[Thanks to Bullieving in Miami again. Spots available for upcoming games, so sign up! -yfbb]
Derrick Rose pulled groin in fourth quarter last night and won't play tonight, Hoiberg says.— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) March 11, 2016
Currently the Ninth seed in the East, coming off a loss at San Antonio the night before, and just 10 days after suffering a shellacking at the hands of this very same opponent, the Bulls look for a win in their third meeting of the season against the Miami Heat.
Those pesky Heat have now won 8 out of 11 since the break and are seemingly finding their rhythm. As roles are becoming more clearly defined along with good health the Heat look poised to be a challenger in an Eastern Conference that is still wide open aside from maybe the Calves. However, just like with the matchup back on March 1st, "good health" for the Heat comes with a disclaimer. Chris Bosh released a statement Thursday, our first real update on this situation. So at least dude ain't gonna die or anything, yet there is still no timetable for his return to action. There is some debate amongst Heat fans regarding whether this team is better without Chris Bosh. Look, I think it is difficult to suggest any team is better without an 11-time All-Star in the lineup. However, there are some signs as to why folks would argue such a thing.
The Heat have made a shift in their gameplan which has helped catapult them into this current string of success. The most obvious is their pace. Before the ASB the Heat were next-to-last in the league as far as pace is concerned. That, in combination with a league-worst conversion rate from deep, equaled the second-fewest PPG in the league (do the Sixers even count as an NBA team...). Since the break the Heat have upped their pace from 94.67 to right at 100 in those 11 games, good enough for middle-of-the-pack. The Heat are getting out and running with Goran Dragic more while generating more looks overall which means better looks altogether. Suddenly the Heat are the 8th-highest scoring team in the league after the break, having surpassed 100 points in all but two of those 11 games. I suppose the question becomes can Chris Bosh fit into this up-and-down style the play the Heat have adapted. Dwyane Wade seemed reluctant at first but has since adjusted after witnessing the early returns and taking notice of the current success the team in enjoying.
Just to compare, the Bulls actually rank higher than the Heat in pace, even since the All-Star break. However, there is no Wade, or Dragic, or Joe Johnson, or Whiteside... or Deng (cries) on this current Bulls team. All those players I just mentioned on the Heat can all affect the game in various ways, whether it's Wade with his creative scoring and playmaking, or Dragic with his shooting, creating, and finishing at the rim, something he's always excelled at. Joe Johnson can shoot and still Iso-Joe from time to time as well as create opportunities for others. Whiteside, well, we Bulls fans know all too well by this point the multitude of ways this knucklehead can hurt the Bulls as he seems to have a huge game every time these two teams meet. Honestly, it is hard to find a player putting up better numbers than Whiteside is at the moment. Since the ASB, this guy is posting 18.5 PPG, 15 RPG, 4 BPG, and even hitting his free throws at over 80%. He is having a huge impact right now and if he keeps his head on straight is a game changer. Let me remind you all that this guy was playing in Lebanon just over a year ago. But man, we really needed to have Nazr at the end of the bench. Whatever. I'm over it.
So the Bulls gave it their all last night against the Spurs. Seems like the GarPax era has been defined by a "try hard" group, except this team used to be a contender. Now, I suppose they're still a try-hard group but with no defensive identity whatsoever and no players who can truly impact the game at both ends, at least not until Jimmy returns at full-strength. How can the Bulls win this game? By a sheer miracle, that's how. Maybe we should all resort to scoreboard watching at this point for those that actually have an interest in seeing this team in the playoffs. Hey, look at that, the Pistons are playing the Hornets tonight in a bout of Eastern Conference heavyweights!
Believe it or not, even with all this glowing praise of the Heat they are actually coming off a loss at the hands of the Bucks a couple nights ago in Milwaukee. The Heat still managed to shoot over 52% from the field, so their hot shooting continues. The Bucks did find success in the paint against the Heat, amassing 66 points in the key, compared to the 48 the Bulls accounted for in that game 10 days ago. So even though Whiteside can be a terror defending the rim (ask Dougie) he still didn't get a block until the 4th quarter in the last meeting between these two teams and the Heat's interior D can still be exploited. Perhaps in our wildest dreams Pau will man up tonight and get deep in the post, or Taj will go bonkers. Give us something, guys! Please!
The Bucks also beat the Bulls in transition points, so maybe Derrick Rose will resurrect the Showtime Lakers (Pau was a Laker, right?) and just be a one-man track meet.
Some stuff was said Thursday, including that Jimmy could possibly play tonight, but I highly doubt it. Why rush him back when this game could be a struggle. Combine that with the Raptors looming on Monday and I say rest Jimmy to get him ready for Monday against a team the Bulls usually play tough and then suddenly the schedule lightens up with 7 straight games against softer competition and before you know it the Bulls can maybe string some wins together and right the ship. I mean, for those interested in such things. So certainly the Bulls can win tonight but I will not be surprised one bit if they get Whitesided again (pun intended).
Catch the action tonight at 7pm CST (not making that mistake twice). Watch on WGN, Fox Sports Sun if you happen to be in SoFla, or even NBA TV!