That was, until Tyler Johnson injected some much-needed energy into the game.
Johnson spearheaded a 10-1 run to close the third quarter for the Heat, and Miami built on that in the fourth to secure a 97-91 win and improve to 3-4 on the season before the team’s season-long six-game road trip starting Friday night in Denver.
The Heat backup guard finished with 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting from the field, 3-of-5 shooting from downtown and a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line. Johnson made a pair of 3s in the fourth quarter, the second one putting Miami up 78-68 with 5:54 left, to create some breathing room. Miami went up by as many as 14 points later in the quarter. A late Bulls flurry made the final score closer than the game was.
Hassan Whiteside played in his first game since Miami’s season debut and he showed no signs of rust. The Heat center scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and grabbed 14 rebounds in just 26 minutes of action.
Whiteside was particularly effective during the first quarter, when Miami jumped out to a double-digit lead before falling behind. It was also in the first that Whiteside attempted his second 3-pointer of the year. And made it, improving to 2-for-2 for the season from deep.
Despite the victory, this game was much more difficult than it should have been. Okaro White, who started tonight as James Johnson sat out with knee tendinitis, looked lost on multiple Heat possessions. Dion Waiters committed needless turnovers, jumping in the air before thinking what to do with the ball. Josh Richardson shot just 1-for-7 from the field. Somebody named Lauren Markkaren scored 25 points Wednesday night. In short, this team still needs to develop the sustained periods of smooth basketball that characterized their 30-11 finish to last season.
Kelly Olynyk committed five fouls in just eight minutes, so Erik Spoelstra turned to Bam Adebayo as Whiteside’s backup. The rookie played well, converting on a fourth-quarter dunk and gobbling up four rebounds in 13 minutes. With Whiteside now back in the lineup, we’ll have to see if Adebayo continues to get playing time. A side note: all 10 of Adebayo’s field goals this season have been dunks.
Heat lead up to 75-68 with 7:36 to go in game. Bam gets first points of the game on a dunk. Each of his 10 FGs have come on dunks this year.— Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) November 2, 2017
Another positive note — Justise Winslow finished with eight points and five rebounds off the bench. He had a nice post-up you can see below. Although he missed a couple shots at the rim — including one drive that left him with no angle — Winslow offered his dynamic game when the Heat missed James Johnson.
Defender was shading baseline here. Nice quick shake from Winslow to open up the turn toward the paint. pic.twitter.com/Ko1wK6M4lz— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) November 2, 2017
Goran Dragic had 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field, five rebounds and six assists. Dragic had an uneven night, missing a few drives to the basket and only going 2-for-7 from downtown. But Dragic emerged as a nice backcourt partner for Tyler Johnson during Miami’s decisive play in the third and fourth quarters, finding Johnson for open looks and making a few baskets himself.
The Heat will attempt to go back to .500 Friday night at 9 p.m. in Denver.