Miami held Chicago to 37 percent shooting on the way to beating the Bulls 103-92 on Thursday night, pushing its home winning streak to a season-best eight games and cutting the magic number for clinching a playoff spot to one.
“I think we’re pretty solid on defense right now,” said Heat guard Josh Richardson, who led all scorers with 22 points. “But it can be better.”
Goran Dragic added 17 points for Miami, which got 13 from Justise Winslow and 11 from Kelly Olynyk. The Heat (41-35) moved within a half-game of Washington for the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race; the Wizards lost at Detroit earlier Thursday, an outcome that meant Miami will have to wait at least a couple more days to clinch.
“I want to start the playoffs right away,” Dragic said. “But first, we need to take care of business and be professional.”
The Heat need one more win or one more Detroit loss to wrap up their 20th postseason trip in 30 seasons. The Pistons are in New York on Saturday, in a game that should be over before the start of Miami’s home game against Brooklyn.
Bulls center Robin Lopez was ejected after picking up a pair of technicals with 8:43 remaining, ending his 13-point, six-rebound night. The Bulls dropped their seventh straight, making this the third losing streak that lasted at least that long for Chicago this season.
Lopez had plenty to say to the officials as he walked off the floor, gesturing and pointing as he yelled his case.
David Nwaba scored 15 points, Noah Vonleh added 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Bobby Portis ended up with 13 points and 16 rebounds for Chicago.
Miami – which lost guard Tyler Johnson to an ankle injury during the first half – led most of the way, trailing for only 14 seconds in the opening quarter. The Bulls didn’t make it easy, getting within four late in the third and cutting what was a 19-point deficit down to 12 after Lopez’s ejection.
But Olynyk answered with six straight points for Miami, part of a 48-point Heat bench effort.
Heat center Hassan Whiteside returned from a nine-game absence with a hip problem, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds in just under 20 minutes.
“It’s just good to have him back,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Whiteside.
– Associated Press