Early in the fourth quarter, the Miami Heat’s game at the Chicago Bulls looked to go south. Chicago had wrestled the lead from Miami late in the third quarter and went up by six with 11:07 left in the game. And the referees ejected Dewayne Dedmon for kicking a chair on the bench, forcing the cushion to fly into the stands.
Instead of letting the game go as it went in Minnesota on Wednesday, the Heat remained composed. Gabe Vincent made back-to-back 3s to even the score at 80. He and Kyle Lowry then exchanged 3s to grab the lead back. Kyle Lowry made two more 3s, and Vincent made one more.
Tyler Herro was a late scratch from Saturday night’s game with an illness, so the 3s from Vincent and Lowry were necessary. They bought some much-needed rest for Jimmy Butler, who limped at times in the game. And Butler made two floaters in the final 2:15 of the game to protect the lead. The last one put Miami up 102-94 with 58 seconds left.
At times, this game looked ugly. The Heat stuck with their zone defense even when the Bulls seemed to figure it out, putting Alex Caruso in the middle of the floor to find cutters or shooters. Both Butler and Bam Adebayo were passive — Butler shot just 6-of-15 from the field, while Adebayo was just 4-for-9. Both of them passed out of easy shots in the paint to open 3-point shooters. They both looked dinged up and like they could use some rest.
But when the coverage in the zone was sharper and Lowry and Vincent hit 3s in the fourth, Miami’s game-plan looked better. Instead of tumbling to a 1-3 road trip over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Heat finished the trip 2-2 and improved to 13-7 through their first 20 games. And thanks to the Brooklyn Nets’ loss tonight, Miami moved just a game behind the top-seeded Nets.
Vincent scored a team-high 20 points and made all four of his 3s in the fourth quarter. Lowry finished with 19 on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. The Heat’s starting point guard scored the first four points of the game, but then drifted until the fourth quarter. Miami needs Lowry to look to score throughout the game if Herro is out.
Herro’s absence gave Max Strus playing time for the first time in Miami’s last three games. Though he shot just 1-for-7 from 3, Strus scored 13 points off the bench and made this nice dunk in the second quarter. Although Vincent has earned a rotation spot with his play tonight, Strus also made a case for himself.
Duncan Robinson added 16 points — two of his 3s came in the first quarter, and his two other 3s came in the third. But he picked up his fourth foul midway through the third had to come out. Vincent’s 3-point barrage in the fourth covered up what had been another bad 3-point shooting night for the Heat. If Robinson starts hitting 3s, he needs to avoid committing ticky tack fouls that force him to the bench.
The Heat will host the Denver Nuggets Monday night.