Advertisement

Heat within cusp of playoffs with 103-92 win over Bulls; Tyler Johnson hurt

The Miami Heat had the chance to have it all Thursday night.

They had to settle for something less.

Advertisement

But at least there was a 103-92 victory over the Chicago Bulls at AmericanAirlines Arena.

With an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth, the Heat saw that possibility put on hold, with the Detroit Pistons defeating the visiting Washington Wizards 103-92. At 41-35, with six games remaining, the Heat will clinch the berth with either one more victory or one more Pistons loss.

As it is, the loss by the Wizards drew the Heat within a half game of the No. 6 Wizards in the Eastern Conference playoff race, tied in the win column, with the Heat ending the night still No. 7 in the East.

"I actually liked the way our guys competed," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You play a team that's playing for something different, not necessarily playing for something different, but they're just in a different place than you are, those can be dangerous games because you get tempted into thinking there's going to be a knockout punch early.

"You have to expect every game in this league to be a 48-minute game where you’re required to compete and play at a high level. Any time you start to think otherwise or try to shortcut that process, you end up getting bit in the rear. That's happened to us a couple times or a handful of times this year with teams in their situation. But tonight I liked our approach."

This was also going to be the night when Spoelstra could assess all of his playoff rotation options, with centers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo back from injuries.

Those plans also were put on hold, with starting shooting guard Tyler Johnson lost for the game in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle. Johnson missed five games in January with a sprained left ankle.

"He was able to walk out of here without a limp," Spoelstra said. "He did treatment the entire second half. We didn't want to risk anything in the second half. He wanted to play, but Jay [Sabol, the team's trainer] said it's best just to hold him and re-evaluate."

Through it all, the Heat got enough from small forward Josh Richardson and point guard Goran Dragic to extend their home winning streak to eight and make it 11 victories in their last 12 games at AmericanAirlines Arenas.

Richardson led the Heat with 22 points, with Dragic scoring 17. Whiteside finished with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists in 19 minutes.

Richardson said the turn with Tyler Johnson was disappointing.

"It's the NBA, man," he said. "It's a lot of games. It's tough to get your whole team healthy all the time."

There was optimism regarding Whiteside.

Advertisement

"He looked pretty good," forward Justise Winslow said. "He was a little gassed, but Whitey and going to be Whitey. He's going to get to the basket, roll hard, get rebounds. He missed a couple of jumpers, but he hasn’t played in a while. I liked his play."

Whiteside said it was a positive step.

"I felt good," he said "but I ain’t touched a ball in about three weeks. I made a couple of shots. I missed a couple. Just get back into the rhythm, knock the rust off, get back to playing well."

It wasn't quite the artistry of Tuesday's 98-79 victory over the Cavaliers, but it was enough, with the Heat limiting the Bulls to .367 shooting.

"Even a night when we're not having an explosion night offensively," guard Dwyane Wade said, "if we're able to play defense that way, then we're going to give ourselves a chance, for sure."

About the only true emotion of the night was the fourth-quarter ejection of Bulls center Robin Lopez, who angrily was escorted to the locker room while venting at the officials.

"I got caught up in the game," Lopez said. "I play with emotion."

With the victory, the Heat improved to 24-9 against teams with losing records, with the next four games also against such competition.

The Bulls were without Paul Zipser, Antonio Blakeney, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Cristiano Felicio and Lauri Markkanen.

Spoelstra had 16 players to choose from going in, with only Dion Waiters sidelined.

That, however, changed in the second quarter, when Tyler Johnson was lost, limited to 12:07 of action. Rodney McGruder then started the second half in his place.

There was concern earlier in the day about Wade and Tyler Johnson, with both missing the morning shootaround due to migraines. Both, however, were active.

Whiteside and Adebayo both returned, with both previously listed as questionable after participating in Thursday's shootaround.

Like us on Facebook

Whiteside had missed the previous nine games due to a strained left hip flexor, returning to practice Wednesday. Adebayo missed Tuesday's victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers after spraining his right ankle in Sunday's overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Adebayo sprang into action early, after Kelly Olynyk was called for two early fouls.

The Heat now have ample depth in the backcourt, with Derrick Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr. both back with the team following the close of the season for the G League Sioux Falls Skyforce. The two were inactive, as was Luke Babbitt and Waiters, who underwent season-ending ankle surgery in January.

What had been an 11-point Heat lead shrunk to 68-64 midway through the third period before the Heat went into the fourth up 78-68.

With Wayne Ellington converting a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, the Heat went into the intermission up 51-46. Dragic was up to 13 points at that stage.

The Heat pushed to a 29-21 lead at the end of the opening period, with Dragic with nine points in the quarter. Whiteside had a strong opening seven-minute stint, with four points, five rebounds, two assists and one block in his first action in 10 games.

It was the fourth and final game of the season series. The Heat won the season's first two meetings, 97-91 at AmericanAirlines Arena and then 100-93 Nov. 26 at the United Center, before losing 119-111 Jan. 15 at the United Center.

It was the second stop on a four-game trip for the Bulls, who entered having lost six in a row.

The Bulls were coming off Tuesday's 118-86 loss in Houston, when they scored 32 points in the middle two periods.

Advertisement
Advertisement