Bulls pull out the win over Miami, 105-100

The Heat hasn’t been on much this season, on the street, in the arena or pretty much anywhere, certainly not since Dwyane Wade made his break to sign with the Bulls. But it turned out to be no day at the beach Saturday as Miami made the Bulls sweat to the last seconds of a hotly contested game won by the Bulls 105-100.

I know, but with a snowstorm raging outside the United Center, Miami and its features sounded pretty good even if the Heat hasn’t been.

So the Bulls, perhaps predictably, played another of those games in which they think they’re the Bulls of the 90s. Or the Heat of 2012 and 2013. You know, when they can toss their socks onto the floor and walk away with an easy victory because of their dominance. Instead, the Bulls had to strain to the last seconds, a Heat mixup falling into the hands of Jimmy Butler with 2.9 seconds left, thus thwarting a potential Miami shot to send the game into overtime.

And this from a now 7-17 Heat team missing four regulars and playing it’s fourth game in five nights after a 30-point loss in Cleveland Friday.

"We found a way to win. We lost a game like this earlier this year," said Wade. Against the Lakers. We weren’t playing great and they found a way to beat us. In this league, there’s going to be nights where you play amazing and some where you play just well enough to get a win. Never begrudge a win.”

Always good advice.

Butler scored 31 points and Wade had 28. Butler and Wade combined for 16 of the team’s 22 fourth quarter points and 35 of the 50 second half points. Taj Gibson was the only other Bull in double figures with 13 points. The Bulls reserves were outscored for a 13th straight game, but did have a respectable 25 points, nine from Nikola Mirotic and eight from Doug McDermott. The Bulls continue to defy current NBA trends going one for eight on threes, but 28 of 31 on free throws with Butler 15 of 16.

The Bulls moved to 13-10 and into a three-way tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the Celtics and Knicks. The Bulls host the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday.

So it seemed merely a game to survive without anyone getting hurt and scoring at least one more point.

That’s pretty much how the Bulls played it after the energetic victory over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday. It was the kind of game with a tired team, like the Pistons played the Bulls in their similar situation last week, to pressure full court, trap and work the opponent into exhaustion. Instead, the Bulls defense came out soft and unaggressive, allowing Miami with lead guard Goran Dragic to get deep into the defense for easy scores.

Dragic had 21 points and 11 assists and Hassan Whiteside had 20 points, though just four in the second half.

“I thought we were going through the motions a little bit,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He (Dragic) was pretty much going where he wanted in that first half and we struggled with it.”

The Bulls led 29-27 after one quarter, six lead changes and four ties in the quarter, a late Mirotic three giving the Bulls the narrow lead. Butler had 11 points muscling the smaller Heat perimeter players with undrafted Rodney McGruder starting on Butler with Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Dion Waiters all out injured. The game was tied 55-55 at halftime after Dragic riddled the Bulls for 11 second quarter points.

The Bulls continued to play deliberately on offense with little urgency. They are deeper and more talented than Miami, and figured to outlast them given the circumstances. But the problem a team has in a game like that is an undermanned team like Miami, once they are able to keep it close, suddenly believes it can win a game that it came into just planning to get home. Especially when you live in Miami and Cleveland and Chicago in a snow storm are your last two stops.

Someone got that airplane engine warming up?

Wade clearly could sense that as this was a game that without his veteran savvy the Bulls likely would have lost.

This was Wade’s second game against his former team after the Bulls narrow win in Miami last month. So he came out after halftime firing, scoring on a variety of shots, a fadeaway, a running hook, a dunk and three-point play after splitting a double team, a baseline spin, a dunk on a three-quarter court pass from Rajon Rondo.

That ended an 18-2 Bulls run after the Heat opened the half with a three, and suddenly the game was over, a 73-60 Bulls lead with 6:31 left in the third quarter. Or should have been. Someone got a wooden stake?

“We’ve seen it for so many years on our side,” agreed Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “He showed his competitiveness and the variety of his menu. He was going into the post, he was playing pick and roll basketball. He puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your team defense because he has all the talent in the world. But what really makes Dwyane is his intellect for the game.”

Wade came out of the game after that for his usual break so he can open the next quarter with the reserves. But then came three straight Bulls turnovers, Whiteside with a lob dunk as the Bulls interior defense failed to pressure on the pick and roll, a Josh McRoberts three and the Heat was on again. The pressure was getting high just to stay alive.

The Bulls led 83-75 going into the fourth quarter, but Miami’s reserves opened the fourth with a 12-8 start that brought Miami within 91-87 with 7:22 left. It’s one thing for a tired team to beat you over 48 minutes when they can feel the heat in their faces when they step off their airplane. It’s another when they just have to do so for seven minutes.

The Bulls suddenly found themselves in a game they shouldn’t have.

Tyler Johnson made a three with 4:20 left to get Miami within 97-96.

But Butler answered the call. He drove hard—how else?—around the corner on top for a score and was fouled. The free throw gave the Bulls a 100-96 lead with 3:58 left. In the last four games, The Bulls have outscored opponents at the foul line 105-42. Butler then stripped the ball from a driving Josh Richardson, ran the court and got a return pass from McDermott and was fouled. Butler made one of two for a 101-96 Bulls lead with 3:33 left.

But Rondo, who had four points, five rebounds and six assists while trying to corral Dragic, attempted jumpers on two of the Bulls next three possessions around a Butler turnover on an inside pass to Robin Lopez. Though Miami’s offense was scattered and erratic, the Bulls went five straight possessions without scoring. So when Whiteside made a short jumper in the lane with 13 seconds left, Miami trailed 101-100.

The Bulls threw in to Butler, who was fouled and made both free throws with 10.6 seconds left. Still a chance for Miami to go to overtime. The Bulls had a foul to give and used it, Wade fouling Dragic with 7.9 seconds left after the Bulls defense forced Miami into a second timeout, their last, for the throwin. Dragic got the inbounds pass in the left corner and dribbled out on top, obviously looking for the three. Richardson came past him, apparently not expecting the pass from Dragic. The ball went to Richardson and he lost it to Butler, who was fouled for the ending free throws.

And the Heat, indeed, was heading into the street.