Big second half powers Heat
MIAMI — Dwyane Wade wanted Miami to view Thursday night as a close-out opportunity, a chance for the Heat to essentially finish off a Chicago team desperate to keep its season alive.
In short, a dress rehearsal for any series-clinching scenarios that might await in the playoffs. It went exactly to Wade's liking.
Wade scored 21 points, Joe Johnson added 17 and the Heat beat the Bulls 106-98, putting up 66 points in the second half and making big defensive plays to pull away down the stretch.
"At this time of year, you have to use certain situations to try to prepare us because we've never been there together as a team," Wade said. "This was one of those situations."
Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside each had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, which has 14 consecutive games of scoring 100 or more at home — the second-longest such streak in franchise history.
Luol Deng scored 13, Josh Richardson had 11 and Amare Stoudemire added 10 for the Heat (46-32), who remained fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Jimmy Butler scored 25 points for the Bulls (39-40), who now need a series of miracles to get into the postseason. Pau Gasol finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Derrick Rose scored 17 for Chicago, which could be officially eliminated as early as Friday.
"Obviously it's not the way that we wanted," Butler said. "I think everybody thinks about it each and every day. It probably keeps everybody up late, I know it does for me. But we can't change it now. It is what it is."
Rose had a chance at a layup that would have given Chicago the lead with 3:50 left, only to see it blocked by Whiteside to set up a three-point play by Wade and a 90-86 Heat lead.
Moments later, Butler thought he saw someone open in the corner but his pass was deflected for a steal by Wade, leading to more Heat points as Miami kept pulling away.
HAWKS 95, RAPTORS 87: At Atlanta, Jeff Teague scored 23 points, Kyle Korver added 14 and Atlanta held off Toronto. It was one of the season's best performances for the Hawks, who remained in third place in the Eastern Conference by beating the East's No. 2 seed. The Hawks have won 16 of 21 and are a half-game ahead of Boston for the third spot in the East.
SUNS 124, ROCKETS 115: At Houston, Mirza Teletovic scored 26 points off the bench, P.J. Tucker added 24 and Phoenix dealt another blow to Houston's dwindling playoff chances. It was the second straight loss for the Rockets, who entered the day in ninth place in the Western Conference.
TIMBERWOLVES 105, KINGS 97: At Sacramento, Gorgui Dieng had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Zach LaVine and Nemanja Bjelica also scored 18 points, and Minnesota beat Sacramento. The Timberwolves led for most of the game in following up their victory at Golden State by sweeping the four-game series against the Kings.