Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat bounce back in Chicago, going 1-1 in miniseries

Two nights after the Heat’s fourth-quarter meltdown in Chicago, Zach LaVine’s insouciance assisted the visitors in trouncing the Bulls. Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson carbonized opponents from the outside and in. And the bench mob thwacked the hosts, outscoring the rival reserves 42-21.

The Heatles were on track to log 129.7 points per 100 possessions, but garbage time began early, and luckily for the home fans, it only got 91 opportunities.

Robinson swished 11 points in four minutes off catch-and-shoot trays in the wings and corners, plus a fastbreak layup. Jimmy Butler exploited LaVine in the post and hit a running baby hook in the lane. It wasn’t quite like Magic Johnson nailing the hook versus the Celtics in Game 4 of the ‘87 Finals, but still impressive in front of Torrey Craig.

Defensively, the Heat gave up two triples early because of miscommunication and not picking up the shooter before the catch. It also surrendered the midrange through pick and pop and dribble penetration.

In the second quarter, Miami deployed its 2-2-1 press to slow down Chicago’s offense up the court and the 2-3 zone, tempting poor shots. DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams recorded four consecutive baskets for Chicago, but following that, Miami held the Bulls to five of 16 makes to close the half. In that stretch, the Heat contested cleanly from deep, installed strict drop coverage in man defense, blitzed the ball handler, and Butler denied Alex Caruso’s putback by sticking it to the glass.

On the attack, Kevin Love splashed three triples straight away. Jaime Jaquez Jr. got DeRozan off him in the corner with his jab step, canning a trifecta, then took LaVine off the dribble to the cup and hit a fader in the low post over Coby White. And Adebayo logged a floater in the lane against the zone and slammed a lob through the middle from JJJ when DeRozan and Andre Drummond doubled the ball.

At halftime, the Heat was up 65-53, with nine points off turnovers and 29 supplied by the bench. In contrast, the Bulls’ reserves had 13 on the scorecard and, as a unit, just 14 in the paint. Of course, LaVine, over his Chicago tenure at everyone’s expense, provided a deficient four attempts.

In the third quarter, Butler missed a few close-range baskets and two outside the paint, but his teammates carried him. Adebayo destroyed Nikola Vučević with his jumper at the elbow and drove at him. Kyle Lowry bailed out a broken possession with a left-wing 3-pointer and made another in the corner when Butler attracted four Bulls.

For Chicago, LaVine’s lethargy waned, barely, taking four triples and making two but still refusing to attack the basket in over 10 minutes. DeRozan, Vučević and White kept the hosts from getting humiliated by the invaders, as they combined for seven of 14 shots.

The Heat started the fourth with a 12-point lead. Robinson delivered the first blow, curling behind Adebayo for a corner triple, then hit two more on the wings. Jaquez recovered two offensive rebounds that turned into one of D-Bo’s bangers and a dunk for Adebayo.

In the last interval, the Heat’s offense struggled, making 38.9% of its ventures. For the season, it is averaging 40.7% efficiency with 3.6 turnovers. But the defense permitted Chicago 19 points on 40% shooting and forced five giveaways.

Coach Erik Spoelstra used only three starters in the fourth- Haywood Highsmith, Robinson and Adebayo. From the bench, Caleb Martin and Josh Richardson played every minute, while Dru Smith and Orlando Robinson entered in garbage time.

The Heat won 118-100. It pulled down 55.2% of available rebounds and scored 12 second-chance points.

Love handled the on-court interview. He said part of the game plan was about getting stops in transition. “We [feel] like our defense continues to trend in the right direction, and if we get stops, if we just play with pace, there’s so many good things that can come out of that…”

In the presser, Spoelstra referenced Saturday’s match and said there is an opportunity for improvement after tough losses. “We were all very disappointed how the fourth quarter went the other night. We felt we were in control for a large part of the game and ended up losing the game. That can humble you and it’s really [about] the approach after that. I thought we had a very professional [practice] to try to get better at those things that had been costing us some of these fourth-quarter leads…”

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