The Bulls’ offense chugged and sputtered, Zach LaVine had one of his worst games of the season in terms of scoring, and Chicago fell to the Heat 107-104 at the United Center on Saturday night.
The Heat looked like the better team for much of the night, but the Bulls hung around and even led by six points early in the fourth quarter. However, Miami’s zone in the fourth slowly began to unravel Chicago’s offense. The Bulls settled for a bunch of 3-point shots and couldn’t convert (3-of-12 in the fourth and 11-of-39 for the game), while the Heat caught fire on the other end, with Gabe Vincent and Kyle Lowry combining to hit seven 3-pointers in the final frame.
Vincent had 20 points off the bench (16 in the fourth quarter) to step up in place of Tyler Herro, who missed the game with an illness. Vincent’s 3-pointer with the Heat down six points early in the fourth after an offensive rebound was a huge turning point in the game, and they were able to create some separation down the stretch. Jimmy Butler hit a couple of big shots to put the Heat up eight with just under a minute to play.
The Bulls didn’t quit, though, with DeMar DeRozan making one last push as part of a game-high 28-point effort. DeRozan recorded an and-1, and a solid defensive possession that ended with Butler missing a contested 3-point shot led to a long rebound and a DeRozan layup to cut Miami’s advantage to 102-99 with 25.9 seconds to play.
Unfortunately, a nifty inbound play by Erik Spoelstra’s Heat led to a Kyle Lowry layup to put Miami up five with around 15 seconds to play, erasing any last shred of hope of a Bulls comeback:
Awesome ATO from the ATO master himself pic.twitter.com/S1zUAgrmQB— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) November 28, 2021
In addition to DeRozan’s big scoring game, Caruso had a monster performance off the bench with 22 points, six assists and three rebounds. Caruso had some success in the middle of Miami’s zone and was the Bulls’ best player in this game by a wide margin. After a circus layup late in the third quarter, the United Center faithful started chanting “MVP.” The Bald Mamba proceeded to signal for the crowd to quiet down on the following defensive possession. It was a moment of comic relief in an otherwise intense night of NBA basketball.
In another moment of comic relief, Heat veteran Dewayne Dedmon got ejected from the game for kicking a chair, causing the pad to go up several rows into the crowd:
Dewayne Dedmon ejected for kicking a chair. LOL @ Stacey King pic.twitter.com/7Lw4QjlyNf— Ⓜ️ ▶️ (@_MarcusD3_) November 28, 2021
Sadly, the Bulls just didn’t execute well enough to win this game on the second night of a back-to-back. In addition to the poor 3-point shooting, they turned the ball over a whopping 23 times, with Coby White leading the way with five giveaways in an ugly performance off the bench (2-of-8 shooting, 0-of-5 from 3).
LaVine and Vucevic were also both awful offensively, with Zach managing just 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting and just not making much of an impact on the game at all. Vucevic stuffed the stat sheet with 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks, but he only managed seven points on 3-of-9 shooting and 0-of-3 from 3-point land.
A good version of Vucevic should have been a weapon against the zone, but he was extremely passive offensively all night and didn’t take advantage of often getting guarded by smaller players. The Bulls could have done a better job finding him against mismatches, but he didn’t look for his own shot nearly enough. He also caught only backboard on a painful wide-open corner 3-point attempt in the fourth quarter, had an absolutely awful turnover where he threw the ball right to a Heat defender and fouled a 3-point shooter all in a matter of minutes. Simply put, Chicago needs a much better version of Vucevic as this season goes along.
On a side note, the Bulls’ City Edition uniforms are absolutely fire this year, and they certainly looked better than the Heat’s atrocities.
To wrap this up: the Bulls have lost three of four games and have a lot of things to figure out between now and a Monday bout with the Charlotte Hornets, who also just lost to the lowly Rockets. Biggest storyline of that game: Who will LaVar be rooting for?