Despite a huge halftime deficit, the Chicago Bulls found a way to come back and beat the Miami Heat 89-78, helping themselves out in the race to finish third in the conference, while the Heat’s playoff problems became a whole lot bigger.
The Heat fall to 35-44, putting them 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets and 0.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers for ninth in conference. They’ve lost seven of their last 10 games and seem to be hitting the wrong kind of form at the most important time of the season. The Bulls move back up to third in the East with 0.5 games advantage over the Raptors, but Toronto have the tiebreaker working on their side if both teams finish with the same record.
The Heat held a 51-32 lead at half time, but ended the third quarter with only 8 points, as the Bulls completely took over the game on both ends of the floor, stopping the flood of offensive rebounds and pretty much getting to the basket at will, while hitting 3-pointers, contested or not, stopped seeming so difficult all of a sudden. Chicago outscored Miami 33-8 in the third quarter to decide the game.
Some 3’s from Nikola Mirotic, a couple more from Aaron Brooks. No one really stood out offensively, and missing Jimmy Butler made the smoothness of it all disappear. But Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson were excellent on the offensive glass and the Bulls simply made the most of every opportunity. One thing was made clear once again: The better the unit of Brooks and Mirotic does on the floor, the further the Bulls can go in these playoffs.
Derrick Rose still doesn’t look like an All-Star point guard, but he’s dunking which means his knee is doing alright and he isn’t afraid to take the ball to the basket. He played 20 minutes, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-15 from the field. He has three more regular season games to get himself in shape for the playoffs, be it the Wizards or Bucks the Bulls will be facing.
Another player with knee issues, Dwyane Wade, maybe told the whole story of the Miami Heat this season. Wade has done some impressive things for a man with the kind of mileage he’s carrying to keep the Heat in the playoff race, but he’s slipping, and so are his teammates. Wade finished with just 4-of-20 from the field as the Bulls’ defense turned it up a notch in the second half, scoring only 9 points and turning the ball over five times in one of his worst performances of the season.