The Miami HEAT face the Chicago Bulls Saturday night at United Center. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What was your view on how the game in Detroit slipped away?
Couper Moorhead: This was a weird one. For as much as Miami was getting in its own way Friday night, with 19 turnovers and 5-of-19 shooting from the free-throw line, once Andre Drummond was announced as out for the game at halftime after taking a blow to the face and Detroit subsequently score 12 points in the third quarter, this felt like the prototypical game that Miami finds a way to steal on the road with defense and effort. And yet, Detroit recovered to score 33 points in the fourth as they found enough jumpers and rode Blake Griffin’s highest usage rate since the 2013-14 season.
Every team has games like this, especially in the middle of a January road trip, but what felt so off about it was that the HEAT have so regularly found ways to grind out wins out of sub-optimal situations. In some ways, this felt more out of the ordinary for them than the blowout loss to Milwaukee a few nights before, which was just as much about a great team playing great than anything else.
Joe Beguiristain: It was a tough loss to take, given how the HEAT stormed all the way back in the third quarter to take the lead after falling behind by as many as 16 points.
As Erik Spoelstra stated after the game, Miami played with more force and intensity in the second half. And while Tyler Johnson did his thing in the third, Dwyane Wade went into his bag of tricks early and often. After posting-up Luke Kennard throughout the first half, the wily vet attacked the basket down the stretch and continued to find his teammates with some nice passes.
That said, Detroit hit some timely threes late and drilled all of its free throws in the fourth to stay ahead for most of the quarter. And on a night where the HEAT turned over the ball often and struggled from the charity stripe, the Pistons took care of their own business to ensure the victory.
2: What did we learn about this matchup the last time these teams met?
Couper: The HEAT led by 21 points at halftime and by as much as 26 overall, despite being 5-of-18 from deep at the break, but Chicago worked its way back within four in the final period thanks to timely scoring from Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker before Miami closed things out. That games also feels like 10 years ago given the changes to the HEAT’s rotation since then – though Goran Dragić didn’t play in this one either – but most notably Justin Holiday has since been traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, and Holiday shot 5-of-10 from three in a game where his team was only 7-of-28 overall. Chicago didn’t have Portis, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen or promising rookie Chandler Hutchison, either, so this game effectively took place in a different universe. Fresh slate on both sides Saturday night.
Joe: While both teams have changed quite a bit since that last meeting on Nov. 23, we learned that the Bulls have some weapons despite their poor record and abysmal offensive rating.
Zach LaVine, who leads Chicago in scoring, poured in 24 points against Miami, while Jabari Parker recorded a double-double with 23 points and 10 boards. And now with Lauri Markkanen back in the fold, that makes things even more challenging (though Parker will come off the bench this time around).
Thanks to Markkanen’s ability to score from both inside and outside, the Finn has averaged 20 points per game on 46.9 percent shooting over his past three contests. As such, it’ll be fun to see guys like James Johnson and Derrick Jones Jr. try to slow down the talented 21-year-old.
3: How will the absence of Wendell Carter Jr. affect Saturday night’s game?
Couper: While Carter Jr. was having a strong rookie year before recent thumb surgery put him on the shelf for 8-12 weeks, we’re not going to pretend that this is a major, All-Star level loss for the Bulls. Instead, this is about the direction the Bulls are going in and what it means for their rotation. Carter Jr. had been starting for the Bulls, and instead of replacing him with center Robin Lopez, Chicago is focused on developing their young core so they are opting to start the undersized Bobby Portis alongside Lauri Markkanen in the frontcourt. Lopez is still playing – for all we know he’ll actually start Saturday night against Hassan Whiteside – but it’s been a bench role. Then there’s Jabari Parker who had fallen out of the rotation for a time this season, but now with Portis starting Parker slides into the backup four spot. So losing Carter Jr. hurts, but the Bulls are in the unique position where, for the short term at least, his injury actually helps sort out a rotation that was a little clogged in the frontcourt.
Joe: Carter Jr.’s absence makes things a little tougher for the Bulls, but they do have viable options in his stead like Coup stated above. And if Chicago opts to rehash what it did in Denver on Thursday, then that means Head Coach Jim Boylen will roll with Bobby Portis in the starting lineup with Robin Lopez as his backup.
Although Portis struggled with his shot that last time out against the Nuggets, Lopez made some noise off the bench with 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and six boards. It’s also important to note that Lopez has the best defensive rating on the team, so he needs to be accounted for on both ends of the floor.
We’ll see how it all plays out.
- The HEAT have won five of their last six against the Bulls, including a 103-96 victory on Nov. 23.
- Miami is 21-22 on the year, while Chicago has dropped 10 of 11 and enters the contest at 10-35.
- Dwyane Wade is averaging 14.5 points and 4.5 assists per game on 59.1 percent shooting over his past four outings.
- Zach LaVine leads the Bulls in scoring at 22.8 points per contest.
- HEAT Offense: 106.3 (22)
- HEAT Defense: 106.3 (7)
- Bulls Offense: 101.0 (30)
- Bulls Defense: 111.5 (24)