Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler shared space on the list of Marquette’s famous basketball alumna, the Eastern Conference All-Star ballot and Monday, the United Center floor.
Wade, the hometown kid who grew up wanting to be a Bull, has the championship resume, Hall-of-Fame credentials and old-man game that has kept him effective even as his body has prevented him from being the freak of nature he once was.
And while Butler is coming — and probably has supplanted Wade as the league’s best shooting guards, the old man still had a few aces up his sleeve as he helped the Miami Heat pull out a win over the Bulls, 89-84, in the last home game the Bulls will play before embarking on a seven-game western road swing that takes place in the next two weeks.
And the health of Derrick Rose has come into question as he exited the game in the first half, tweaking his right hamstring and hurting his lower back, not returning after 13 minutes.
Wade made every play down the stretch while the Bulls desperately searched for someone to start or finish a play in a game that should’ve been deemed winnable. And as Wade drilled a corner jumper, he let his right hand hang a bit as if he was in Salt Lake City in June, much to the chagrin of the United Center crowd, finishing with 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“I love the matchup, going against one of my Marquette guys,” Wade said. “Just to see his development in his game. I’m a little older now, but you get up for these type of games. He’s one of the smartest defenders. You can’t play with him, you gotta get to your moves.”
While he got to his, the Bulls’ seasonlong pattern of inconsistency and at times jarring miscommunication doomed them as they failed to capitalize on the high of beating the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.
Butler and Pau Gasol got mixed up on a defensive switch, leaving Chris Bosh open for a jumper with 1:02 left to break an 84-all game, as the two had an exchange headed to the Bulls’ bench.
“On that play, Jimmy tripped,” Gasol said. “When there’s a pick and pop, I take care of the paint and the guards veer back to take care of the shooters, because they’re not post-up players. It’s not a mismatch when we make those switches. He tripped on that play and the switch didn’t happen and Bosh got an open shot.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Yet another example of this team not being able to get on the same page and stay there, even when there’s wins for the taking.
“For whatever reason the ball just stopped and we took tough shots,” Hoiberg said. “We did not do a good job fighting through those times. We didn’t do that. We let a lot of little things bother us and affect us on the floor.”
Heat center Hassan Whiteside and point guard Goran Dragic were out with injury, leaving Wade to do the heavy lifting.
Wade showed the entire YMCA repertoire of moves in his collection — including a baseline fadeaway that hit the side of the backboard before falling in as if he’d planned it — along with other effortless moves and wily plays that helped him to 11 of 21 shooting in 34 minutes.
“I’m a little older now, but you get up for these type of games,” Wade said. “He’s one of the smartest defenders. You can’t play with him, you gotta get to your moves.”
Butler was tasked with guarding Wade while having to face an avalanche of athletic or experienced defenders including Wade but also rookie Justise Winslow and former Bull Luol Deng, illustrating the Bulls’ lack of depth at the swingmen spots.
The times Wade was guarded by Tony Snell, he treated the guard as if he didn’t exist, literally driving by him or around him on every occasion.
Without Rose, his shooting was necessary but after not forcing it in the first half, couldn’t get going after halftime, hitting just 5 of 15 for 13 points with six rebounds and four assists.
Even as Aaron Brooks started the second half, the Bulls took a nine-point lead but it was doomed, seemingly from the start as their field-goal shooting plummeted to 40.2 percent after shooting 47 in the first half.
The Heat, with Wade and Chris Bosh charging, tied it at 79 with a corner triple from Deng with 4:25 left. After Snell missed yet another open triple, Wade responded by finding Winslow for a dunk with 2:14 remaining, giving the Heat an 84-82 lead.
Gasol got them going with a double-double in the first quarter, quickly erasing the bad taste from his last home game, a one-point showing against the Golden State Warriors.
He finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds and Nikola Mirotic again scored in double figures, but it was easy to see they didn’t have enough playmakers or creative shot takers down the stretch, leaving a bad taste in their mouths as they say goodbye to their home floor for the foreseeable future.