(Photo credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports)
The Miami Heat bring a seven-game winning streak to Chicago for a Saturday matchup with the slumping Bulls.
The catalyst behind Miami's longest surge since the 2017-18 season: a complementary style.
"We're playing together basketball and we're competing on the other end, getting stops and running in transition," Heat center Bam Adebayo said.
Chicago can relate in part despite a three-game skid that includes consecutive home losses to Miami's in-state counterpart, the Orlando Magic.
After scoring just 33 points in the first half on both Wednesday and Friday, the NBA season low for points before halftime, the Bulls challenged the Magic down the stretch both times, only to falter.
Orlando left town with victories by scores of 96-94 and 103-97.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants his team to accelerate its pace.
"I think generally when you're not playing with great pace, you're not going to generate great shots," Donovan said Friday. "We've just got to find a way to play the way we did in the second half. And I'm not even necessarily talking about that we were mistake-free, but just the force and pace we played with at both ends.
"We've got to be able to establish that the whole game, because we're certainly digging ourselves incredible holes to come from."
Zach LaVine scored 25 of his 34 points after halftime to spark the Bulls on Saturday. DeMar DeRozan, back in the lineup after missing the Wednesday game to attend to a personal issue, had 23 points. Alex Caruso followed with 18 points, while Nikola Vucevic posted 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Donovan said that scurrying to recover from slow starts is "a tough way to live" and not sustainable as the Bulls try to end their skid.
"I think when they play like they did in the second half, it's inspiring to watch," Donovan said.
The Heat are playing inspired ball on the road, as four victories during the streak have come away from Miami. They begin a five-game road trip in Chicago, where they will play on both Saturday and Monday.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra is reminding his players that they can't take their recent successes for granted.
"That's done. That's over with," he said. "That doesn't guarantee anything moving forward, other than the fact that we're building some better habits."
Miami is coming off its 122-115 home win against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday. Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 36 points, including 18 in the third quarter.
"A great job for us is getting (the ball) in Jimmy's hands," Spoelstra said.
Two other Heat starters scored in double figures, as Duncan Robinson (26 points) and Adebayo (20) contributed to a balanced attack. Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 10 points off the bench.
The Bulls have won three straight against the Heat, including last season's lone meeting in Chicago, a 14-point victory. Chicago swept the season series with Miami for the first time since 2010-11.
--Field Level Media