CHICAGO – Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 100-93 win over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center, which put the Heat above the .500 mark for only the second time this season.
1. Reserves to the rescue. The Heat prevailed on Sunday despite having Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters sitting on its bench for different reasons. Goran Dragic and reserves James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Kelly Olynyk played all 12 minutes of a 36-point fourth quarter that closed out the Heat’s victory, plus the final minute and 34 seconds of the third quarter together.
The Heat’s bench scored 54 points overall and outscored the Bulls’ reserves by 13. Dragic led the Heat with a team-high 24 points and scored 14 of them in the fourth quarter.
The Heat entered the game ranked 13th in the NBA in bench points with its backups averaging 37.6 points per game.
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"We have a lot of weapons and you have sometimes different players are going to finish the game including me, sometimes I’m going to be on the bench but as long as we win games," Dragic said. "The last two games against Minnesota and this game, most of the guys were form the second unit and we finished well."
Waiters, who shot 2 for 10 and finished with seven points, sat out the fourth as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he didn’t want to tinker with the lineup that helped create some separation after what was mostly a struggle with the NBA’s worst team.
"I was ready to put anybody back in, but that team was playing well," Spoelstra said. "I wasn't going to change it up. It was the most consistent basketball we've played all game. There's nothing personal with anything in this locker room. It's about getting the job done. It’s different guys on different nights. Guys have an understanding of what that's all about. And we're going to need everybody to play at a high level in the next city."
2. The Heat are likely to rest Hassan Whiteside in practice at times and perhaps in stretches of games like Sunday’s while the effects of his left knee bone bruise linger. After sitting out practice on Saturday, Whiteside started on Sunday and finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes and 19 seconds. But Whiteside sat out the final 16 minutes and 15 seconds as he sat on the bench with a heating pad on his knee.
Kelly Olynyk played that entire stretch at center and finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
The Heat has a day off Monday, but will then play back-to-back games the next two days at Cleveland and New York.
"I’m fine if I put my jersey on," Whiteside said. "I basically came to the conclusion that I can play. That day of rest really helped me. I’m just keeping it warm, so if coach needs me I’m ready."
3. The worst offensive first quarter in Heat history. The Heat scored the fewest points it ever has in the first period on Sunday with a dismal seven. Miami shot 2 of 19 in the quarter, which fell one miss shy of its worst-ever shooting first period.
The anemic quarter finished below the previous-worst eight points scored against Orlando on April 22, 1999.
"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."
4. Wayne Ellington is red-hot and as long as he is it keeps making it easier for the Heat to execute its attack. Ellington was a catalyst in the Heat’s 38-point second quarter that energized them after their horrific first. Ellington made 5 of 8 threes on Sunday and over the past four games has made 20 of 35 shots from beyond the arch.
"It can give up some spacing that you can drive a lot," Dragic said. "You can get inside the middle. Chicago was blitzing me and Dion so we just have to get off the ball and trust everybody else to make a play and they did."
5. James Johnson continues to show glimpses of the same valuable player he was down the stretch last season. Johnson’s 11 fourth-quarter points were crucial to the Heat pulling away from the Bulls late, but it wasn’t Johnson’s only contribution. Johnson had two steals – the second of which came after he scored six points in a row to help prevent the Bulls from taking the lead.
"[Johnson] doesn't have to be who he was last year," Spoelstra said. "We want to create something different and better. I thought he played very composed, particularly in that fourth quarter, made easy plays. He was aggressive when he needed to. He wasn't getting himself into trouble. It was pretty direct line on what he was doing, whether facilitating or attacking, and then also as a screener. It just shows the versatility. That fourth quarter he did just about a little bit of everything offensively, and that's what we want to continue to grow in his game."