“It was a professional win,” Patrick Beverley said after the Bulls beat the Miami Heat 113-99.
A professional win, yes. But also a win in a new way. An adjust-on-the-fly and overcome adversity win.
Unlike Friday night’s game in which Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan combined for 88 points, Saturday’s win was a more balanced effort. Given the way the Heat were defending the Bulls — heavy help at the nail, hard traps on LaVine and DeRozan — the matchup dictated a different offensive recipe.
LaVine still finished with 18 points (7-of-12 shooting, 3-of-6 threes) but had seven assists, while DeRozan scored 24 (10-of-15 shooting) and added 10 assists.
“Every game is different,” LaVine said post game. “After the first quarter, they started taking us away. Hitting pick-and-rolls or just doubling randomly. We needed everybody else to open it up.”
The Bulls were able to get Nikola Vucevic some good post entry position to break up some of the Heat defense, but it really came down to Coby White scoring 18 (7-of-12 shooting, 4-of-8 threes), Beverley scoring 17 (6-of-12 shooting, 5-of-10 threes) to exploit the Heat for their aggressive scheming.
“They were letting them play last game,” Beverley corroborated. “[Zach and DeMar] made the right play. The right play last game was putting the ball in the hole. Today was spot up threes, so each game presents something different.”
This was as tangible as the #PatBevEffect has been since he’s arrive. During a stretch in the second quarter, he tallied off 14-straight points, including four three-pointers and a layup that resulted in his signature “too small” celebration.
“Just having fun. Getting lost in basketball. Just like you guys do when you’re up night, writing a story. You got your little headphones on, you catch the vibe. You know you get lost in your craft,” Beverley said.
“Getting lost in the craft. Just like if you was to write a story, you got done with it and you was like, ‘I fuckin killed this’ you know. It’s the same way. Just getting lost in basketball”
Beverley was in his bag tonight. On and off the court.
The Bulls went into the half up 70-45, in one of their most impressive halves of the season. But it wouldn’t be the Bulls if they didn’t let their opponent surge back. During the third quarter, the Heat beat the Bulls 32-20 and cut the lead down to three mid-way through the fourth.
“Basketball is a game of runs, you can’t beat every team by 20 or 30,” Beverley said. “But it was a good test. Any adversity we face is good, it’s going to help us throughout the playoffs.”
And that’s what makes this win interesting to me. Billy Donovan has harped on overcoming adversity, turning off the faucet on opposing team’s runs and solving the mystery of momentum. They’ve let go of the rope, blown 20+ point leads and found a million other ways to lose, but this time, they overcame.
“We keep getting wins, so I think it’s obviously a good sign,” LaVine said. “But you don’t want to let teams back in or give teams hope or momentum, but it’s going to happen. There’s going to be a run eventually, it’s hard to play 48 perfect minutes offensively or defensively. It’s just finding the time to turn it on or shut off what they’re doing well and respond. And I think we responded well.”
They haven’t solved their problems entirely. They nearly lost to Detroit after being up big. They let a lead against the Pacers slip away and have been generally lambasted in third quarters since the break (-10.7 third quarter net rating before the Heat game, which they lost 32-20). But they’re starting to solve problems on the fly, which could dramatically improve their level of play.
The Bulls have now won two-straight and 7-of-11 since Beverley’s arrival. They’re a game clear of the 10th seed after losses by Washington and Indiana.
Maybe they should be even better.
“Shit, should be 9-2,” Beverley said. “Should be 9-2. The team that really beat us was Phoenix and Toronto. Obviously the game-winner against Indiana and the game-winner against Sac. So really should be 9-2.”
“You’ve got to be able to lean into it,” Donovan said. “It was good for us against a team like that that we could respond when they got back into the game.”
Up Next: Bulls head to Philly to play the 76ers on Monday, then both teams return to Chicago for a second matchup on Wednesday.