We all know the Chicago Bulls have struggled with depth issues this entire season. Anytime the bench unit goes out on the court and guys like Zach LaVine are not out there, things can turn south very quickly. This was the case Friday night against the Miami Heat.
The Bulls struggled mightily in the second quarter and dug themselves a huge hole at halftime. To their credit, they were nearly able to get out of it and make it a competitive game. But thanks to Josh Richardson’s clutch performance in the fourth quarter, Miami was able to walk away the victors in Chicago, 103-96.
As often is the case, the Bulls had an OK first quarter, only trailing 26-24 at the end of it. They quickly raced out to a 10-4 lead thanks to two early triples by Justin Holiday. The Heat quickly settled down after hitting one of their first four shots and got back into the game. Richardson scored seven of Miami’s next 10 points and the Heat took the lead at 13-12.
From then on the two teams battled back and forth, with the biggest lead being only four. Holiday and LaVine led Chicago in scoring in the first with eight and seven points, respectively. LaVine got his teammates involved as well with four assists. It was a good start for Chicago, but what followed next was 12 minutes of horror.
Things got ugly pretty quickly in the second quarter. The Bulls missed their first nine shots from the field and Miami took advantage. In a blink of an eye it was a double-digit Heat lead as Chicago struggled to even generate quality shots. Before Holiday’s jumper with 6:32 left in the half, the Bulls had only a mere four points in the previous six minutes of the quarter. Four. Those came off free throws from Shaq Harrison and Holiday.
Things didn’t get any better for Chicago after that moment with the Heat still continuing to pile it on. The lead ballooned to as much as 26 with the Bulls not able to hit a bucket nor stop turning the ball over. Chicago had nine turnovers in that second quarter. There was a bit of a rally from the Bulls with a 7-2 run in the final two minutes to cut the gap to 21 at halftime.
In all, it was another one of those horrendous quarters we have seen from Chicago before. They scored just 13 points, shooting 2-of-19 from the field, and they looked out of sync with the bench unit in. There was a mountain to climb for the Bulls if they wanted to get back into the game.
Unlike the second, the Bulls started off the third by matching Miami offensively, keeping the lead near the 20-point mark for a while. Then around the seven-minute mark, two quick buckets from LaVine and Parker forced Erik Spoelstra to call timeout with the score 70-53.
After the timeout, the Bulls didn’t show any signs of slowing down, scoring seven points in a minute. Ryan Arcidicano knocked down a 3 followed by LaVine hitting two pull-up jumpers. Chicago was on a run and seemed destined to make this a competitive game. Another Miami timeout occurred, but it didn’t seem to slow the momentum of the Bulls.
Chicago kept clicking offensively, and then with 2:45 left in the quarter, Robin Lopez grabbed an offensive rebound off a LaVine miss and slammed it home to make it a 10-point game. The run seemed to wake up the United Center crowd. Credit to the Bulls’ bench as well for making a frenzy and giving the guys on the court a push. In that quarter, the Bulls cut the lead down to as much as seven (from a Holiday triple), but a late layup from Justise Winslow gave Miami a 78-69 advantage heading into the final frame.
The Bulls continued to cut into the Miami lead in the fourth. Even with LaVine on the bench, Chicago continued to battle. After having a super rough start to the game, Jabari Parker came alive in the fourth quarter. He scored six of Chicago’s first first points, including two free throws to cut the Heat lead to 81-77 with 8:52 left.
Miami again responded with a timeout to calm things down. Spoelstra put in Richardson for Kelly Olynyk. It turned out be the move of the game as the Heat guard stepped up when his team needed him the most. LaVine hit a jump shot with 6:07 left to cut the lead to four again, but Richardson quickly responded with a pull-up jumper of his own. Anytime the Bulls would try to inch closer to the Miami lead, Richardson would be there with a clutch basket. He scored 12 of his 27 points in the 4th quarter and closed the door on any Bulls comeback. The real dagger came with two minutes left as Richardson drilled a 3-pointer to give Miami a 100-90 lead. In the end, it was a 103-96 victory for the Heat with Chicago failing to capitalize on it win against Phoenix earlier this week.
Holiday and LaVine were the two best Bulls offensively, scoring 27 and 24 points, respectively. The former had a really efficient night from 3-point land, going 5-of-10 from that distance along with 13 rebounds. Parker had a great second half and in total notched another double-double with 23 and 10. The bench didn’t provide much with Lopez being the highest scorer at nine points.
Apart from Richardson, the Heat got double-doubles from Hassan Whiteside (18 and 10), Justise Winslow (10 and 10), and Bam Adebayo (14 and 10). Former Bull Dwyane Wade had 10 off the bench and received a good ovation from the crowd when he checked into the game. Wade also had a cool moment with current Chicago Bear Khalil Mack after the game:
Dwyane Wade signs one of his Heat jerseys for Bears linebacker Khalil Mack after the Heat’s win in Chicago tonight. pic.twitter.com/CRwaIpzEYx— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) November 24, 2018
The Bulls are right back at it Saturday night, heading up north to play Derrick Rose and the Timberwolves. Minnesota has been playing well since the Jimmy Butler trade, so this will be a tough one.