CHICAGO – The first three quarters were again no problem. For the second consecutive game at the United Center, there was no deficit for the Miami Heat through the first 36 minutes of the game.
The concern was the fourth quarter, after falling in the final seconds Saturday night at the start of this five-game trip after not trailing until the final minute.
Reaching double figures in the fourth quarter for the second time in three nights, the Heat this time beat the Chicago Bulls 118-100 on Monday night for eight wins in their last nine games.
It was the Heat’s first double-digit win of the season (the previous largest margin of victory had been eight) and they moved to 9-5.
Two nights after blowing a 21-point lead, the Heat found their footing throughout the rotation and stayed on the gas long enough to dispel any doubts.
“Sometimes you have opportunities to improve after tough losses,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That can humiliate you. That’s really the focus after that.”
The approach was to make contributions in all areas.
There were 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists from center Bam Adebayo; 22 points, including six triples, from point guard Duncan Robinson; 19 points, including three triples, from point guard Jaime Jáquez Jr.; and 16 points from forward Jimmy Butler, who didn’t need to be called up for late heroics and missed the fourth quarter.
The trip continues Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers and concludes with a back-to-back set on Friday night against the New York Knicks and Saturday night against the Brooklyn Nets.
Five degrees of heat from Monday night’s game:
1. Game flow: This time there was not a 22-1 lead for the Heat, after such an open Saturday, but rather a 12-2 lead early, with the Heat closing the first period up 33-27.
The Heat then increased their lead to 14 in the second period, before taking a 65-53 lead into halftime and a 93-81 lead into the fourth.
From there, the Heat increased their lead to 22 as Butler sat on top of the fourth quarter, not being needed for more than 29 minutes.
“I’m glad I responded tonight.” said backup center Kevin Love. “A great rebound.”
2. Eyes on the edge: One game after posting a career-high seven assists, Robinson had his eyes on the rim from the start, converting his first three three-point shots and then a layup for a 4-for-4 start, scoring 11 of the first of the Heat. 17 points.
The second of Robinson’s 3-pointers came from a scrambled offensive possession as the shot clock expired.
He was 6 of 9 from beyond the arc.
It was Robinson’s sixth straight start in place of sidelined guard Tyler Herro.
“I thought we were very intentional in our preparation,” Robinson said, “and you could see that tonight.”
3. Monday fun day: Butler was not only up 12 points at halftime, but he was maximizing his moments.
Sent to the line on what was ruled a Bulls foul in the clear, Butler paused between free throws to offer aerial clashes with imaginary teammates, with the lane clear during the shots.
But the best part was that Butler not only scored with an early skyhook, but also uttered the words “skyhook” in the middle of his sweeping move.
“I had to let everyone know,” he said of his intonation during the take.
Spoelstra said it could have been a tribute to Heat president Pat Riley, who coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Pat always wants our guys to work on the sky hook,” Spoelstra said.
“It just shows how talented Jimmy is. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him practice that.”
Butler was also 0-for-2 on 3-pointers amid his goal of shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“I’m in a slump at three-point shooting right now,” he joked, “so I have to go to what I know, which is the skyhook.”
4. Clean sheet: After costly turnovers late in Saturday night’s loss to the Bulls, the Heat at one point were down to 17 assists for a Monday night loss.
Kyle Lowry made passing his priority again, with five assists and no turnovers in the first half.
Crisp ball movement fueled an 8-for-17 first half on 3-pointers.
Although the Heat would close with 10 turnovers and 31 assists, the play was clear at all times.
“We learned a lot from the last game,” Jaquez said, “and we applied what we learned.”
5. A little love: One game before his first game back in Cleveland since leaving the Cavaliers last February, Love scored up to 11 points and five rebounds at halftime.
Starting the night hitting .282 on 3-pointers, Love was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first half, tying his previous season high in a single game of three conversions, going 3-for-5.
Love helped push the Heat’s bench to 29 points in the first half, a decisive push after the Heat’s bench was held to 23 on Saturday night. The Heat reserves outscored the Bulls bench 42-21.