Miami Heat scorch Chicago Bulls with blistering shooting

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange  |  March 2, 2016 at 1:00 AM
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MIAMI -- Imagine what will happen when forward Joe Johnson learns the playbook.

Imagine what will happen if center Hassan Whiteside continues to play like this.

For now, the Miami Heat don't have to imagine. They are playing at breakneck speed and it showed in a 129-111 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Miami set a franchise record with a 67.5 field goal percentage, the best mark in the NBA this season.

"The only thing I don't want to see us do is walk the ball up the court," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his team's suddenly blistering pace. "There were a couple of times when (point guard) Goran (Dragic) walked it up, and I screamed at him, 'No. You be you. Make them (your teammates) run with you.'"

Dragic had 17 points and a game-high 11 assists, and his direction of the pace Spoelstra prefers was key in getting his teammates easy baskets.

Whiteside had a career-high 26 points and added 14 rebounds and four blocks, all game highs. It was his sixth straight double-double -- all of them off the bench -- as Whiteside made 8 of 11 shots from the floor and 10 of 11 from the foul line.

Johnson, making his home debut for Miami, scored 24 points, making 10 of 13 shots from the floor, including 2 of 3 on 3-pointers, and 2 of 2 on free throws. He added five rebounds, four assists and one block with just two turnovers.

"Great pickup for the Miami Heat," Whiteside said when asked about Johnson.

But it wasn't only Whiteside and Johnson. Miami forward Luol Deng, a former Bulls standout, had 20 points. Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade added 18 points.

Put it all together, and it was the highest scoring game of the season for Miami. And it came against a Bulls defense that has allowed more than 100 points in 14 consecutive games.

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who returned after missing three games with a hamstring injury, scored 17 points. But Chicago was a team-worst minus-19 while he was on the court, an indication that his defense was not up to par.

"We stayed taking the ball out of the net," Rose said of the Heat's barrage of 52 made field goals and 19 made free throws. "We weren't able to run. We can't expect to win when they shoot 60-something percent."

Chicago, which lost center Joakim Noah for the season because of an injury and is awaiting the return of shooting guard Jimmy Butler and forward Nikola Mirotic, might have a new issue. Forward Taj Gibson suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter and did not return.

"When he pushed off to go up for his dunk, he felt a tweak back there," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We will have a better idea (on Wednesday)."

Chicago (30-29) doesn't need more bad news -- not after losing its third straight game. Miami (34-26) has won 11 of its past 16 games.

The Heat shot 60 percent or better in all four quarters and led after every quarter. Miami had an impressive 74-48 edge in points in the paint.

Even so, Chicago cut its deficit to six points midway through the fourth quarter. But Miami's shooting -- the Heat made 14 of 16 in the fourth quarter for 87.5 percent -- was just too much for Chicago.

"We should win when we score 111 points," Hoiberg said. "It's about a collective effort defensively. It has to change."

Bulls center Pau Gasol would not argue.

"This was a terrible defensive effort," he said. "We have to start hitting bodies and being more physical. (Miami) shooting (67.5 percent) is outrageous. We have to correct it immediately."

NOTES: So far, the four-game season series between the Eastern Conference rivals is split 1-1. ... Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said he will monitor PG Derrick Rose's minutes in the short term. Rose, in his first game back since returning from a hamstring injury, played 24 minutes. ... Hoiberg said he hopes to get SG Jimmy Butler (knee injury) back later this week. ... Heat F Joe Johnson has made Miami his summer residence for the past half-dozen years. Johnson, 34, said the Heat sold him on possibly re-signing with Miami after this season. ... Miami bought out the contract of PG Beno Udrih (foot surgery) on Monday, a move that allowed the Heat to get under the luxury tax. ... Miami is interested in signing SG Marcus Thornton, 28, who was cut by the Houston Rockets on Saturday. But the Cleveland Cavaliers are also interested in Thornton, who is shooting 34 percent on 3-pointers and 88 percent on free throws.

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