Bulls fall to Heat, can’t overtake Pistons
Miami — The way the Miami Heat played defense in the final minutes, it’s clear they want to be at home when the playoffs begin.
And they pretty much ensured that the Chicago Bulls will be home for the entire postseason. At any rate, they can’t overtake the Pistons for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
If the Bulls won all their remaining games and the Pistons lost theirs, the teams would be tied with 42 wins but the Pistons would reach the playoffs based their head-to-head record against the Bulls this season. The Pacers and the Wizards also have a chance to finish with 42 wins, though, which could further muddy the picture.
Dwyane Wade scored 21 points, Joe Johnson added 17 and the Heat shook off a slow first half to beat the Bulls 106-98 on Thursday night, clamping down in the final minutes for their ninth win in the last 10 home games.
Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside each had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, which has 14 consecutive games when scoring 100 or more at home — the second-longest such streak in franchise history.
Luol Deng scored 13, Josh Richardson 11 and Amare Stoudemire 10 for the Heat (46-32), who remained fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Jimmy Butler scored 25 points for the Bulls (39-40), who now need a series of miracles to get into the postseason. Pau Gasol finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Derrick Rose scored 17 for Chicago.
Rose had a chance at a layup that would have given Chicago the lead with 3:50 left, only to see it blocked by Whiteside to set up a three-point play by Wade and a 90-86 Heat lead. Moments later, Butler thought he saw someone open in the corner but his pass was deflected for a steal by Wade, leading to more Heat points as Miami kept pulling away.
Chicago hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2007-08, when the Bulls finished 33-49. They then beat 60-1 odds to win the draft lottery, getting the right to take Rose with the No. 1 overall pick — while Miami, far and away the NBA’s worst team that season, wound up taking Michael Beasley with the No. 2 selection.
Miami sputtered offensively in the first half, trailing 46-40 at the break. The Heat came out and scored 35 in the third, finishing with a 6-0 spurt that was sparked when Doug McDermott was assessed a flagrant-1 after getting tangled with Whiteside under the basket.
Whiteside hit the floor hard, then scored four points in 10 seconds when play resumed. He made his two free throws after the foul, then scored on the ensuing possession and after another basket by Josh Richardson the Heat took a 75-69 lead into the fourth.
Chicago used a 13-4 run to go up three midway through the fourth, and took the lead for the final time with 4:43 left on two free throws from Butler. Miami scored 10 of the next 12 points, going up 95-88 and keeping command the rest of the way.