They seemed to have the game in the bag quite early in the contest after running to a 22-1 lead with 5:30 remaining in the first quarter. However, the Bulls outscored Miami 101-75 the rest of the way to stop a three-game skid and snap the Heat’s seven-game win streak.
The reigning Eastern Conference champions still had plenty of opportunities to come away with a road win after holding a 76-68 lead entering the fourth quarter. But they couldn’t stop Chicago in crunch time, which star Jimmy Butler admitted.
“We just didn’t get no stops in the end,” Butler said. “We started out great and we’re known for doing that. Then we let it get easy for them. And they made shots, as they’ve done in the past against us and against multiple other teams. We let one get away.”
Miami was still up 94-91 after Butler’s jump shot with 1:54 remaining on the clock. However, consecutive 3-pointers from DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso gave the Bulls the lead. Butler’s long-distance shot tied the match at 97 before DeRozan scored five straight points to seal the win for Chicago.
Perhaps the thought of letting a winnable contest slip away impacted the Heat’s mentality down the stretch. Bam Adebayo, who finished with 24 points but went scoreless in the final period, said as much.
“They made shots down the stretch and we didn’t,” Adebayo stated. “I feel like we got into a sort of daze, a sort of fog and we lost the game.”
Miami could have probably started the first leg of its five-game road trip on a positive note if it had limited the Bulls’ transition baskets, to which Heat coach Erik Spoelstra alluded.
“We pride ourselves on our transition defense,” Spoelstra said. “We got cross-matched, where guys were wide open three times. And they don’t seem like a big deal if you’re up by 10, but those matter at the end when it becomes a possession game. We’ll have to shore that up.”
The 53-year-old tactician also credited Chicago’s defense for forcing turnovers when discussing his squad’s late-game offensive issues on Saturday.
“A couple turnovers, a couple possessions where they flattened us out,” Spoelstra added. “You do have to credit their defense. They have quickness, they’re disruptive a lot like us. So if you’re not doing things with intention, they can make you pay for that. We got buried to the end of the clock two or three times.”
Miami ended the evening with more turnovers than Chicago, giving up the ball 15 times.
Hopefully, the Heat have learned their lesson. They have an opportunity to prove that when they take on Chicago again in a rematch on Monday. It remains to be seen if they can pick it up on offense, as Saturday saw them fail to reach the 100-point mark for only the second time this season.
The team is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with an 8-5 record. With its next four games coming on the road, rising in the standings could prove to be a tough challenge.