After an emotional win against the Denver Nuggets, the Chicago Bulls didn’t have enough in the tank on Wednesday to make it five wins in a row. Playing only four guys off the bench due to a high list of players on the injury report, they held on as long as they could against the Cleveland Cavaliers before the dam finally broke. In the blink of an eye, the Bulls found themselves down 20 in the third quarter, effectively wrapping up the game. There simply wasn’t enough guys and energy to mount another monster comeback.
To make matters worse, on Thursday it was announced that Derrick Jones Jr. was also added to the health and safety protocols list. Chicago has added Stanley Johnson and Alfonzo McKinnie in the last couple of days through the Hardship Exception and players like Marko Simonovic and Devon Dotson will get some more minutes too. But as of just now, things keep getting worse for Chicago. As reported by K.C Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, both Ayo Dosunmu and Stanley Johnson are now in the health and safety protocols list as well. This makes it seven players in the protocol list for the Bulls.
Until guys are cleared from protocols, it’s going to take big nights from the healthy players to keep Chicago winning games. This will also test Billy Donovan’s ability to mix and match lineups. Like against Cleveland, we will see combinations of Bulls players on the court who haven't played much together before.
The loss against the Cavs combined with the Nets win against Atlanta last night has the Bulls one game behind Brooklyn for first in the East. The Bucks are hot on their heels, sitting only half a game back in third.
Now the Bulls travel to Miami to face a team which beat Chicago at the UC a couple of weeks ago. Chicago had the lead late but their offense sputtered at the worst possible time, leading to a 107-104 defeat. The Heat are currently fourth in the East with a record of 15-11. After losing two games in a row last Saturday and Monday, they bounced back with a win against the Bucks on Wednesday. Without both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Miami outscored the reigning NBA Champs by 13 in the third quarter en route to a 113-104 final score. Caleb Martin had 28 while Kyle Lowry had a double double of 22 points and 13 assists. Illinois native Max Strus had 16 points as well. It was an impressive win for the Heat as it came without two of their best players on the team. As always, Miami is a team which will always compete no matter who is on the floor and will make this game a grind. Last year Chicago gutted out a win at FTX Arena late in the season. They will be hoping for a similar performance.
This will be a matchup between two of the better defensive teams in the NBA. Both the Bulls (106.1) and the Heat (107.2) sit in the Top 10 in defensive rating this season. An area where Chicago can try to exploit is the turnover battle. Miami turns over the ball 15 times a game, tied for 10th highest in the league. We have seen that the Bulls can absolutely cook teams in transition. If they can get the Heat to commit mistakes and run, it opens up a route for Chicago to get easy looks on offense.
Some much needed good news is that Alex Caruso will be available tonight after missing time with a right hamstring injury.
As for Miami, they will be without Adebayo and Butler again in this one as they recover from a right thumb and tailbone injuries respectively. Markieff Morris (neck) and Victor Oladipo (right knee) are out too. Duncan Robinson is listed as probable with a left quad contusion.
Game Time: 7PM CT
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Odds: Chicago is a slight favorite in this one with with the line at most places being -1 towards the Bulls. However, if you think they are a underdog, you can find them at +1.5 at other books.
O/U: The total is set at 209.5 (All gambling info via the Action Network)