Five takeaways from the Heat’s 97-91 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak, which had been its longest since before it won 13 in a row last season.
1. Hassan Whiteside returned after sitting out five games, but still needs some time to get his game legs back. After sitting out the past five games with a left knee bone bruise, Whiteside started his first game since Oct. 18 and finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds – eight of which he grabbed in the first five minutes and six seconds of the game.
Whiteside recorded a double-double by the 3:39 mark of the second quarter with 11 points and 12 rebounds. But without any real game action or much 5-on-5 activity since the injury Whiteside clearly needs some more time before he gets back to being the defensive force the Heat needs in the paint for a full game.
Whiteside admitted he felt a little fatigued toward the end of the game.
"I expected that to come, because I've just been running in the pool, so it's hard to duplicate an actual NBA game," Whiteside said.
Whiteside, who was on a minutes restriction on Wednesday, played 26 minutes after playing 36 against the Magic on Oct. 18. He said whether he remains on one when the Heat play the Nuggets on Friday depends on how he’s feeling.
"You know, I expect it to be sure," Whiteside said. "But that's what treatment is for. And we're going to keep playing."
2. The Heat needed a victory even if ugly just before embarking on its longest road trip of the season. The Heat were outrebounded 54-48 and slightly outscored in the paint 40-38 by the Bulls. And that’s with Whiteside looking strong in the first half and Bam Adebayo closing out the game well in the fourth quarter. The Heat also went scoreless for a stretch of four minutes and 48 seconds during a subpar third quarter in which it fell behind by as many as six points.
But there were bright spots such as only 11 turnovers after a dismal 24 giveaways in Monday’s loss to the T’Wolves.
"They came really aggressive, especially [Kris] Dunn and [Jerian] Grant, those guys," Goran Dragic said. "They were pressuring a lot and sometimes we didn’t execute our offense well, there were no screens.
"In the end we bounced back and we closed the game."
"On paper you can say it’s an easy game on the end you need to show it on the floor. We’re happy with the win especially before the long road trip."
3. Dion Waiters is becoming a better decision-maker with the ball and not just a scorer. Waiters finished with a season-high seven assists and seven rebounds to go along with his 13 points on Wednesday. He and Dragic combined for 33 points and 13 assists which were crucial to the Heat’s comeback win. Waiters continues to show he can distribute the ball as well as deliver prolific scoring performances as he did Monday when he scored 33 against Minnesota.
"I’m a guy, I know I can get my shot at anytime," Waiters said. "So I just wanted to come out and really just facilitate and take what they give me too. It’s just one of them games. Some games you got to score and some games you just try to do everything. I just tried to do everything by any means."
4. Tyler Johnson has had some ups and downs, but continues to prove his value as a spark off the Heat bench. Johnson was one of the league’s best reserves, averaging 13.2 points per game. Although struggling with his shot at times this season, Johnson came up big in the second half on Wednesday with 17 of his 19 points in the second half, which included a trifecta of three-pointers that helped the Heat erase a six-point deficit.
"That’s the energy and the karma of the game," Spoelstra said. "Tyler is a guy that wants to play so well for the team. I thought it shifted for him and I even told him that when he started to make some defensive plays. We see it all the time. The ball finds energy. Well, the ball feels energy too and sometimes it can feel your energy just on the defensive end and all of a sudden the ball just shifts and goes the other way and all of a sudden your wide open for a couple of easy ones to get your rhythm going. He was very good tonight."
5. The Heat isn’t concerned about James Johnson’s right knee tendinitis. Johnson was scratched from the starting lineup just before tip-off on Wednesday two days after he went 0-for-3 from the field and played only 24 minutes against Minnesota.
Johnson, who was averaging 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 27.8 minutes per game, had started the past five games.
"It’s been bothering him for a little bit of time, but my level of concern isn’t high," Spoelstra said. "This is something where we’re trying to be proactive. It is a little bit different with the schedule with a little bit less back-to-backs. You don’t have the days necessarily in between and it seems like you’re playing every other day a lot so we’re trying to look at the big picture and make sure we catch this before it becomes a ‘wear and tear’ type of thing."