This wasn’t a Bulls-patented #FakeRally in Friday night’s loss against the Heat, the Bulls legitimately made it a game with plenty of time left, getting to within a couple baskets with half a period remaining. But the initial hole was just too big as the comeback fell short in a 106-101 loss in these teams’ first matchup of a weekend series.
As much as the Bulls brought a spirited effort in a 38-26 fourth quarter margin, they were dispiriting in their 33-18 deficit in the first quarter. Where Coby White wound up shooting the lights out at the end to end up with 31 points on 11-18 shooting, he had three awful first-quarter turnovers and typical turnstile defense that helped Miami get up big very early.
Duncan Robinson had four threes in the first quarter alone:
The Heat play small with Bam Adebayo at center and Trevor Ariza at power forward, and the Bulls just couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t just transition opportunities that were killing the Bulls defense. There was also a lot of drive-and-kick, and backdoor cuts that spread out the larger/slower Bulls defense and punished them with either open looks or drawing fouls. On offense, Miami was able to freely switch on defense and it only further discombobulated Chicago’s offense. The free-throw disparity is a known Bulls limitation, and in the first half Friday the Heat went 11-11 from the line with the Bulls only attempting a single free throw.
The deficit hovered around 17-22 points for most of the 2nd and 3rd quarters. But when Jimmy Butler, who hadn’t been spectacular but was controlling the Miami offense when necessary, sat at the end of the third, the Bulls went on a run. For a little over five minute stretch with Butler out, the Bulls made up 15 points of ground behind some dreaded three-big lineups and 3-point makes from White and Denzel Valentine to quite suddenly make the game interesting again.
At one point the Bulls got to within a possession, but they never fully closed the deficit. Butler was back in the lineup and made plays when necessary. White, Valentine, and Vucevic played the entire 4th and by the end could not play the mistake-free basketball required to make up so much of this early deficit.
Several goofs late, but this one from Valentine was the worst.
Bulls commentators couldn’t believe Denzel Valentine took this shot pic.twitter.com/Sc7hrZSoR5— Top Ball Coverage (@TopBallCoverage) April 25, 2021
I could post his multiple good plays leading up to it, but I’ll just wait for next year when it’s coming from the Serbian League Twitter account and I don’t have the emotional investment.
It’s hard to get too wound up in the details at the end of the game. The Bulls were outclassed early and it put them in way too deep of a hole. The defense is just not good enough against not-terrible or terribly-injured opponents, and the current offense due to missing players is requiring guys who shouldn’t even play out there for 10-20 minutes.
These teams square off again on Monday. While the Bulls were missing Zach LaVine and Troy Brown, the Heat were also missing several of their wings (Dragic, Herro, Oladipo) and it’s not clear if any will return for that 2nd matchup.