Griffin: Quick analysis on Bulls’ loss to Heat

The Chicago Bulls entered the AmericanAirlines Arena with renewed focus and composure Thursday night, unfortunately it wasn’t enough to leave with a victory.

The Miami Heat, led by Dwayne Wade (21 pts 9/18 5 rbs 4 ast) out bully balled the Bulls to a 106-98 victory. This loss all but mathematically eliminates the Bulls from playoff contention, I’m no psychologist but based their body language after the game the players know it. Here are a few thoughts I had from the game and what needs to happen to turn that “mathematically” into a reality:

  1. This was an important game for both teams, for the Heat it was about playoff positioning trying to lock opening round home court advantage. For the Bulls, the need to just stay alive. Both teams came out in the 1st and played like it with lock down defense and crisp conservative offense.
  2. The first half had a very old school feel. Both teams only took 3 three pointers in the first half and collectively made zero. Most buckets came off of post-ups, pick-and-roll sets and back door cuts. Outside shooting wasnt much better in the 2nd half but alot more were taken (Bulls 3/11 Heat 4/11 in the 2nd half).
  3. The 3 point shooting is key becuase it’s an indication of pace and spacing. The Bulls are at their best offensivly when running a 2 man game with Jimmy Butler/Derrick Rose handling the ball and Pau Gasol setting a screen. This often results in the defense collapsing and an open look from 3 from one of the other players. This is why the Bulls have the 3rd best 3 pt % this season, the problem is since the addition of Joe Johnson the Heat have gone with a smaller, quicker line-up and did an excellent job closing out on shots so those open looks the Bulls have become used to just were’t there. In the 1st half the Bulls out scored the Heat by 6. The quicker 2nd half pace helped attribute to the 14 point differential the Heat enjoyed.
  4. Late in the 3rd Doug McDermott fouled Hassan Whiteside to prevent an easy dunk. From my perspective when McDermott wraped up Whiteside, Whiteside locked arms and pulled McDermott down ontop of him. This crafty move by Whiteside resulted in a Flagrant 1 call. The game was tied at the time but From there the Heat finished the 3rd with 6 straight points.
  5. In many other games the Bulls would have never recovered but during the break before the 4th quarter they gathered themselves and regained the lead early in the 4th.
  6. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra showed the difference a rookie head coach and an NBA champion head coach late in the 4th. With about 5 minutes to go Spoelstra replaced Whiteside with Amare Stoudemire, the result was 3 straight possessions with easy looks inside for the Bulls. Whiteside immediately reentered the game.
  7. Fred Hoiberg instead stuck with the idea to space the floor, something that didn’t work all night. Whiteside was just physically dominant in the final minutes tallying 8 points and 6 rebounds sparking a 21-12 run to seal the game. Whiteside eventually fouled out but not before forcing Miami PD to leave a chalk outline of Nikola Mirotic on the floor of AA arena. Mirotic also fouled out and Hoiberg went even smaller replacing him with McDermott showing his unwillingness to adapt to the moment.
  8. Justin Holiday has become one of my favorite players to watch on the Bulls. Holiday will never be an All-Star or your key player to close out a game but he’s unselfish and simply plays the right way. In 2012 I went to Las Vegas to watch the NBA summer league. At the time Holiday was just an add on to the Cleveland Cavaliers roster that featured former hihg draft picks Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. Garrett Temple who started the bulk of the year in Washington was also on that team. Long story short I left Vegas that week thinking that, at that moment, Holiday was the best player on that roster. I’m happy to see he’s finally caught on in the league after being apart of the NBA champion Warriors last season.
  9. The odds are about the same as winning the lottery but here’s what needs to happen for the Bulls to make the playoffs. First and foremost they need to win out. Second they need the Pacers to lose the rest of their games (the Bulls hold the tie-breaker). That would put the Bulls in the 8th seed. Although the Pistons have the head-to-head tie breaker with the Bulls, there is a scenario where the Bulls can jump to the 7 seed with the Pacers in 8th and Pistons being left out. If the Pistons also lost the remainder of their games that would create a 3-way tie. The head-to-head games played of all 3 teams collectively is 4-4. The tie breaker goes to division record next which the Pistons would lose out. So if you’ve been harboring dislike for the Pistons since the late 80’s, thats your situation to root for.
  10. Ofcourse all of this becomes a moot point if the Pacers win in Toronto Friday night (or any other game).

The Bulls host Cleveland Saturday night and their season could be decided before they even take the court.

Follow Kyle on Twitter @kgrif28 for Bulls news and analysis across the NBA.