Games against the Chicago Bulls have always served as measuring sticks for the Heat. Well, the stick was broken before this one even started.
With Chris Bosh out with a strained calf, the Heat was a shell of itself on Sunday and lost to the Bulls 93-75 at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami (11-13) shot 35 percent from the field, and the Bulls won in a blowout despite committing 20 turnovers for 20 points.
The Heat trailed by just seven points after the first half, but Miami was outscored 33-16 in the third quarter.
The Bulls led 72-48 entering the fourth quarter despite star guard Derrick Rose going 1 of 7 from the field through the game’s first three quarters. Rose then went 5 of 7 from the field in the fourth quarter and finished with 14 points.
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“It was a tough second half — that was pretty clear,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We came out flat at the beginning of the third quarter in a game that was there in the balance, and the momentum shifted. And it was really poor execution on both ends.”
Bosh spoke with reporters after the game and said his strained calf was caused by “wear and tear,” which doesn’t bode well for the short-term success of the team. He is doubtful for the Heat’s game on Tuesday in Brooklyn.
If the outcome of Sunday’s game proved anything, it is that Bosh is invaluable to the success of the Heat. He went from role player in each of the past four years to featured star this season, and he hadn’t missed a game this season until Sunday.
Extra minutes could have contributed to Bosh’s injury. He averaged fewer than 30 minutes a game during the first half of last season. This season, he is averaging 35.3 minutes per game while anchoring the team offensively and defensively.
Bosh said this type of injury is the first of his career, and added “it really sucks that it’s hitting me right now.”
“It’s just — I don’t know — there seems to be a dark cloud over everything right now, and everything seems to be tough,” Bosh said. “We’re having a tough time building the chemistry because we haven’t had many minutes together. In the midst of all that, everyone is trying to figure everything out.”
The Heat is now 4-7 at home, and the starting lineup against the Bulls — Norris Cole, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Justin Hamilton and Udonis Haslem — was the 10th different starting group of the season and the eighth in the past 11 games.
The ad hoc lineup played well defensively to start the game, holding the Bulls to 14 points in the first quarter.
The Heat led 18-14 going into the second period despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the field. Chicago (15-8) was 5-of-16 shooting in the first period but found something of a rhythm before halftime. The Bulls were without center Joakim Noah, who missed the game with an injury.
“In the first half, we thought our defensive intensity actually was adequate,” Spoelstra said. “Guys were physical, protecting the paint, making multiple efforts.”
Cole was a highlight for the Heat on a night when nothing seemed to work. The Heat’s starting point guard held Rose to one field goal and three points through the first three quarters of the game. Offensively, Cole was 3 of 10 from the field and 0 of 2 from beyond the three-point line. He finished with 10 points.
Deng and Wade both scored 17 points to lead the Heat.
Forward Mike Dunleavy led the Bulls with 22 points. He scored 19 in the third quarter, going 7 of 8 from the field and 3 of 3 from three-point range. The scoring barrage buried the Heat.
“He just ran a couple things and hit some shots and that was it,” Wade said of Dunleavy.
Haslem started the game at power forward in place of Josh McRoberts, but Haslem only played the first four minutes of the game.
Afterward, Spoelstra said he apologized to Haslem for benching him.
The Heat’s coach said he made the adjustment to “spread the floor” offensively, but Shawne Williams and Danny Granger combined to go 2 of 10 from the field.
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