Miami Heat ride Goran Dragic, James Johnson to top Chicago Bulls

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 24: (L-R) Kelly Olynyk /

The Miami Heat win their third game in a row and overcome a franchise-worst first quarter, to pick up another road win against the Chicago Bulls.

As they say, it’s not how you start but how you finish.

The Miami Heat stumbled into a sleepy Sunday matinee with the Chicago Bulls, the worst team in the NBA, and overcame a franchise-worst start. The Heat scored  just 7 points in the first quarter, but managed to win their third consecutive game, 100-93. The team now returns to over .500, for the first time since they were 2-1.

The first quarter was as bad as advertised. The Heat and Bulls played to an entirely uneventful, unwatchable 13-7 finish after twelve minutes, with the 20 combined points ranking as the third worst quarter in NBA history. The Bulls made just 4 of their first 24 shots and the Heat weren’t far behind, with just 2 of their first 18.

From there, both teams would settle in and the Heat looked more like the team that dismantled the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, despite sitting Hassan Whiteside for most of the second half. His left knee, which has caused him discomfort earlier in the week, forced him to the bench.

While much of the game was frustratingly back and forth, the Heat put it away in the fourth quarter thanks to Goran Dragic and James Johnson, who led the team on both ends of the floor to sink the Bulls.

The Heat played just five players throughout the entire final period, as Dragic scored 14 and Johnson dominated his matchup against the lesser Paul Zipser to the tune of 11 points . He also added 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Wayne Ellington also continued his hot shooting, cashing in 5 3’s in his 30 minutes.

While this game could be largely irritating given that after two impressive wins against the Boston Celtics and Minnesota, the Heat came out against the worst this league has to offer and didn’t capitalize, they did answer every Bulls run. What should’ve been a relatively easy afternoon in the Windy City turned into a typical Miami Heat grind, but this is an important step for this team. After several stagnant second halves that saw them surrender big leads, the Heat stood tall and put the Bulls away.

And they did it with their trademarks–defense and 3-point shooting–two factors that will take the Heat to the promise they spoke of all offseason but haven’t put into practice so far.

Josh Richardson continues to be one of the Heat’s best defensive players, posting a 66 defensive rating in his 24 minutes. Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Whiteside all posted defensive ratings under 70 as well.

Ellington (5) and Dragic (4) did the heavy lifting from downtown, but Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Waiters also chipped in to the team total of 13, including five in the fourth quarter.

After three wins in a row, the Heat can confidently say they’ve found their formula for winning consistently. Much like it was against Boston and Minnesota, this win came thanks to a collective effort and total resolve in the face of numerous runs by the Bulls.

Next: What happened to Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington?

Next up, they face a much bigger test as the streaking Cleveland Cavaliers play host on Tuesday night.