The Bulls and Miami went at each other on Sunday night, with the game seeing 32 lead changes and a period of overtime to finally find a winner. Unfortunately for the Bulls, it was Miami who - on the back of 3 OT 3s from Herro - grabbed the final lead change of the evening to claim a 110-105 win.
Miami on Sunday turned up the Heat on the Bulls. The Bulls this time didn't melt, didn't shrivel and didn't try to hide behind shades. They were more inclined to throw some shade at the guys who embarrassed them in the United Center two weeks ago. Any team hates to measure progress in defeat, which the Bulls again endured, losing 110-105 in overtime to Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat and Miami's Herro.
Sometimes you do make the correct moves and play the better game and succeed everywhere but in the celebration.
"Nobody likes to lose," agreed Bulls coach Jim Boylen as the Bulls record fell to 8-16. "We're not happy with the loss. I've got a frustrated group of guys in there that want to win. That's important, but I have to measure this young group in other ways than that. I have to. Better first quarter start, which we did. For the most part our defensive rebounding was really good. Our transition defense was really good, our physicality was good. We moved the ball; we executed. We ran things to get open shots. We did a lot of really good things. Ultimately you want to win. I cannot take away from the good things we do and the growth we're making. But it hurts."
We've heard that lament often this season, and you'd rather not hear about being young so much. But Boylen made the right moves, Lauri Markkanen scored at least 20 points for the third time in the last four games with a team high 22, Kris Dunn had a season high 16 points with crucial plays down the stretch and in overtime and Coby White had a career best eight assists playing more point guard late and finishing the game. Zach LaVine with 18 points didn't lead the Bulls in scoring for the first time in nine games, but he made free throws to tie the game at the end of regulation and faced a constant double team that enabled teammates to get open. Miami's philosophy, like Phil Jackson's always was, is you don't let the opponent's best player beat you.
"In many regards that was a game that you are not supposed to win," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "They outplayed us for large parts of that game. You have to credit (their) defense. They made it tough for us to generate the looks we are normally getting. Everything was just a little bit out of our comfort zone. They are unique. They really are disruptive and they do that to everybody. First in steals and first in turnovers forced. There were plays where you see they closed the gaps quickly."
Also the kind of thing the winning coach will say, sure. But the Bulls did those things in holding Jimmy Butler to three of 14 shooting and Miami to 11 of 35 on threes.
But in the end Sunday it was the Heat's version of Herro ball as rookie Tyler Herro, who was four of 11 and one of three on threes through the first three quarters, gave Miami the 97-95 lead with 7.1 seconds left in regulation on a three and then shot up — and shot down — the Bulls with three consecutive three pointers in overtime.
The Bulls weren't letting the opponent's best player beat them, either, as those threes all came with the Bulls collapsing around Butler, who did bash his way to 17 of 21 free throws. Butler's rebound of his own missed three with 44.2 seconds left in overtime in a tie game - the second Miami offensive rebound of that possession — did prove fatal for the Bulls chances. LaVine missed a three after that and Miami was able to run out things when Markkanen missed a three with a few seconds remaining.
"I thought we were in control of the game and did a hell of a job," said Boylen, the frustration seemingly almost physical by this point. "I thought in the second half we battled and we got a lot from a lot of guys. Denzel (Valentine) had a moment, Coby was terrific. He had the ball in his hands a lot more. Lauri had a great game and we battled. I like the way we fought and I liked the way we competed and I thought we played our (butts) off."
All of which the Bulls did this time. Though once again the lack of a reward to match the effort and commitment is demoralizing. It can rupture the most adamantine spirit. It's to the credit of the players they continue to view the finish line inevitably attainable. Though there's always the question of how much longer they can keep oiled up without the balm of success.
"A lot of guys played well," said Dunn. "I thought we did the right things to put us in position to win a game. We just didn't come out with the victory. Good thing about the NBA is games come quick. (Monday) we play Toronto at home, so hopefully we can bring the same intensity and get a win."
And so it goes for this star crossed group that if lacking the transcendent star continues to deliver starring moments. Just not enough of them often enough.
Miami now at 17-6 is not an elite team. They do have an elite record, which makes it all the more frustrating. You know many Bulls players, certainly with the proper respect, have to be asking themselves after these games, "We lost to those guys?"
Herro had 27 points and Bam Adebayo added 21 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. But the Bulls badgered him into seven of Miami's seven turnovers. Though Adebayo is a fast improving young big man, he's not a facile playmaker. So the Bulls were able to continue to trap and pressure Miami's pick and roll plays without the roll man being able to pass and float lobs like the Warriors did to ultimately upend the Bulls Friday.
The Bulls have committed to that pressuring defense, which has opened some eyes around the NBA by forcing so many turnovers. Teams with good passers have been able to dissect it successfully. But with Goran Dragic out injured and the Bulls sending multiple defenders at Butler, Miami was without a top interior playmaker. The result was one of the better Bulls defensive efforts of the season, the Heat with 97 points in regulation, 14 below their season average.
"I think our defense is improving," said Boylen.
The Bulls dominated early with a 25-16 first quarter lead. Remember, this was the Miami team that scored the first 15 points in the United Center last month. Thaddeus Young was back from his one-game personal absence. Plus, the Bulls weren't searching out threes so robotically as they had been earlier this season. Dunn was taking advantage of the pressure against LaVine to drive from the left wing corner. He didn't attempt a three and had his best game. Valentine was three of four on threes with multiple threes for the fourth straight game. Plus the Bulls were closing hard on the Miami shooters and even reacting to mismatches.
Boylen was sharp responding that way, too, as he called a timeout in the second quarter to apparently change up plays for Carter when the Heat went smaller. Carter immediately scored on consecutive possessions and the Bulls went back ahead. They led 49-47 at halftime as LaVine closed the half with seven straight Bulls points. It would draw him more defensive attention.
Markkanen had an "atta Lauri" third quarter with 13 points and three of four three pointers. He pulled up for one in transition and slammed in a LaVine three-point miss on a follow. The game would have 32 lead changes and ties, and Bulls kept making plays this time. Miami led 74-73 after three quarters, but the Bulls looked a step - and a shot- ahead in the fourth.
Watch as Lauri slams home a put-back dunk vs. the Miami Heat
Dunn got free throws fouled on a runner for an 83-80 lead with 6:45 left. The ball danced from Bulls player to player and Markkanen gave up a good shot for a better one to White with 5:40 left for an 86-82 Bulls lead. Dunn took a pass from the surrounded LaVine and drove for an 88-85 lead with 4:31 left. The Heat kept answering, but it did feel this time like the Bulls were turning up the temperature. White was primarily at point guard late in the game playing for Tomas Satoransky as Boylen relied on Dunn's defense against Butler.
"I thought Coby was terrific tonight, handling the ball and making decisions; we are doing more of that," acknowledged Boylen.
LaVine made one of two free throws for a 93-92 lead with 1:24 left after an Adebayo three-point play. And then Markkanen matched a Herro driving score with a neat head fake and 20-foot drive for a 95-94 Bulls lead with just under a minute left. Perhaps one more big defensive play. Miami was trying to isolate Butler at least for free throws, but the Bulls were appearing from everywhere in front of him like a fun house mirror. It made enough sense as Heat players were shooting poorly and the Bulls were recovering well though to the perimeter. Except this time Herro, who generally is a good shooter but was struggling, tied the game with a three on a Butler pass out with 7.1 seconds left. LaVine was fouled and made two free throws for overtime.
"I went in there and crashed and he made an unselfish play, a great play to Tyler Herro and he knocked it down," said Dunn. "(It's) what Jimmy does; he draws a lot of attention."
LaVine got the Bulls the lead to start the overtime after a clever White offensive rebound. Dunn's three-point play on another weak side baseline drive gave the Bulls a 102-99 lead with 3:13 left. Herro made a three which White countered. White played all but eight seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime. Herro's step back three tied the game at 105 with 1:48 left in overtime. LaVine found Markkanen on a mismatch, but the Heat closed and Markkanen threw back to LaVine. He missed. Then came the crucial sequence when Adebayo and Butler got offensive rebounds, the second the Butler pass for Herro's hero moment.
"The guy made a good shot," Boylen said with a sigh. "We have to get the rebound. You have to get those loose ball rebounds when you have to close somebody out at the end of the game. I give him credit for making those shots."
For the Bulls, sadly enough, still just good enough to dream.