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Bulls vs. Heat highlights: the rarely-used Portis-Vonleh tandem was interesting, but not nearly enough

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It was quite the night to be a Bulls big man

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: this loss greatly helped “the tank”. Chicago’s loss was their 7th in a row and 51st of the season, and they’re still in the running for a top 5 lottery selection.

But let’s talk about the game anyway. We saw the Bulls throw out another variation of a starting lineup, their 8th different one in 11 games and it led to another tough night offensively. Despite having all of their starters score in double digits, the Bulls offense still looked stagnant and a sight for sore eyes. They shot 36.7% from the field and were even worse from three, a woeful 23.1%.

There are some takeaways from this loss, which while also bad seemed more competitive than losses we have seen Chicago take during this 7-game losing streak. Two players really stood out for Chicago in the big man duo of Bobby Portis and Noah Vonleh. Portis had 13 points and 16 rebounds, getting in double-digits scoring for the past 10 games. Meanwhile Vonleh had his best game as a Bull, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Both were a force to be reckoned with offensively and took advantage of Heat center Hassan Whiteside only playing 19 minutes.

(0:00-0:08) Here, Vonleh does a good job off the ball to get into an open space, which eventually leads to a basket for the Bulls. To start this sequence, Vonleh is situated at the top of the three-point line and isn't even involved in the primary action. After Denzel Valentine gets a slip screen at the top, he drives to the right baseline. Dwyane Wade is the primary defender with Bam Adebayo helping out on the drive. Meanwhile Justice Winslow, who is guarding Vonleh on the play, gets caught ball watching and is totally fixated on the Valentine drive. This allows Vonleh to cut right behind him towards the hoop. Valentine sees this and flashes a tight pass to Vonleh, who catches it inside the restricted area. He has to act quickly as Heat defenders converge in the lane so he does a couple of quick pump fakes to move the defenders away and create some space for himself. Vonleh then pivots his way around and then jumps away from Winslow, giving himself enough space for a little jump hook.

(0:36 - 0:42) Once again, Vonleh is situated at the top of the three-point line but this time he gets the ball there instead of in the lane. Vonleh gets the pass from Cameron Payne and then goes to attack his matchup against Kelly Olynyk. Vonleh’s drives to his right but then stops around the free throw line and lets Olynyk overcommit to the stop the drive. After Olynyk moves in front of him, Vonleh smartly spins into the lane. But then he’s met by the body of James Johnson who stepped up from his defensive assignment of Portis to help on the drive. Vonleh now has two options, either try a dump off pass to Portis who is under the hoop or shoot. He chooses the latter option, fading away from both Heat defenders and knocking down the shot in the lane. It was all done in one quick motion and was a solid move by the big man

Portis also had some nice plays in this game as well, by here slipping the screen and cutting to the basket. Again it was another pick and roll combination between Valentine and Portis and forced Winslow to make a decision on defense. Either sag back, allowing Valentine to drive or step up and cut it off. He choose the latter and it led to a wide open Portis for a dunk.

However the best player on the court was Miami’s Josh Richardson. He led all players in scoring with 22 points and was a problem for Chicago’s guards all night long. Richardson had some key baskets, especially in the 4th, and helped put away the Bulls late.

(2:15 - 2:22) On this play Miami uses the threat of Wayne Ellington and his shooting prowess to get Richardson an open jumper. Originally Richardson is situated far away from the ball, which is in the hands of Wade. Meanwhile both Adebayo and Winslow go over to Richardson’s side of the court in what looks like a double screen for Ellington. Given how good of a shooter Ellington is, Chicago senses it and tries to switch it but it fails miserably. Jerian Grant, who is originally guarding Ellington is on the far sideline where Ellington is. As the fake double screen comes, Ellington drifts closer to straight away three. While this is happening, Sean Kilpatrick, who is guarding Richardson, has sagged all the way inside the three-point line. It was a strange decision considering Richardson is practically near half court. In fact, when the screen arrives, Kilpatrick is closer to Ellington than Grant is. So Grant sort of pushes Kilpatrick towards Ellington to indicate a switch between the two. Problem is that while Grant is telling Kilpatrick who to switch on to, Richardson is on the move. Grant sees this but has to get through the numerous bodies that are bundled up near the paint. By the time he gets there, Richardson already got the pass from Wade and is easily able to step into a mid range jumper.

It was another loss for Chicago as Miami was the more efficient team offensively and they used a strong second half to come away as the victors. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some positives in this game from a Bulls standpoint. They just weren’t enough to get the job done and Chicago’s defense couldn’t stop Richardson or Goran Dragic, who scored 17 for the Heat.