ok but really hurt by the goose egg from three-point range. Jimmy Butler was an anemic 5 points on 2-8 shooting in over 42 minutes, not even getting his usual screw-it-I'm-getting-to-the-line numbers as he only shot a single free throw attempt. Luol still showing he's the original Thibs-securityblanket, at least in this game. Taj Gibson displayed his black-hole tendencies in trying to keep going at Whiteside, shooting 3-10 and having 5 fouls in 26 minutes. Joakim Noah did little to assuage fears that he's still hurting, being a culprit of the awful inside shooting percentage and going 1-5 overall, sitting the entire 4th quarter. Gasol played over 36 minutes in what was not a good matchup for him, seemingly giving Whiteside more blocks by the end of the game as charity. Mike Dunleavy missed his 12th straight game, and his replacements either didn't come through (Snell was a bit better than Hinrich, though neither good defensively) or didn't play (Moore and McDermott DNPs).
The Bulls face the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night.