The good news for the Miami Heat is that to advance out of the play-in round, you only have to win one game in a row.
Because anything extended at the moment appears to be out of the reach of Erik Spoelstra’s team.
Failing for the second time in 10 days to produce the team’s first three-game winning streak in a month, the Heat instead fell 113-99 Saturday night to the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
And in a season of bad losses in good spots, this one was right up there.
Not only were the Heat coming off two days’ rest, idle since Wednesday night’s home blowout victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, but the Bulls were coming off a double-overtime home victory a night earlier.
And yet, until late, it was as if the Heat were the team lacking legs, ending the season series at 0-3 against the Bulls.
While a late rally did draw the Heat within three in the fourth, it was the classic case of a team running out of fuel.
The rested team.
Not the other that had played a night earlier to their last breath.
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 24 points and seven rebounds, with Bam Adebayo closing with 23 points and seven rebounds, and Tyler Herro with 15 points. But otherwise there was little in reserve beyond Max Strus’ 20 points off the bench.
Five Degrees of Heat from Saturday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Bulls led 33-19 after the first quarter and 70-45 at halftime, when the Heat were 5 of 20 on 3-pointers, with the Bulls 9 of 17 from beyond the arc.
The Heat then went down 27, put together a 15-0 third-quarter run to move within 12, and trailed 90-77 going into the fourth.
From there, the Heat moved within 93-90 with 8:43 left on a Herro 3-pointer, only to see a barrage of Bulls 3-pointers put it away.
2. Heaviest lifting: Butler again did his part, maintaining his competitiveness even when all around him was going south.
Not only did Butler have 24 points entering the fourth, but he stood 8 of 11 at that stage, with the rest of his teammates 19 of 51. He also was 8 of 11 from the line through three periods.
Butler’s final rest ended with 7:04 left and the Heat within 98-92.
But that’s when the Bulls got 3-pointers from Coby White and DeMar DeRozan to push to a 104-94 lead.
3. Waiting game: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra declined to specify why Kyle Lowry was held out Saturday instead of the second night of the back-to-back set Sunday in Detroit.
Lowry has played three games since missing 15 in a row due to knee pain.
“Because this was part of the plan,” Spoelstra said. “This is what we planned on during the week and we’re sticking with the plan.
“We’ll see where we go from here. But this is the plan for this week. We’re formulating the plan for next week and we’ll see where we go from there.”
4. Strus steps up: Back in his hometown, Strus provided a bench boost when there otherwise was little in support for the Heat’s starters.
Included in the DePaul product’s night was a four-point play with 10:14 to play that drew the Heat within six.
Speaking of the bench, with Lowry out, Victor Oladipo returned to the Heat mix after being held out Wednesday against the Grizzlies for the first time due to coach’s decision this season.
Oladipo entered for the first time with 3:43 remaining in the opening period, at point guard, a position where he appears to largely be miscast.
5. All these years: When it comes to chips on shoulders, Bulls guard Patrick Beverley has enough to stock a casino. He never forgets.
That includes when, ahead of the start of the Big Three run in 2010, the Heat signed Jerry Stackhouse and kept Eddie House, making Beverley their final cut ahead of the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era.
Beverley has often spoken about it since, further fueled when the Heat bypassed him on last month’s buyout market.
So there he was Saturday night, not only draining four first-half 3-pointers, but at one point also mocking the Heat’s undersized lineup with a two-small gesture after driving for a basket.
Beverley’s aggression eventually got the best of him, forced to the bench with his fifth foul with 7:14 to play in the third period.