LaVine, Mirotic score in a hurry as Bulls end Miami's win streak
A breeze could be felt along press row when Nikola Mirotic kicked a courtside towel in frustration and it sailed about 10 feet through the air.
The kick happened with 9:04 left in the fourth quarter of Monday's game at the United Center and, at the time, Mirotic was scoreless. After that, he heated up in a hurry, scoring all 18 of his points in the final quarter as the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat 119-111.
Miami (25-18), playing the second of back-to-back games, saw its seven-game win streak snapped. The Bulls (17-27), meanwhile, improved to 14-7 since Dec. 8.
Zach LaVine continued to be efficient in his second game back from knee surgery. He scored 18 points in 20 minutes, hitting 7 of 11 shots from the field while adding 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
"I thought our guys did a good job of getting out early, having a really good first quarter to get the tempo in our favor and Zach had a lot to do with that," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Mirotic knew what day it was -- Jan. 15, the date when he could officially be traded. Because he signed a new contract with the Bulls just before training camp began, by league rule, he couldn't be dealt until now.
There have been plenty of rumors about possible Mirotic destinations, but the trade deadline isn't until Feb. 8. So no one really knows what's going to happen, especially him.
"This is kind of motivation for me," Mirotic said in the locker room. "I know it sounds weird. I know people are talking, 'OK, Niko will be gone. Bye bye, Niko,' whatever. But for me, it's 'OK, just do what you've got to do. Play well. Try to do your best until the last day and not be distracted.
"I know a lot of people were asking me before this, 'OK Niko, Jan. 15's coming, what are you thinking?' No, I'm not thinking about Jan. 15, I'm thinking about day by day, doing my job, being consistent. That's my goal, because when I focus day by day, it's for me easier."
Asked if he's been getting updates about the situation from his agent, Mirotic said he doesn't want any.
"I don't talk to him that much," Mirotic said. "I told them, 'Listen guys, if you have some news, call me. Don't call me just to confuse my mind or something like that because I want to be focused and playing basketball. That's all I'm doing."
One argument for trading Mirotic is he's so similar to rookie Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls don't need both players. But Monday's game was another example of the Bulls finishing with both Mirotic and Markkanen on the floor. That lineup is tough to guard, with two outside-shooting big men, and has been largely successful. Why not continue using that combination?
"I agree 100 percent with you," Mirotic said. "I'm very excited when we are both in together. So far we are having a lot of success finishing those games, Lauri and me.
"Sometimes it's not about you, it's not about what you want, what you think. It's about what they think, what they want to do for the future. I understand this is all business and I will be fine with whatever decision they make. But the idea of playing Lauri and me, I think it's great. It's new basketball, something that's in fashion right now."
The 3-point oriented offense is working for the Bulls right now. They hit 16 of 39 from long range against Miami, setting a franchise record with nine consecutive games with at least 10 made 3-pointers.
Justin Holiday led the Bulls with 25 points Monday by hitting a 7 of 11 attempts from 3-point range. Mirotic certainly fits the Bulls' offensive style.
"I want to control what I can control. Let's see what's going to happen," Mirotic said. "Hopefully it's going to keep a few more games, at least, especially that Golden State game (Wednesday) because I want to play. It's going to be a fun game."