The Bulls haven’t had a shot lately, and the offense betrayed them again Thursday as the Bulls melted in Miami in a 103-92 loss.
The Bulls, or at least Robin Lopez, did hot late as Lopez was ejected after a pair of technical fouls were assessed for Lopez’ curiosity about some judgments. It was the most minutes Lopez was playing since the All-Star break.
The Bulls were mostly competitive, if offensively challenged, through three quarters as they trailed just 68-64 with four minutes left in the third quarter. But a strong Heat close to the third and that start to the fourth with Lopez’ exit sent the Bulls to their seventh consecutive loss.
The Bulls are 24-51. Miami moved to 41-35.
All five Bulls starters scored in double figures led by David Nwaba with 15. Noah Vonleh had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Lopez and Justin Holiday had 13 each and Cameron Payne had 11. Bobby Portis had 13 points and a career best equaling 16 rebounds off the bench.
Miami was just seven of 27 on threes. The Bulls were six of 26. The Bulls did have a 20-7 edge in second chance points.
The Bulls had a half dozen players out injured, led by Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. Cristiano Felicio, Antonio Blakeney and Paul Zipser also were out. The Heat got back Hassan Whiteside from injury and were at full strength, though Dion Waiters is out for the season. The Bulls got off to a more competitive start, keeping the game tied at 11 midway through the first quarter. Nwaba’s aggression gave the Bulls a heightened start along with the heady inside moves of Lopez. With so many front line players out, the Bulls went back to original season staters Lopez and Holiday. Their presence was settling, and it was no coincidence the Heat were able to get some momentum after Lopez went out. Miami went on to lead 29-21 after one quarter. Though the Bulls got a nice effort on the boards from starter Vonleh. Vonleh also showed good hands catching a tough pass in the lane on the run from Nwaba for a score. Portis was strong inside, but his lack of explosion off the floor showed as he had several attempts blocked. The Bulls did make more of an attempt to get to the basket instead of pulling up for shots with 14 of their first quarter points inside. Jerian Grant then Payne continued the driving play and the Bulls pulled within 35-30 with 6:58 left in the first half. But Goran Dragic continued to drive through the Bulls, another full court finish enabling the Heat to take a 45-34 lead with 4:37 left in the second quarter. Dragic had 13 of the Miami starters’ 30 points by then. Meanwhile, the Bulls began to revert to their long shooting, missing 11 of there first 12 threes. Vonleh with nine points and nine rebounds in the first half broke that drought with a three. He added a post up score and then Holiday made a three to get the Bulls within 48-46 before Miami closed the half with a three at the buzzer for a 51-46 lead. The two teams were a combined six of 29 on threes.
Miami was hot to start the second quarter, a 7-2 start sending the Bulls into a quick timeout as Miami began playing more physically. The Bulls weren’t responding with soft drives to the basket. The Bulls spread the scoring around, but with the injuries continue to have difficultly scoring. Holiday and Payne has threes, but also miscues as Miami closed the third quarter on a 10-4 run to take a 78-68 lead after three. Former Bull Dwyane Wade had four free throws in faking Portis into a foul from long distance. Wade then picked Grant at midcoast for a fast break. All five Bulls starters were in double figures after three, but none with more than 11 points. The Bulls were holding it together until Lopez’ exuberance got the best of him. He was drawn out on yet another switch and fouled Josh Richardson on a three. Then Lopez was called for a pair of offensive fouls, first a bit annoyed and then much more as Lopez was ejected with his second technical foul call. He angrily gestured to the officials as he was escorted from the playing floor. Those technical free throws put the Bulls behind 19 with under nine minutes remaining.