CHICAGO – The best and the worst of the Miami Heat were on display during Sunday’s matinee against the Bulls.
Miami scored seven points in the first quarter, missing all but two of its 19 shots, but recovered to pour in 38 in the second quarter.
The Heat then held on for a 100-93 victory at the United Center, running their win streak to a season-high three games. The Heat (10-9) are above .500 for just the second time this season. Miami was 2-1 after three games.
“We’re trending,” James Johnson said. “Like I said we’ve been trending in the right direction. We’re going to take some bumps and bruises along the way but as long as we’re playing consistent and stick to our habits I think everything is always going to fall our way.”
Goran Dragic led the Heat with 24 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter. Wayne Ellington had another big game off the bench with 19. He was 5-of-8 from the floor, all eight shots being 3-pointers. Dragic played the entire fourth quarter along with four bench players, Ellington, Tyler Johnson, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk.
“Hey, we came here to get a job done,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The guys understand that and that lineup was creating separation. There’s nothing more to it than that. Every game is different. But those guys really did a nice job in the fourth quarter. I wasn’t going to change that up.”
The Bulls (3-15) have the worst record in the league and were coming off a 143-94 embarrassment at Golden State. Chicago now has lost 10 of their last 11 games.
Here are our five takeaways:
Ellington stays hot: The Heat can partly thank Ellington for avoiding what would have been a demoralizing loss. Ellington scored 19 points and continued to stay hot from downtown. He now is 20-of-35 on threes during the last four games. His biggest three of the game came with just under three minutes to play to gave Miami an eight-point lead. And Ellington added another weapon to his game. Twice he was fouled shooting the three, turning one into a four-point play and nailing all three free throws the second time.
“It’s easy,” Dragic said about playing offense when Ellington is lighting it up. “It can give up some spacing that you can drive a lot. You can get inside the middle. Chicago was blitzing me and Dion (Waiters) so we just have to get off the ball and trust everybody else to make a play and they did.”
Whiteside story: Hassan Whiteside started the game after sitting out Saturday’s practice because of a sore left knee but he did not play the final 16:15 of the game. Whiteside declared himself ready to play after warmups and played 21:19, scoring 11 points with nine rebounds. But at times it appeared as if the knee was an issue and Whiteside ended the game applying heat to his knee, although he said he is fine. Whiteside missed five games earlier this season after banging knees with Magic center Nikola Vucevic in the season opener and the bruise has yet to completely heal. Spoelstra said the decision not to practice Whiteside Saturday was not unusual.
“He’s fine,” Spoelstra said. “It’s the same that he’s been dealing with.”
Bench comes up big: The Heat’s bench scored 54 points against the Bulls, led by Ellington. James Johnson added 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists while coming up big in the fourth quarter with 11 points. Additionally, Olynyk scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds with Whiteside on the bench.
“We have a lot of weapons and you have sometimes different players are going to finish the game including me, sometimes I’m going to be on the bench,” Dragic said. “As long as we win games. The last two games against Minnesota and this game, most of the guys were from the second unit and we finished well. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to finish every game the same.”
Tale of two quarters: How bad was Miami at the start? The Heat were 2-of-19 and scored seven points, establishing the franchise low for points in the first quarter. The previous record was eight points on April 22, 1999. Miami was scoreless the final 6:50 of the quarter and did not record a field goal for the final 7:38. But Miami quickly turned it around and ended the second quarter 13-of-19 from the floor with 38 points, just five off the franchise record for the most points in a second quarter. The Bulls were not much better, scoring 13 points in the first quarter on 4-of-24 shooting.
“If the game kept on going like that I think everybody would have wanted a refund,” Spoelstra said. “We would have paid for it as an organization.”
Familiar foes: The Heat continue their road trip Tuesday against two very familiar faces. Miami faces Cleveland, its first game against a team with both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who last teamed up in Miami for four seasons that ended with four trips to the Finals and two titles. The Cavaliers will be coming off a back-to-back after playing in Philadelphia Monday. Wade has struggled since reuniting with James, coming off the bench and averaging career lows in points (10.2), field goal percentage (.424) and rebounds (3.9). The Cavaliers enter Monday’s game in Philadelphia having won seven in a row.