DeMar Derozan, Zach LaVine and the No. 10 seeded Chicago Bulls completed a fourth quarter comeback to advance past the No. 9 seeded Toronto Raptors. Now, they get an opportunity to play a Miami Heat squad that struggled against the Atlanta Hawks in the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchup. Who will advance to play the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs?
Regular Season Matchups
Bulls at Heat: 10/19/2022
Result: Bulls 116-108 Heat
Bulls F DeMar DeRozan: 37 points, 14-for-22 shooting, six rebounds, nine assists
Heat F Jimmy Butler: 24 points, 5-for-11 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists
Bulls at Heat: 12/20/2022
Result: Bulls 113-103 Heat
Bulls C Nikola Vučević: 29 points, 13-for-17 shooting, 3-for-5 shooting, 12 rebounds
Heat C Bam Adebayo: 27 points, 12-for-15 shooting, 12 rebounds, six assists
Heat at Bulls: 3/18/2023
Result: Bulls 113-99 Heat
Bulls F DeMar DeRozan: 24 points, 10-for-15 shooting, 10 rebounds, five assists
Heat F Jimmy Butler: 24 points, 8-for-13 shooting, 8-for-10 free throw shooting, seven rebounds
How Chicago can win:
Chicago can win this game if they can defend without fouling. The Bulls sent the Raptors to the line way too often, and while Torotono shot 18-for-36 from the free throw line, I doubt the Heat will do the same. Keep in mind that internet sensation and DeRozan’s daughter, Diar DeRozan, will not be in attendance for tonight’s game. Yes, that does play a factor, considering how much noise she was able to make in Toronto.
Offensively, Chicago needs their complimentary pieces to step up and hit open looks. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan only had two players come off the bench and play at least 10 minutes against the Raptors (Patrick Williams & Coby White), and I expect more of the same in this one. All of the attention will be on DeRozan and LaVine, so who can give the Bulls 10-15 points? Can Nikola Vučević have a big night on the interior against Bam Adebayo? How about a guy like Alex Caruso, who hit a big three, late in the fourth quarter in Toronto?
How Miami can win
The Heat have to rebound the ball with far more aggression and intensity against the Bulls. Miami gave up 22, yes 22 offensive rebounds in their loss against the Hawks. Sure, the Bulls don’t have a guy like Clint Capela who is extremely physical on the glass, but they do have athletes that can position themselves well. If Chicago can create second chance looks, the Heat will have no chance in this one.
Jimmy Butler had 21 points against Atlanta, but it was an inefficient scoring night for the six-time All-Star. He was 6-for-19 from the field and 9-for-11 from the free throw line. The Heat need Butler to stay aggressive, but he has to shoot the ball at a higher percentage. Miami got 26 points from Tyler Herro which is great and all, but they need their leader to be the best player on the floor in this one.
Kyle Lowry may come back into the starting five after scoring a season-high 33 points (his most as a member of the Heat) against the Hawks. The 37-year-old has struggled with injuries all season, but it looks as if he may be back to full health. If Lowry can give Miami another 15-20 points, the Bulls will have another guy to worry about.
Game Prediction: Heat 114-109 Bulls
There is absolutely a case to be made for the Bulls to go down to Miami and win this game. Chicago is 7-2 in their last eight contests on the road (including the play-in), which really goes to show how well they are playing as a team right now.
The Bulls overcame a 19-point deficit against the Raptors Wednesday night. While I do believe they have the offensive firepower to do something similar tonight, that will not fly against an experienced Heat team at home.
In the same way though, Miami can ill afford to come out flat in the first quarter again. The Heat did that against the Hawks on Tuesday night and never recovered. DeMar DeRozan and Zack LaVine will have big scoring nights, but it won’t be enough in the end. It is difficult to beat a team four times in one season, something the Bulls would have to do in order to advance.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra will have his group prepared, and I believe both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will show out. The Bulls will remain close until the end, but the Heat will survive and go on to face the No. 1 seeded Milwaukke Bucks in the first round.