Bulls withstand the Heat for ‘professional win’
Patrick Beverley just wanted to see his new team pull out “a professional win.’’
That meant coming out with energy and the first punch against a playoff team such as the Heat, withstanding the counter-punch and the delivering the knockout.
The Bulls guard and his teammates checked all those boxes.
In a season of big leads turning into bad losses, maybe, just maybe, this group finally has it figured out.
“We haven’t had a lot of moments like that this year, quite honestly,’’ coach Billy Donovan said of the 113-99 victory over the Heat on Saturday. “You’ve got to lean into it. It was good for us against a team like that, that we could respond when they really got back into the game.
“This was a hard back-to-back, quick turnaround [from the double-overtime win over the Timberwolves on Friday]. Hopefully we can learn and grow from this and get better as a group.’’
Beverley was there to do everything possible to make sure of that.
“We came in understanding that was a must-need win,’’ he said. “We didn’t want to come out in mud, we wanted to throw the first punch and we did. They responded like any good team would, and our first punch was real heavy. That led to a win.’’
If it actually were a boxing match, it would have been stopped in the second round. Not only did the Bulls dominate on the defensive end, holding the Heat to 45 points on 16-for-40 shooting (40%), they put on an offensive clinic.
And with an unlikely player leading the way. When Beverley wasn’t gesturing to the Heat players that they were “too small’’ after scoring inside the paint, he was hitting three-pointers.
Yes, not a misprint.
The former Marshall standout came into the night shooting 31% from three as a Bull. He course-corrected that in the second quarter with just over five minutes left.
With the Bulls up 14, Beverley first dialed long distance with a 26-footer. A minute later, it was a 25-footer on a pass from Nikola Vucevic. Then DeMar DeRozan found Beverley beyond the arc, stretching the lead to 18.
Then Beverley mixed it up, attacking the Heat in the paint for a layup. With 2:34 left in the half, Beverley hit his fourth three-pointer. When the smoke settled around the point guard, the Bulls’ lead was up to 21.
Beverley ran toward the crowd when the Heat called time out, animated and excited, looking to turn the volume up in the United Center even higher.
It worked. The Bulls finished the first half up 25, shooting a ridiculous 61.7% from the field and 9-for-17 (52.9%) from three. The 70-45 lead would be impossible for most teams to give away.
But losing double-digit leads has been a staple for the Bulls (33-37), and it wouldn’t be any different against the Hat.
Thanks to 14 points from former Bull Jimmy Butler, the Heat gave themselves a chance, outscoring the Bulls 32-20 in the third quarter.
With 8:43 left in the game, Tyler Herro’s three cut the lead to three. Far too often, there would be no answer for momentum like that, but there was Saturday. Zach LaVine hit a three, and the Bulls went on an 11-6 spurt.
After a Heat timeout with 3:26 left in hopes of one last run, the Bulls came out punching, rattling off three consecutive baskets to extend the lead to 17.
The only downer on the night came when starter Alex Caruso left the game in the first half because of a nagging left mid-foot sprain. He was seen exiting the arena wearing a walking boot.