The Heat fell by as many as 19 points on the back end of a back-to-back Monday and couldn’t rally against the improving Bulls, losing their first game of 2018 and snapping their seven-game winning streak 119-111. Miami fell to 25-18 on the season, but remained the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
James Johnson made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 105-100 with 3:39 left to play, and Goran Dragic made a nice layup to get Miami within five points with 1:33 left. But Lauri Markkanen hit a 3 on Chicago’s ensuing possession, putting the Heat at a distinct disadvantage the rest of the way.
If the loss didn’t hurt enough, Tyler Johnson also fell hard in the third quarter and left the game in a wheelchair. The Heat’s official Twitter account said that X-rays were negative and diagnosed the injury as a left ankle sprain. Hopefully, the injury won’t keep Johnson out long — Dion Waiters is already out for the season.
#MIAvsCHI INJURY UPDATE: Tyler Johnson (sprained left ankle) will not return to today's game vs Chicago. X-rays returned negative.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) January 15, 2018
Miami’s crunch-time lineup featured Dragic, Josh Richardson, Wayne Ellington, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk. That lineup succeed in spreading the floor and succeeded in cutting the deficit. Dragic attacked the basket well to finish with 22 points and make eight of his nine attempts from the foul line. Olynyk had 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting and eight assists, helping to keep an at-times dreary Heat offense find good shots. And Ellington had six 3s on the night.
But the Heat also didn’t play well, plainly. Dragic missed all six of his attempts from downtown, including some wide open shots. James Johnson struggled offensively and even missed four free throws in the fourth quarter — huge with the Heat trying to cut into a deficit. Miami’s effort was there — as evidenced by this Bam Adebayo tap-out to give the Heat another possession — but didn’t get enough shots to fall to extend their winning streak.
This game also featured Whiteside playing just 19 minutes, a continuing trend as Erik Spoelstra has demonstrated that he prefers Olynyk or Adebayo as passing big men. With the trade deadline looming, Whiteside’s benching may fuel speculation of a possible deal.
Justise Winslow played in his second game back from injury Monday, and contributed six rebounds, four assists and four points in 21 minutes. Winslow may get more minutes with Tyler Johnson suffering from his left ankle sprain. It may also result in playing time for Derrick Jones Jr., who only has 16 days left with the Heat on his two-way contract.
The Heat will look to bounce back Wednesday night at 8 p.m. against the Milwaukee Bucks.