In a game where the Miami Heat looked to extend their winning streak to eight straight victories, Miami could not ask for a better start, jumping out to a 22-1 lead on a reeling Chicago Bulls team that is already dealing with trade rumors.
Although the Heat landed a haymaker to start the game, the Bulls were able to creep back into the game and get within striking distance in the fourth quarter where Miami has struggled throughout the season.
And in the final period, a combination of turnovers, stagnant offense, and defensive breakdowns caused Miami to be outscored 34-21 in the final period, leading to their seven game winning streak being snapped Saturday night in Chicago as they were defeated 102-97.
"They [Chicago] outplayed us down the stretch, they really stepped up their defense going down the stretch," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said postgame.
Miami entered the fourth quarter with an eight point lead and expanded their lead to double digits with a Josh Richardson three-pointer putting Miami up 82-72 with 8:39 left.
But tough shot making from Colby White, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan jump-started the Bulls offense, leading to a barrage of threes which caused Miami's defense to space out and put them in isolation situations with their best scorers.
There have been many instances this season where Miami has either blown leads completely or nearly lost leads in the fourth quarter, leading them to have the second worst point differential in the fourth.
A major reason has been a slippage of the defense. Before enterting the fourth quarter, Chicago only had nine threes total and did not have a quarter where they scored above 30.
The script suddenly flipped on Miami, and the Bulls went on to hit seven threes and score 34 points in the fourth.
Even then, Miami held onto the lead for a majority of the game until the final minute when Alex Caurso hit a three-pointer to put Chicago up 97-94.
Miami's offense then came down to Jimmy Butler hero-ball. It paid off the first time, as Butler scored seven straight points including a three to knot the game at 97.
But the results of Butler's next two attempts doomed Miami, with the first being a game-winning attempt that resulted in an airball, and the second being game-tying attempt in the corner leading to a miss and dagger free-throws from DeMar DeRozan.
Butler has been letting his teammates know that he's been shooting at a high level from three-point range as he hoisted up the number 50 to represent his three-point percentage.
But Butler isn't known to be a sharpshooter, and the final two attempts for Butler led to bad misses that ended up dooming Miami.
"We started out great, we're known for doing that, and then we let it get easy on them, and they made shots," Butler said.
This is now multiple instances where Miami has lost their way in the fourth quarter, costing the Heat their seven-game winning streak along with games they were in control. The good news for Miami is they have plenty of time to fix their late game execution and hopefully put a stop to an issue that can cost them crucial games in the long run.