[thanks to Bullieving in Miami for today’s game preview. If you are interesting in doing one this season please sign up! -yfbb]
One can only hope that 16 days can make a world of difference in the NBA. A team can get healthy. A team can get hot. A team can right some deficiencies. Something has to give, right? Nope. Not now. Not this season. Not ever. 16 days ago the season still felt young. Only about a month old, still so much can be corrected as we continue to find out who these 2019-2020 editions of our favorites teams are. A little over two weeks later, do we all of a sudden have all the answers? Man, it sure feels like it, doesn’t it...
Bulls are in Miami tonight. No more South Beach hangovers. No one goes to South Beach anymore. Actually, this week is Art Basel takeover. Yup, the yearly tradition of every Miamian posing as an art expert where you too can see a banana duct-taped to a wall sell for the equivalent of a single quarter of play from James Harden. (Interesting sidenote: crazy to think Harden still gets paid for that quarter he sat after putting up 60 in the first 3 quarters. I should’ve been six inches taller.) Well, I hope the Bulls got their dose of culture while in town because they very well may be heading to a schooling at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
It’s too bad the Bulls aren’t catching the Heat on the second night of a back-to-back, because for some odd reason the Heat are 0-for-the-season on those. When last these two met the Bulls were the appetizer on the front end as Miami would go on to suffer a loss in Philly the following night. No matter. Heat are at home today, where they are a perfect 9-0 on the season, and coming off a day’s rest after taking care of the Wizards on Friday night. Before that, the Heat had a successful 3-game road trip where they went 2-1 against the likes of the Nets and Raptors, followed by a loss in Bean Town (on a B2B). All things considered, the Heat are legit. They currently sit #3 in the East. Former Bull Jimmy Butler seems to be asserting himself on the court as the season goes forward, upping his scoring average nearly a full two points per since we last saw him, to 20.5. Butler has two triple-doubles in the last 3 games, and the game in between (the loss at Boston) he scored 37. After stamping his personality on the team early in the season it seems now Jimmy is hitting his stride in games and doing it all for the Heat.
So are we allowed to get even slightly optimistic around here about these Bulls? Prior to losing to the lowly Warriors (typing that feels odd after the 5-year run they just had) on Friday at home the Bulls had consecutive wins for the first time this season. The problem here is consistency. More specifically, WINNING consistently. They have the losing consistently part down as the Bulls have suffered three separate 3-game losing skids following a win on the season so far. Perhaps, PERHAPS, they can buck the trend and recover from their late-game meltdown versus the Dubs and end all kinds of streaks today by handing the Heat their first home loss.
The Heat aren’t at 100% right now. Goran Dragic, who had really taken to his “sixth man” role thus far, has missed the last few games with a groin injury and will apparently remain sidelined tonight. Justise Winslow missed Friday’s game as well after having returned to the lineup following some extensive time missed early in the season due to a concussion. Winslow appears to be a game-time decision and would be helpful as a ballhandler as the Heat are a little lacking in that regard right now, with Jimmy Butler acting as the de facto distributor on this team. Already a stout defender, Winslow showed significant growth last season as a point guard of sorts when Dragic was out for an extended period in the middle of the year. Regardless, this offense runs through Jimmy Buckets.
We all know plus/minus in small sample sizes has a lot of variance and can’t necessarily be counted upon. However, looking at the Bulls’ boxscore over the last 3 games, is it a coincidence that in the two Bulls victories the starters all were in the negative and the bench all in the plus, and then in the loss on Friday that flipped. Is trying to get Lauri and Zach going detrimental to the construction of the lineup? It’s been long documented that these two are probably not a good fit on the floor together. However, they are the presumed two best players on this team and so it has to be made to work somehow. It’s even more glaring in this matchup in direct comparison to the player that went the other way in that trade. And while Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen should collectively be more valuable than one Jimmy Butler, this speaks to the true value of consolidating talent in the NBA, and how a collection of role players pales in comparison to having one true star to lead your team.
How do the Bulls pull out a victory here? Luck? The Heat are better than the Bulls in just about every category. They score more, they defend better, they rebound better, they pass better, they shoot better. Being possibly without two critical ballhandlers, perhaps force the Heat into turnovers. They are still averaging 18 a game. The Bulls simply need to do their best Boylen impression, get down in their best defensive stance, and create some turnovers and let it fly on the other end. In their three most recent games, including those two wins at Sacramento and versus the Griz, the Bulls shot over 39% from deep in those contests. The Bulls are right at 10th in the league in the number of attempts they take from beyond the arc. They are hitting from deep right now and hopefully that trend continues. The Heat do allow the 3rd-most attempts, however, they defend it just as well as anyone, allowing a success rate under 32%.
It’s an early evening affair on a Sunday as the action tips off at 5PM CST.