With the much-anticipated return of Hassan Whiteside to the lineup along with fellow big man Bam Adebayo back after a one-game absence, the Miami Heat were briefly healthy during their 103-92 victory at home against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night.
Then Tyler Johnson sprained his ankle in the second quarter and did not return to action, ending the Heat’s brief time as a healthy unit. Beyond that, the Heat were running on all cylinders in the second half to break open a game in which Miami held a slim 51-46 halftime lead. The Bulls were held to 36.7% field goal shooting and 23.1% 3-point shooting for the game and never appeared willing to truly stand up to the Heat in the midst of their tankathon.
With (almost) a full roster at his disposal, coach Erik Spoelstra went 11 deep to spread around the minutes and the players responded with a complete team effort for the win. Josh Richardson scored the team’s first nine points in the final quarter to help pad the Heat’s lead, finishing with a team-high 22 points. Goran Dragic contributed 17 points, five rebounds and five assists and Justise Winslow led the reserves with 13 points on 5-8 shooting along with nine rebounds. Whiteside played 19 minutes and finished with a tidy eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks and tying a career-high four assists. Oh, and this from Adebayo...
A 9-0 Bulls run late in the fourth quarter (after Robin Lopez went berserk after getting called for two fouls against Adebayo and was ejected) would cut the deficit to nine points and put a mild scare, but a corner 3 by Winslow and another 3-pointer by Olynyk with less than two minutes left helped ice the game.
That's how you protect a 4th quarter lead!!— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 30, 2018
MIAMI HEAT BASKETBALL! pic.twitter.com/KTUQgPk7L1
Miami has now won eight straight games at home and were only denied a clinching playoff spot because the Detroit Pistons also won tonight against the Washington Wizards. However, another Heat win or Pistons loss will indeed clinch a postseason berth. In fact, Miami now only trails Washington by half a game for the sixth seed.