The Miami Heat lost their fourth straight Sunday after facing the Chicago Bulls. Chicago has proved to be better than the Heat each time they faced each other this season, even coming back from a double-digit deficit.
Derrick Rose scored 27 points, Luol Deng capped an 18-point effort with two free throws that put Chicago ahead for good, and the Bulls beat Miami 87-86 on Sunday to hand the Heat their fourth straight loss.
Carlos Boozer scored 12 and Joakim Noah added 11 for the Bulls, who moved a game ahead of Miami into outright possession of second place in the Eastern Conference and beat the Heat for the third time this season.
LeBron James scored 26 points, Chris Bosh added 23 and Dwyane Wade had 20 for the Heat. James and Wade both missed shots that would have won it for Miami in the final 8 seconds.
It was the fourth time since Feb. 24 where Miami held a double-digit lead and ultimately lost. The Heat led by as many as 12 on Sunday.
The Heat were down 82-76 with 3:30 left when Rose made a jumper over Mike Miller, before putting together a rally – with Mario Chalmers leading the way. He hit a 3-pointer to tie it with 1:05 left, then blew past a closeout for an easy layup from the left side that put the Heat ahead 86-84 with 25 seconds left.
Of late, though, nothing comes easy for Miami.
With Chicago down by two, Deng missed the second of two free throws, and referee Tony Brothers called a foul on Miller for pushing Deng in the chase for the loose ball.
Deng went back to the line, made both this time, and Chicago was up 87-86 with 15.9 seconds remaining.
So once again, Miami found itself in the situation where it has struggled mightily this season, needing a field goal in the final minute to decide a game.
The ball went to James, who drove on Noah and missed a layup from the left block. Wade got the rebound, tried a 15-footer from the baseline that bounced away, and time expired as the Bulls leaped in celebration and coach Tom Thibodeau punched the air.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stayed with the same lineup Sunday, saying the three-game slide coming into the day was not a reason for panic and even trying to bring some levity.
“I think we effectively have everybody off our bandwagon right now,” Spoelstra said. “So we have a lighter load.”
He did some mild tweaking to the rotation, including having both Wade and James on the bench to start the second quarter. The other member of the “Big 3″ was more than enough in those moments, as Bosh scored the first six points of the period to give Miami a 28-18 edge.
The cushion went to 12 when James made a pair of free throws late in the half for a 49-37 lead. And as has been the case so many times for the Heat this season, especially of late, the lead wasn’t safe.
The Bulls shot 39 percent in the third quarter, still managing to outscore Miami 23-16 thanks to five Heat turnovers, a 14-9 edge in rebounding – and Rose, who made a ridiculous shot early in the period look ridiculously simple.
Even a 1-on-2 break – him against Wade and James, no less – went Chicago’s way. Rose bumped slightly into Wade to create separation on his drive downcourt, then leaped, double-clutched so James could fly harmlessly by from the left wing, and then spun a left-handed layup off the glass to cut Miami’s lead to 54-50.
The Bulls had four shots to take the lead in the final 35 seconds of the third, missing them all, including Rose’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Chicago didn’t have to wait much longer for the breakthrough, with Taj Gibson’s two free throws tying the game with 11:04 left and Deng making a jumper a half-minute later to give the Bulls their first lead since 10-9 midway through the opening quarter.
NOTES: Scottie Pippen, who lives in Miami, was behind the Bulls bench. … The last time James played in as many as four straight regular-season losses was Feb. 22-March 1, 2006, when the Cleveland Cavaliers dropped five straight. … Referee Scott Wall was shaken up in the third
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