The Bulls were able to secure the win that Dwyane Wade desperately wanted, winning 98-95 in Miami against the Heat.
Unlike most of the games so far this season, this was close throughout. The first half featured good 3-point shooting from both teams (4/8 for the Bulls, 7/11 for the Heat). It was tied both at halftime, and again after a truly ugly 3rd quarter where both teams had 17 points apiece. That quarter also featured a usually interminable clear-path replay, Goran Dragic leaving after an ankle sprain, and a 5-minute commercial for some Usher show TNT is making.
The 4th opened up as a back-and-forth series of runs, with Jimmy Butler starting to take over in isolation for the Bulls while the Heat had nobody with similar skills to answer in kind. Wade re-entered the game at the 3:45 mark with the Bulls having a 6 point lead.
It wasn’t pretty offense from then on (or prior, really), with Butler missing a jumper but mostly having shots taken by guys who weren’t Butler...and definitely not running offense of any complexity. The Heat were able to pull within one point with just over a minute remaining. Butler then hit a nice turnaround in the lane to keep the Bulls up for good.
Butler had 6 of the final 8 baskets for the Bulls, finishing with 20 points on 11 shots, keeping up his amazingly efficient offensive season.
Much of the night, especially so given the national TV coverage (of which Charles Barkley derailed frequently), was focused on Dwyane Wade’s return to Miami. The greatest athlete in Miami history, Wade was welcomed appropriately with a video tribute and ovation. Wade returned the love to the crowd.
Wade did have a few nice finishes, including this one that looked like All-Star game defense from Justice Winslow (give the old crowd favorite a freebie!)
But despite some undoubtedly-high adrenaline, Wade was coming off heavy minutes the night before and it showed in most areas. He was 0/4 from three, finishing 5/17 from the field to get his 13 points, along with 3 turnovers.
The Heat do possess a solid defense, one that operates a bit like the Bulls but they have personnel more suited for it: aggressive trapping out on the perimeter, and letting Hassan Whiteside patrol down low. He had 3 blocks to go along with a somehow-quiet 20/20 game.
But their offense is fairly awful, coming into the game ranked in the bottom-5. And outside of their transition baskets and some hot 3-point shooting from unlikely sources, they struggled. The Bulls defense didn’t look improved or anything, it was more that the Heat (especially without Dragic late) had nobody to take advantage.
From the Bulls side there were a few solid performances spread out over the roster. After a rough past few games, Rajon Rondo was actually...somewhat decent. A big difference was that he wasn’t afraid to shoot, and took what the Heat defense gave him. He was productive enough with the open lanes, going 6/14. Robin Lopez was also pretty solid and had an uncharacteristically-high amount of field goal attempts, going 8/20. Both had season highs in points with 16 apiece.
And after an awful game the night before, the bench contributed in this one. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined for 23 points and went 4-8 from three (Niko with a couple of his trademark too-deep bombs). McDermott played 31 minutes to Taj Gibson’s 22, illustrating how Hoiberg chose to go small and match the Heat. It was a pretty tight rotation, Bobby Portis’s minutes not killing the team this time (well it did in the first half, just not the second), playing ahead of another Cristiano Felicio DNP.
The Bulls have a home date with the Wizards before heading out on the circus trip.