At the start of the Chicago Bulls’ 113-99 victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday night, which, combined with losses to the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards, pushed the Bulls to a 1 ½ game lead in the 10th seed, Patrick Beverley made two big plays on same possession.
First, Beverley sprawled on a full out to save a loose ball from going out of bounds. He then drew a foul from Tyler Herro after going high for an offensive rebound.
The United Center erupted in approval.
“It’s electrifying, especially at home. It gets the crowd going,” DeMar DeRozan said of the sequence. “You have to feed off of that when you see a guy sacrifice himself for big plays and save possessions. It is transferred from there.’
But lest you think Beverley is just a quick guy and a defensive player, how does a season-high five-pointer sound?
With the constant Heat traps of DeRozan and Zach LaVIne, Beverley scored 17 points. That included a streak of 11 straight points in the second quarter in which Beverley attacked the crowd, which again roared its approval.
“I’m just having fun, getting lost in basketball. Just like you do when you’re up at night writing a story. Put on the little headphones. You catch the mood and get lost in your craft,” Beverly said humorously, referring to reporters. “I’m lucky enough to play with DeMar and Zach. No one can guard them so you have to get something and I guess it’s PatBev. I like it that way.”
Beverly exudes confidence and leadership. And his impact has been undeniable since the hometown product joined the Bulls, who are 7-4 since his arrival.
“It should be 9-2,” Beverly said. “I think the team that really beat us was Phoenix — and Toronto. We have to be better.”
Earlier, when asked how the Heat cut the Bulls’ lead from 27 points to 3 points just over midway through the fourth quarter, Beverley again showed his leadership skills.
“Any misfortune is good,” he said. “It’s going to help us throughout the playoffs.”
Notice Beverly’s verb tense.
Beverley is averaging 6.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range since joining the Bulls. But his impact extends far beyond the results in the box and in the locker room.
“I just love his presence, his competitiveness,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The way he goes in against each other and tells the guys, ‘We have to be ready to play.’ I love his message and his disposition and the way he is every day. He has a great engine, great enthusiasm, loves the game and loves to compete. I love being around him.
“He’s a really genuine guy, a straight guy. I just love his passion. It helped our team. I don’t know if it has changed our team.”
DeRozan said he has.
“A different type of leadership,” DeRozan said. “A constant voice. He has played with some great players. See the list. He’s played with Hall of Famers who know how to play the game. He is the way he is for a reason. He earned this reputation for being tough and vocal.”
Beverley downplayed his influence.
“Nothing’s changed. I just got a coach who believes in me and understands what I bring to the game,” he said. “I’m lucky to play under a coach like Billy. When you have a coach like that who believes in you, you don’t want to disappoint him. I’m having fun out there.”
The Bulls tied their season high with 34 assists and shot 56.2 percent, including 50 percent of 34 3-point attempts. Considering they prevailed in Friday’s double overtime against Minnesota with players logging heavy minutes, the way the Bulls opened with 33 first-quarter points and a double-digit lead was remarkable.
Even more remarkable was not blinking in the face of disaster when the Heat made their inevitable run. The Bulls put six players in double figures, with DeRozan tying his season high of 10 assists. Kobe White and Patrick Williams hit big shots in the fourth quarter.
It was a team win on a night when the Bulls lost Alex Caruso to yet another injury, a re-aggravation of his left medial foot sprain.
“It was a professional win,” Beverly said. “We knew it was a must win after a double OT game. We didn’t want to go out in the mud. We wanted to throw the first punch. We did it. They responded as any good team would. Our first shot was really hard, so we were able to withstand their shots.”
However, Beverley could not withstand one blow — an unintentional poke in the eye from teammate Nikola Vucevic. This forced Donovan to close with Williams for Beverly.
“I think Vooch tried to pay me back for Detroit,” Beverley said, humorously referencing the time Vucevic lashed out at Beverley, pointing to a blown defensive cover between the two players. “I guess we’re even now.”
The Bulls haven’t been even since Beverly joined them. They were a winning team.
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