The first seeded Miami Heat (41-21) picked up a big win over the second place Chicago Bulls (39-23) today, which gave them just a little bit more of a cushion in the unbelievably tight race for the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
It was a strong 112-99 victory that showed the Heat’s ability to rely on their role-players, which could play a big role in their playoff success. Though Jimmy Butler struggled from the field (4 of 13) he still finished the game with 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals. All of his steals came in the first quarter, which set the tone for the rest of the game.
Bam Adebayo had another one of those quietly efficient games, finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks while only taking eight shots. His post defense was important as well, and disrupted the Bulls’ offensive flow.
Gabe Vincent, who filled in for Kyle Lowry at the starting point guard spot, contributed 20 points and three assists while shooting 7 of 13 overall. He shot 4 of 8 from three and helped the Heat build strong momentum in the first half.
Tyler Herro filled his role to perfection, too, with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench, while Max Strus chipped in 13 points in a reserve role.
The win will be a big morale booster for the Heat, who have now won four in a row and are 9-1 over their last ten games. Every win over a fellow contender is going to be important in this home stretch of the season too, as only 5.5 games separates the Heat from the sixth-place Boston Celtics (36-27). With Joel Embiid and James Harden starting to already build a strong chemistry in Philadelphia, the race for home court is going to be tough.
This Heat team is gritty, and you’ve got to give props to their scouting department for finding role players that continually step up. It takes a giant load off of their stars’ shoulders, and the trust they have in each other is palpable. That leads to winning basketball, and Miami are certainly hoping that they can continue with this momentum all the way to a second NBA Finals berth in three seasons. That’s a long way away, and they did get embarrassed by the Bucks last year in the first round, but let’s see what happens this time around.