The Miami Heat looked to be in the midst of one of their patented third-quarter runs against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night, out-scoring the 11-40 team 11-3 to start the second half. After a competitive first half, the Heat had started to shift the momentum. It happened in Miami’s previous two wins against sub-par teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks.
Whiteside's block on Arcidiacono leads to a three in transition for Winslow pic.twitter.com/t4ARg4SYQZ— Joseph Beguiristain (@JoeBeguiristain) January 31, 2019
Only that’s not what happened. In fact, the Bulls wrestled control away from the Heat and never looked back. Chicago proceeded to embarrass the Heat, going up by as many as 20 points in a 105-89 decision that sent Miami to 24-25 on the season. Struggling to defeat teams at home and beat teams with worse records than them, the Heat again failed on both counts.
Like other games, this match-up did not start auspiciously. Erik Spoelstra yanked Hassan Whiteside from the game after just three-and-a-half minutes, after the Heat center showed himself to be a step slow on defense. (And for the record, the Bulls played the last night in Brooklyn, while the Heat were off.) Chicago built a 12-point lead in the first quarter. And although Miami battled back with a few runs, they never had a sustained period of good basketball.
A big part of the reason for Miami only mustering 89 points against the tanking Bulls? Three-point shooting. The Heat attempted a season-high 42 3-pointers Wednesday night — the first time all season they’ve taken more than 40 shots from downtown — and converted on just 12 of them, for 29% shooting.
Some of those misses were open looks — Wayne Ellington, who again started even though Tyler Johnson was back from a one-game absence, and Dion Waiters each missed wide-open corner 3s — but other times, Miami’s offense settled for long-range shots.
Wayne may have missed but this may be the most open, for the longest period of time, he's been in his entire professional life. pic.twitter.com/3LTo1BzysI— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) January 31, 2019
The two competing teams offered a textbook case in seeing one team work for better looks and another one not making that extra effort. And it is even more inexcusable for that to happen for Miami because Chicago’s leading scorer, Zach LaVine, was out with an injury. Instead, Bobby Portis dominated the Heat inside, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field.
Dwyane Wade missed Wednesday’s game with knee soreness. (Derrick Jones Jr., who suffered two bone bruises in Sunday’s win over New York, will be out six weeks.) Wade may have helped push Miami’s offense away from its reliance on 3-point shooting and into some better percentage shots. Waiters, who absorbed most of Wade’s minutes, was 0-for-5 from 3-point range. On the other hand, though, Waiters had his moments finding open teammates with five assists.
Ultimately, though, I look at Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson as the leaders of this Heat team. If they aren’t playing well, Miami isn’t going to overachieve as a scrappy team that no one wants to face in the playoffs. And Wednesday night, the two fourth-year guards shot a combined 10-for-32 from the field.
Moreover, they had just one combined trip to the foul line. And that was Richardson, who attempted a technical foul assessed to Bulls coach Jim Boylen. On a night without Wade, Miami needs more from Winslow and Richardson — even at home against Chicago.
The Heat will host the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday at 8 p.m.