After a first quarter that set a franchise record for scoring futility, the Heat closed out the a 100-93 road win over the Chicago Bulls – owners of the NBA’s worst record – on Sunday at the United Center.
The Heat (10-9) won its third consecutive game and owns a winning record for only the second time this season and first time since it was 2-1.
Goran Dragic scored 14 of his team-high 24 points in the final period on 7 of 11 shooting.
But the remarkable part is the Heat finished with 36 points in the fourth quarter with Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters on the bench.
Whiteside started a day after sitting out practice with soreness and swelling in his left knee, the same one he injured in the Heat’s season-opener on Oct. 18.
Whiteside scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 21 minutes and 19 seconds, but left the game with 4:15 left in the third quarter and did not return.
Waiters, who shot 2 of 10 and scored seven points, did not play in the fourth quarter.
The Heat’s reserves came to the rescue and scored 54 points, outscoring the Bulls’ bench by 13.
“They inspired the whole team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We were looking for some kind of energy, some kind of separation. We understood that it was going to be a 48-minute game. And they played some inspiring basketball, not only in the fourth quarter. But in that second quarter, that was what really changed the moment of the game and got us back into it, took the lead.”
James Johnson closed out the game strong as well with 11 of his 15 points in the final quarter.
And Wayne Ellington went 5 of 8 from three-point range and finished with 19 points. Ellington has hit 20 of 35 threes over the past four games.
The Heat trailed 13-7 after the first quarter in what was the lowest scoring opening period in franchise history. The previous mark was an eight-point output at Orlando on April 22, 1999. The Heat shot 2 of 19 (10.5 percent) in the quarter, which missed that franchise low by one missed shot (2 of 20).
“If the game would have kept on going like that, I think everybody would have wanted a refund and we probably would have paid for it as an organization,” Spoelstra said. “That was ugly in that first quarter for both teams -- 13-7, it looked like a misprint. And just some of the energy that the second unit came out with changed just the energy on both sides of the floor. It’s amazing how that works sometimes.”
But since the Bulls didn’t shoot much better going 4 for 24 (16.7 percent), the Heat didn’t dig itself a major hole early.
And Miami answered with 38 points in the second quarter as it made 13 of 19 shots.
WATCHING FROM THE BENCH
Whiteside sat on the bench with a heating pad on his left knee during the final 16 minutes and 15 seconds of the game. Kelly Olynyk played the rest of the game at center and finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
Whiteside said he would have come back in the game if called upon, but as he did on Saturday and may have to for the immediate future, the decision was to rest his knee.
“I was just keeping it warm so if coach needs me I’m ready,” Whiteside said.
The Heat hopes with rest and treatment that could involve sitting out stretches of games or even missing practice time, Whiteside will get back to 100 percent.
Spoelstra said Waiters staying on the bench in the fourth was a matter of keeping the same lineup on the floor that helped the Heat close out the victory.
“The guys understand that and that lineup was creating separation,” Spoelstra said. “There’s nothing more to it than that. Every game is different. But those guys really did a nice job in the fourth quarter. I wasn’t going to change that up.”