It is extremely ironic that the Miami Heat were in town to take on the Bulls on a freezing December night in Chicago. Winter may have hit the streets of the city outside, but indoors at the United Center fans packed in to support the Bulls as they tried to gain some momentum against a slumping Miami team. As both teams gathered to the trademark Bull logo at half court, Robin Lopez and Hassan Whiteside squared up. Surprisingly, Lopez won the tip and Bulls basketball was on the air.
The beginning of the first quarter was quite the see-saw battle, as both teams got off to decent starts. Dwyane Wade broke the 0-0 tie nineteen seconds into the game by hitting a short jumper from eight feet out. To nobody’s surprise, Hassan Whiteside got off to a hot start. At the halfway mark of the first, Whiteside had eight points, two rebounds, and one block. The Bulls took a timeout at the 5:33 mark, with the score even at fifteen. After the timeout, Whiteside hit one of two free throws and the Heat had the lead. Miami was able to extend that lead to 23-19, but the Bulls remained in striking distance. In fact, they were able to gain a lead at the 1:14 mark after Denzel Valentine sunk a pair of free throws. That lead stayed to the end of the first, as the Bulls led 29-27.
Per usual, the bench for both teams was out to begin the second. The likes of journeyman Derrick Williams and Josh Richardson for the Heat, and the usual suspects of Valentine and the Brazilian beauty Cristiano Felicio for the Bulls. The see-saw battle continued to progress, as both teams continued to counter punch each other’s attacks on both ends of the court. Wade was busy on the stat sheet against his former team as the Bulls starters returned to the floor. At the halfway mark, the Bulls led by two as the score was 41-39 after former North Carolina Tar Heel Wayne Ellington hit a mid-range jumper. As the quarter continued to progress, the Brazilian Beauty continued to flourish. At the 2:40 mark in the second, Cristiano had six points and six rebounds in only nine minutes of play. On the other end, Whiteside was feasting on Robin Lopez. Singlehandedly keeping the Heat in the game, he had sixteen points and six rebounds at the 2:40 mark. The push by Whiteside must have been inspired the rest of his teammates, because after the Heat tied the game at forty- nine, they seemed to gain the momentum. However, the Bulls scraped this mini-run by Miami and at the half, the score was tied at fifty-five. In the half, there were nine lead changes with twelve ties. Also, Miami outscored the Bulls seven to four in terms of fast break points in the half, which is surprising, considering the Heat were playing their fourth game in five nights.
The third quarter began as the ball was inbounded to Goran Dragic, who dished it off to Josh McRoberts, which eventually resulted in Wayne Ellington drilling a three to begin the scoring. The Bulls answered on the other end with a basket by Dwayne Wade, who continued to play strong at the start of the third. The Bulls looked like they were starting to hit their stride as Wade again was able to make a play, as he broke out on the fast break and threw down a spinning dunk that resulted in an and-one, and a smirk by Wade at the Heat’s bench as he made his way to the free throw line. The veteran continued to be scorching hot, as he hit another shot to give the Bulls an eight-point lead that resulted in a Miami timeout at the 8:40 mark. However, the timeout strategy didn’t go in Heat head coach Erick Spoelstra’s favor, as the Bulls continued to push their lead on the Heat to ten. The energy of the Bulls was clearly higher than Miami, and rightfully so. It just seemed like a matter of time before this happened, due to the Heat’s amount of recent games they had played. The quarter continued, and so did the Bulls run. Once the Bulls got on this run, the momentum was certainly sliding to Chicago’s side. With just under five minutes to play, the Bulls led 77-66 after Whiteside and Dragic connected on an alley-oop at the 4:30 mark. The strategic timeout by the Bulls to bring in substitutions may have hurt Chicago, as Miami cut the lead to six with just under three minutes to play after Josh McRoberts hit a three off a Goran Dragic assist. This momentum created by Miami was largely due to the Bulls’ bench not being able to put the nail in the coffin. The Bulls looked like they were ready to break this game open, but Miami would not go away. After three quarters, the Bulls led 83-75.
The fourth quarter began with the Bulls hoping to put this game away. Unlike the past few seasons, Miami is a team that you need to go out and beat when you play them. Niko Mirotic began the Bulls scoring in the fourth with a running jumper to keep the Bulls lead at eight. Miami continued to answer the Bulls punches, but Chicago looked like they were not going to squander this one as the Bulls continued to lead by eight as Miami took a timeout with just under nine to play in the game. Yet, the Heat just continued to crawl and scratch back into this game. Seeming to have no life, Miami had the lead cut to four with just over six minutes to go. Surprisingly, one of the biggest moments during this game was when Willie Reed missed both of his free throws to keep the Bulls’ lead at four. As a result, fans at the UC received free Chick-Fil-A sandwhiches because Reed missed both. The quarter continued, and it looked like we were on our way to great finish. While this may not be ideal for Bull fans, it does make for some great drama. As the amount of time continued to drop, the Bulls continued to hang on for dear life. The fight by Miami came up short, and the Bulls escaped with a 105-100 victory. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with a game high thirty-one points, along with Dwyane Wade dropping twenty-eight against his former team. So yes, Chicago did drive home safe, even in the bad weather.
What was expected to be a rather relaxed night for the Bulls that would involve heavy minutes for rotation players turned out to be a very close game where Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler played heavy minutes. These are the kind of games that you must build a lead early, because the NBA regular season is such a marathon, and you need your stars to have their knees under them for more important games. The Bulls are off until Tuesday, where they will face the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves at the UC.