Sustained energy has been hard to find for the Chicago Bulls.
The season has followed the same script — building a lead in the first half only to let it slip away. So when the Miami Heat began to chip away at a lead in the second half Saturday — carving a 27-point deficit down to only three points — it seemed the Bulls were set to once again repeat their greatest weakness.
Instead, the Bulls absorbed the pressure to preserve a 113-99 victory at the United Center. DeMar DeRozan scorched from midrange for a team-high 24 points. Patrick Beverley threw himself from one touchline to the other and scored 17 points while Coby White led a barrage of shots from the 3-point line and finished with 18 points.
The result came on the heels of a double-overtime win Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, giving the Bulls a rare pair of consecutive wins. And as they stretch out a 9-7 record following the All-Star break, the Bulls have found a small lift in their race for play-in contention.
The Heat typically scorch the Bulls from behind the 3-point arc. But the Bulls managed to match the Heat from deep in another higher-volume night of 3-point attempts, going 17-for-34 while the Heat went 10-for-37. Beverley hit four consecutive 3-pointers in the second quarter and went 5-for-10 from deep in an 17-point performance. Coby White went 4-for-8 on 3s and Zach LaVine 3-for-6 as six Bulls made at least one shot from deep.
Both teams turned the ball over 14 times, but the Bulls took better advantage of their opportunities on the run in the open court. The Bulls scored 22 points off turnovers to the Heat’s 11. DeRozan snagged three steals and White added two as the Bulls layered the perimeter with pressure.
Accuracy powered the win for the Bulls, who shot 61.7% from the floor in the first half and finished 56.2% overall. The efficiency stemmed from a high rate of ball movement as the Bulls logged a season-high 34 assists on 45 makes.
Alex Caruso suffered a left midfoot sprain in the second quarter, exiting the game after logging five points and two assists in 10 minutes. Caruso has been injury prone and previously nursed a similar sprain in his left foot.
The Bulls led by as many as 27 points, but the Heat carved into that advantage with a 15-0 run in the third quarter. The Bulls have struggled to maintain their momentum out of the locker room after halftime and repeated that pattern Saturday, allowing the Heat to outscore them 32-20 in the third quarter. The Heat then opened the fourth with a pair of 3-pointers, cutting the lead to four points in the final minutes of the game.
Quote of the night
After so many collapses this season, the Bulls were bolstered by their ability to weather the second-half storm from the Heat.
”We came in understanding that this was a must-need win today,” Beverley said. “After a double-overtime game (Friday) we didn’t want to come out in the mud. We wanted to come out and throw the first punch. Our first punch was real heavy and we was able to withstand their punches throughout the game.”
Where they stand
The Bulls improved to 33-37 to maintain their position at 10th in the Eastern Conference.
What comes next
The Bulls face a home-and-home series against the 76ers, playing in Philadelphia on Monday and at the United Center on Wednesday.