The Miami Heat, losers of four straight games, came into the United Center, without starting point guard Goran Dragic and center Hassan Whiteside, and left with an 89-84 win.
Hold on, is anyone surprised by this loss? Because you damn well shouldn't be with this team. In typical fashion, after the Bulls impressive win in Cleveland, they came out and laid an egg against a struggling, under-manned Miami squad.
Pau Gasol started off the game by scoring Chicago's first nine points before Derrick Rose converted on a layup. And to be fair, the energy and sense of urgency wasn't all THAT bad to start for the Bulls, as they ran off a 11-2 run in the first quarter to go up 19-12. It had the look of a game that the Bulls could run away with, as Miami was struggling immensely on offense, only mustering 12 points through the first 10 minutes. A first quarter double-double from Gasol, in addition to a couple nice plays between Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic gave the Bulls a 23-18 lead at the end of one.
Miami's offense started to Heat up (no pun intended, ok maybe it is) at the start of the second quarter as they came out to a 9-6 run. Dwyane Wade found his rhythm in the quarter, as did Chris Bosh, getting inside the paint, hitting pick-and-pop jumpers against a lackluster Bulls defense. Meanwhile, on the opposite end, per usual, the Bulls offense came to a halt, as they settled for isolations, midrange jumpers while turning the ball over like a hot potato. With a strong second quarter effort from Wade and Bosh, Miami took a 49-47 lead into the half.
As the second half was set to get underway, it was announced that Derrick Rose would not return, because of his lower and right hamstring (which would be described as "soreness" postgame). At this point, it is what it is, with Derrick. It's probably nothing serious in the long run, but he'll probably need to sit a game or two. It's what we've got to live with for the time being. I digress.
Brooks through the third quarter was having a really nice game for himself, helping the Bulls get out to a 13-2 run to go up 60-51 to start the half. Tony Snell scored six quick points during that stretch, but was awful outside of that, more on him later. After taking a quick timeout, Miami responded with an 8-1 run to climb back into the game at 62-59. As with Brooks, Nikola Mirotic followed up Saturday night's performance with another fairly strong one tonight. For the most part he was patient, not forcing anything offensively, looking for his spots. Chicago controlled much of the third quarter as they entered the final frame up 68-61.
Then the fourth quarter happened. It was apparent from the start of the quarter that Wade was going to be assertive, and will his struggling Miami team to a win. Chicago's offense came to stand-still, again, as they settled for long jumpers, and rarely attacking the paint against a team missing one of the league's best rim protectors. In all honesty, it was one of their worst efforts of the season, the execution on both ends from the Bulls was rather forgettaBull, heh. Wade and Bosh took over the final frame, and without any flow offensively or response defensively, the Bulls couldn't claim the win.
It should be noted that during the third quarter, CSN Chicago reported that Mike Dunleavy Jr. is scheduled for full-contact practice tomorrow. Reassuring news to say the least, as Snell and Doug McDermott continue to be abysmal at the small forward position. These two have gotten every opportunity imaginable this season to take advantage of the situation at hand having MDJ out, and yet neither has been able to capitalize, at all. Is it surprising? Not really, more so disappointing.
For a Bulls team already struggling on a night to night basis, the only remaining glimmer of hope for this season, relies on a 35 year old coming off major back surgery.
Chicago takes on the Lakers Thursday night in LA, during the second game of TNT's double header, the first game of a seven game road trip. Should be fun!