Some observations on the Bulls’ close-but-no-cigar 106-98 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday night, which all but ended their playoff chances:
Urgency: It was there from the jump, and present for the most part. The Bulls’ energy ebbed and flowed all throughout the year, waning for some of the lesser teams and rising for the best competition. They came in focused and seemed well-aware of matters facing them. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler tried to find a rhythm early, and Fred Hoiberg reversed a season-long trend by keeping at least one of the two out there with the second unit when subs began swapping out on both teams.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
It led to a balance in the first two quarters that hadn’t been seen for much of the season. Where was this urgency against Memphis, or the Knicks (twice), or the Magic (twice) or (insert team here)? It should be excruciating to think for some of the players who openly talked about being the playoffs, the fact they couldn’t bring it for a handful of these games.
It could’ve turned the team’s fortunes and had them in a different cluster—the one with Miami, Boston, Atlanta and Cleveland, jockeying for position in the middle of the playoff order.
Instead, they’re on the outside looking in.
Heat Wave: Although the Bulls took a one-point lead with 4:43 left, you felt like it was a matter of time before one of the Heat shot makers stepped up and put the Bulls out of their misery.
From there, it seemed like the Bulls knew what was coming and they did contest a few of the next several possessions at the rim. The result? Back to back three-point plays fro Dwyane Wade and then Hassan Whiteside, turning the tide and after a Jimmy Butler turnover, Luol Deng’s layup made it a seven-point game. All in the blink of an eye, seemingly.
The offense couldn’t get a good shot when it needed to, and the defense was nowhere near dependable as the Heat exploited every opening the Bulls offered—especially you, Josh Richardson.
Disappearing acts: The Bulls’ defense disappeared in the second half, as it was wont to do all season long, giving up 66 points to a Heat team that played as desperately as the Bulls should have after the half.
Butler struggled tracking Wade, and Derrick Rose had his issues with Goran Dragic, who had 16 points and 12 assists.
But with their defense being an issue all year, their shooters had nothing to give. Nikola Mirotic was on a milk carton, as his up and down play will likely continue to the end, as well as Doug McDermott, as the questions will now revolve around their futures in Chicago, their roles going forward.
McDermott scored six and Mirotic fouled out in 27 minutes, scoring four. They were supposed to be the featured in Hoiberg’s offense but again couldn’t be counted on. And Mike Dunleavy looked to be laboring all over the floor as his shot has abandoned him in the last few weeks, adding more question marks as everyone should be evaluated with a critical eye come offseason.
What’s next? The lottery! Well, before that, three games remain before the players depart for the offseason, starting with Cleveland on national TV Saturday night. In other words, 144 more minutes of this misery. Enjoy.