Another day … another battle against one of the NBA’s best.
Get used to it.
• The Chicago Bulls are on the hunt for a statement win, and tonight presents as good of an opportunity as any to earn one. After coming up just short against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Bulls will have a chance to bounce back against a formidable Miami Heat team. These two squads have continued to flip-flop the No. 1 seed in recent weeks, with Miami currently holding a 1.0 game advantage thanks to this weekend’s 133-129 shootout victory against the San Antonio Spurs. A win tonight for the Bulls could go a long way considering Miami’s similarly tough upcoming schedule. After battling the Bulls tonight, the Bucks, Nets, 76ers, Suns, and Cavaliers make up five of the Heat’s next six games.
• Miami gets to claim the tiebreaker advantage over the Bulls thanks to victories in late November and mid-December. In both matchups, the Bulls had plenty of trouble with the Heat’s 6th-ranked defense, coughing up at least 16 turnovers in each game. They also struggled to find any kind of true offensive rhythm, as they shot a dismal 11-39 from 3-point range in the first meeting and 37.3 percent from the field in the second meeting. Even more frustrating was the fact that this most recent loss to the Heat came without Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo on the floor. The Bulls may have been without DeMar DeRozan, but it was still no excuse to let guys like Dwayne Dedmon and Duncan Robinson combine for 46 points.
• One piece of good news is Nikola Vucevic has broken out of the slump he was in over the first two months of the season. He combined for just 17 points over the first two games on a 6-24 shooting performance. If he can simply play closer to the big man that has averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds since the start of 2022, the Bulls should have a much better chance at pulling off the victory. The bad news, however, is big man Bam Adebayo has a defensive estimated plus-minus that ranks in the NBA’s 99th percentile, per Dunks & Threes. As one of the best frontcourt defenders in the league, he can make 2022 Vucevic look like 2021 Vucevic real fast, especially if the big man isn’t at 100 percent tonight. Vucevic found his way onto the most recent injury report with an ankle sprain. He’s still listed as probable for tonight’s action, but there is no question that could impact his play.
• While Adebayo and his teammates allowed the fewest points in the paint per game, they do have a slight problem with sending players to the free-throw line (allow 8th-most free-throw attempts per game). The team’s naturally aggressive defense is something a crafty player like DeRozan or downhill threat like LaVine should be able to take advantage of.
• The Bulls will dodge Kyle Lowry tonight. The point guard who is averaging 13.4 points, 7.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game will sit out due to personal reasons. Miami has been one of the most resilient teams when it comes to playing without their star talent, so while the absence of Lowry certainly hurts, it probably doesn’t increase the Bulls’ chance of taking home the victory as much as we’d like it to.
Heat injury report for Monday vs. Bulls:
Kyle Lowry, Out, Personal Reasons
Markieff Morris, Out, neck
Victor Oladipo, Out, G League assignment
Javonte Smart, Out, G League – Two-Way
Caleb Martin, Questionable, Achilles
(Oladipo expected to rejoin team Wednesday in Milwaukee.)
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) February 27, 2022
• I hope Coby White is hungry for extra buckets tonight. Tyler Herro is a front-runner for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, averaging 20.3 points with 4.8 rebounds off the bench this season. He has given this defensive-minded Heat team real balance, helping ensure that a legitimately high-level scoring threat is almost always on the floor. White may not be as consistent as Herro, but we all know he has a similar hot hand. And the Bulls’ second unit will need it tonight.
• As Chicagoland changes its mandate, the United Center follows suit. The arena will, once again, accept proof of a negative test to attend games. You will also no longer be required to wear a mask upon entry, but they do note that it’s still recommended.
United Center announcement pic.twitter.com/B9adh0sOOB
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 28, 2022
• Speaking of changing mandates, New York City is also on the brink of ending a handful of their restrictions, which would open the door for Kyrie Irving to return as a full-time player. As someone who has averaged 25.9 points and 5.3 assists per game, that would be a major boost for a Nets team that is trying to climb its way out of the Play-In Tournament.
Here's interpretation on NYC Mayor's announcement: Kyrie Irving remains restricted from playing under NYC mandate for large employers, but March 7 loosening of Key2NYC mandate is another step in what's expected to be an inevitability Irving will be cleared to play this season.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 27, 2022
• HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CARUSHOW! I SHALL GIFT YOU MY WRIST!
My triple threat pose >>> 😭🥳 https://t.co/t4cGmWUZhk
— Alex Caruso (@ACFresh21) February 28, 2022
• *slow claps*
DeMar DeRaisin. pic.twitter.com/7H2WPoManT
— nba paint (@nba_paint) February 26, 2022
• You can’t tell me this isn’t witchcraft.
I’m sorry, what? 😳 pic.twitter.com/gUaURwCCpt
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 28, 2022
• Mario might be gone, but our Blackhawks coverage continues! Patrick is taking over control for the next few weeks, so make sure to stay tuned in!
Blackhawks Roster Moves: Josiah Slavin and Isaak Phillips Back to Rockfordhttps://t.co/kwQVB0Qosg
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) February 28, 2022