Heat unable to sustain, wilt in 113-99 loss to weary Bulls
The good news for the Miami Heat is that to advance out of the play-in round, you only have to win one game in a row.
Because anything extended at the moment appears to be out of the reach of Erik Spoelstra’s team.
Failing for the second time in 10 days to produce the team’s first three-game winning streak in a month, the Heat instead fell 113-99 Saturday night to the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
And in a season of bad losses in good spots, this one was right up there.
Not only were the Heat coming off two days’ rest, idle since Wednesday night’s home blowout victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Bulls were coming off a double-overtime home victory a night earlier.
“This is a disappointing loss for sure, without a doubt,” Spoelstra said. “We have to take the L. That’s 0-3 against this team. They have our number this year. I don’t like to do this, but we got to move on.”
Until late, it was as if the Heat were the team lacking legs.
And while a late rally did draw the Heat within three in the fourth, it was the classic case of a team running out of fuel.
The rested team.
Not the other that had played a night earlier to their last breath.
“We let them get comfortable,” guard Max Strus said. “We came out kind of soft and we just dug too deep of a hole early on.”
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 24 points and seven rebounds, with Bam Adebayo closing with 23 points and seven rebounds, and Tyler Herro with 15 points. But otherwise there was little in reserve beyond Strus’ 20 off the bench.
The loss dropped the Heat to 38-34, in the No. 7 Eastern Conference seed with 10 games to play. It dropped them not only two games behind the Brooklyn Nets in the race for the final automatic seed into the playoffs, with the Nets already owning the tiebreaker, but left them only two games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks in the race for No. 7 and the right to host a win-and-in play-in round game.
“We need to figure it out now,” Adebayo said. “because we slip too many and we’ll be out of the playoffs.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Saturday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Bulls led 33-19 after the first quarter and 70-45 at halftime, when the Heat were 5 of 20 on 3-pointers, with the Bulls 9 of 17 from beyond the arc.
The Heat then went down 27, put together a 15-0 third-quarter run to move within 12, and trailed 90-77 going into the fourth.
From there, the Heat moved within 93-90 with 8:43 left on a Herro 3-pointer, only to see a barrage of Bulls 3-pointers put it away.
“We looked like two different teams first half to second half,” Spoelstra said. “Way more active, our disposition was better. It was more like we were playing on our heels and passively in the first half and they got into a great groove. They didn’t really feel us at all in the first half.”
2. Heaviest lifting: Butler again did his part, maintaining his competitiveness even when all around him was going south.
Not only did Butler have all 24 of his points entering the fourth, but he stood 8 of 11 at that stage, with the rest of his teammates 19 of 51. He also was 8 of 10 from the line through three periods, unable to get back to the line.
Butler’s final rest ended with 7:04 left and the Heat within 98-92. But that’s when the Bulls got 3-pointers from Coby White and DeMar DeRozan to push to a 104-94 lead.
“You can’t always look at somebody’s record and, ‘Wow, that team’s supposed to be them,’ " Butler said after losing to a team that entered 32-37. “You can get beat by anybody on any given night and we’ve shown that’s happened to us all year long. But what can we do about it now? Let’s try to win as many games as we can moving forward.”
3. Waiting game: Spoelstra declined to specify why Kyle Lowry was held out Saturday instead of the second night of the back-to-back set Sunday in Detroit.
Lowry has played three games since missing 15 in a row due to knee pain.
“Because this was part of the plan,” Spoelstra said. “This is what we planned on during the week and we’re sticking with the plan.
“We’ll see where we go from here. But this is the plan for this week. We’re formulating the plan for next week and we’ll see where we go from there.”
Gabe Vincent struggled in again starting at point guard, closing 1 of 5 from the field for three points, with four assists.
4. Strus steps up: Back in his hometown, Strus provided a bench boost when there otherwise was little in support for the Heat’s starters.
Included in the DePaul product’s night was a four-point play with 10:14 to play that drew the Heat within six.
“Teammates found me and was able to get a couple to go in,” he said after closing 5 of 13 on 3-pointers. “But it was unfortunate we lost. We needed that one.”
5. All these years: When it comes to chips on shoulders, Bulls guard Patrick Beverley has enough to stock a casino. He never forgets.
That includes when, ahead of the start of the Big Three run in 2010, the Heat signed Jerry Stackhouse and kept Eddie House, making Beverley their final cut ahead of the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era.
Beverley has often spoken about it since, further fueled when the Heat bypassed him on last month’s buyout market.
So there he was Saturday night, closing with 17 points, including 5 of 10 on 3-pointers.
“We came in understanding that was a must-need win,’” Beverley 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.”