Storylines Aplenty, Miami’s Offense vs. Caruso’s Defense, DeMar’s Dominance, and Other Bulls Bullets
Win and you’re in.
As simple as that.
- As if the stakes didn’t feel high enough, this Bulls-Heat matchup is pretty jam-packed with notable storylines. I thought we might as well use these bullets to walk through some of those – starting with the most obvious one.
- I know it’s been seven seasons since Jimmy Butler wore a Chicago Bulls jersey, but ties still run deep. It wasn’t until last year that the organization was able to lift itself out of the dysfunctional rebuild that came with the Butler trade. Not to mention, a key player in that trade has become easily the most essential player on this team’s current roster.
- The Bulls committed to building around Zach LaVine two and a half seasons ago when they cashed in assets for Nikola Vucevic and went on to shockingly sign DeMar DeRozan in free agency. Then, just this past summer, they handed LaVine the largest contract in franchise history. LaVine is now fresh off arguably the most impressive game of his career where he catalyzed the team’s 19-point comeback against Toronto. He can now further prove his status as a worthy franchise centerpiece by beating the guy who helped represent the last era of successful basketball in Chicago. Or … Butler can beat Chicago and continue to make them feel the error of their ways!
- Next biggest storyline: Kyle Lowry vs. DeMar DeRozan. Not only did DeRozan beat the organization that traded him in the first Play-In Tournament game, but he now has the opportunity to beat his old running mate and long-time best friend. While I doubt it will feel as good as knocking the Raptors out of the playoffs, I’m sure it’ll be nice to have this one over Lowry when the two meet for dinner. After all, Lowry got the benefit of being a part of the Raptors’ title run. That’s gotta sting a little.
- Storyline No. 3: Patrick Beverley’s playoff streak is on the line! Minus the season where he was held to just 11 games due to injury in 2017-18, Patrick Beverley has never missed the playoffs. He has 65 career playoff games under his belt and has made it as far as the Western Conference Finals with the Clippers during the 2020-21 season. Just last season, we watched him play a significant role in helping the Timberwolves make it through the Play-In Tournament and into the playoffs. There is just something about this dude that promotes winning basketball.
- Storyline No. 4: Max Strus or Derrick Jones Jr. revenge game!? Ok, this one is kinda dumb, but those are two role players who have gone on to carve out nice roles with their respective teams. If I had to pick one to have an actual revenge-type performance, it would probably be the Heat’s Strus. The Bulls gave the DePaul standout a two-way contract before letting him walk after he tore his ACL. He’s now gone on to appear in 80 games for the Heat this season and become a 37.1 career 3-point shooter. He’s scored at least 20 points in two of his three matchups with the Bulls this season, so the Bulls better keep a close eye on him tonight.
- Alex Caruso was a madman on Wednesday. The Chicago Bulls’ best defender played like exactly that against the Raptors, finishing the night with 3 steals and 3 blocks. Two of those steals came in the team’s valiant 4th quarter effort, as did a stretch where he scored seven-straight points to help give the Bulls the lead. Speaking of which, I wrote a little bit more about the importance of that moment here:
- If the Bulls win tonight, I have to imagine it’s because we got another signature Caruso game. The Heat offense already isn’t very good, so there is a lot of room for Caruso to make his presence felt. I’ll be curious to see who he spends the majority of his time guarding. In the previous contests, I believe he took on the Herro matchup for a lot of the game. But I think you simply have to put your best defender on Playoff Jimmy, right?
- If we’re being honest, though, defense may not be the priority in this one. While it’s never good to necessarily head into a matchup with this mindset, Miami does feel like a team you can beat by merely outscoring them. They’ve only averaged 103.3 points per game in their three battles with the Bulls and have the 25th-ranked offense in the NBA. As long as the starters do their thing, all it might take is a decent night from either Coby White or Patrick Williams from the field to pull this one off.
- Speaking of the starters doing their thing, DeMar DeRozan has feasted on Miami’s defense this year. He’s averaged 28.3 points per game to go along with 8.0 assists. I have to imagine Erik Spoelstra has something up his sleeve when it comes to guarding the six-time All-Star (maybe more zone?), but I guess we’ll see if that makes any real difference.
- WE WANT DIAR! WE WANT DIAR! WE WANT DIAR!
- A little preview of tonight’s action:
- Carlik Jones dominated the G-League this year.
- The Bulls’ potential first-round matchup is about to finalize a sale.
- No Play-In for the Blackhawks!?
- Fine by me!