Three biggest questions ahead of the Heat-Bulls play-in game
Can Miami salvage their season once more?
The Miami Heat will host the Chicago Bulls inside the Kaseya Center Friday in a do-or-die battle for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. Let’s dive into the three biggest questions I have ahead of the showdown!
1. Can Miami bounce back on the glass?
The Heat was embarrassed on the glass, getting outrebounded 63-39 and allowing 22 offensive rebounds, including 17 off missed 3-pointers (Atlanta went 10-41 from deep!!!!).
The Hawks also tallied 26 second-chance points — 21 in the second half and 13 in the fourth quarter — to Miami’s six. Clint Capela had eight offensive boards (21 total), Saddiq Bey had four while John Collins and Jalen Johnson had three apiece.
All in all, it was a brutal performance on the backboards for Miami.
While its lack of activity was, in part, a microcosm of its switch-heavy scheme — ultimately putting Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and its other smaller defenders on the likes of Clint Capela near the rim, instead of Adebayo — it simply was also a lack of effort and wherewithal on the glass.
Outside of Adebayo, there weren’t many impactful boxouts with poor disposition, especially on long rebound attempts; Miami was at the wrong end of every 50-50 ball. Tuesday was, by far, its worst rebounding effort in 2022-23 — especially since it finished fourth in defensive rebounding percentage and third in second-chance points allowed per possession in the regular season.
It’s a new day. Can it re-write that script? It has a better shot. Chicago was No. 28 in offensive rebounding percentage and dead last in second-chance points per 100 in the regular season; for perspective, Atlanta was No. 11 in both ORB% and second-chance points per 100.
In their three meetings, Chicago sported a below-average offensive rebounding rate (26.4) with only 24 total second-chance points. Nikola Vucevic has historically rebounded the rock well against Bam Adebayo, but that’s it.
Regardless, a collective effort on the backboards is paramount. Though it *should* fare better against its Friday counterpart.
They’ll need it. “No rebounds, no rings”, a wise man once said.
2. Can Miami slow down DeMar DeRozan?
The most notable Heat killer on Chicago this season was DeMar DeRozan. Here were his stat lines in their three meetings:
24 PTS, 10-15 FG, 2-4 3P, 2-2 FT, 5 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL
24 PTS, 9-14 FG, 6-6 FT, 5 REB, 5 AST
37 PTS, 14-22 FG, 2-3 3P, 7-11 FT, 6 REB, 9 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK
For my math people out there, he averaged 28.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 1.7 steals on 64.7/50.0/78.9 shooting splits — equaling a 68.6 effective field goal percentage and a 71.6 true-shooting percentage. Those marks are unsustainable over a larger sample, but DeRozan’s simply roasted whatever Heat defender’s been in front of him this season.
Jimmy Butler will likely begin on DeRozan (similar to their March 18 meeting), but DeRozan will likely see an array of defenders. How Miami elects to counter mismatches at the nail and in the mid-post could open up lanes and open pockets of space for Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic, Coby White and others to take advantage of. So its help will and subsequent rotations will have to be on-point, even though Chicago’s not a very good offense with a limited amount of capable floor-spacers.
But arguably Miami’s biggest challenge will be *how* it defends LaVine and DeRozan, even though the latter’s clearly had more recent success against Butler, Bam Adebayo and Co.
3. Can they salvage their season once more?
They have one more chance to either score a four-game date with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks for the third time in four years or get sent home packing in a season mired by myriad frustrating inconsistencies after they were expected to be a playoff team.
They have lost the last four playoff games inside their home building and will be going up against a confident, hungry Bulls squad — one who ranked No. 1 in defense post-All-Star break. While, on the other hand, Miami appeared disjointed and, frankly, over everything on Tuesday with a regressing defense and a middling offense.
But that’s the beauty of the postseason. As soon as you might think a certain team is down and out — sometimes they find a way to punch back. That could be the Miami Heat on Friday.
Will they? I’ll leave this up to you.
(I ask the question, draft pick position aside — the players/coaches don’t care about that right now.)
This season has not been kind to our heat.Last year we were no 1 seed.Same team minus pj Tucker and we are not balling out as well. I love my heat win or lose.
I wont be mad, if Heat will lose... and I wont be happy, if Heat win. In first case, house cleaning should start immediately, in second one, there will be two more weeks of torture against Bucks before that.