The Heat Rallied Late To Beat The Bulls And Earn The East’s 8-Seed

For the fifth straight game, the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament delivered a highly entertaining — albeit frustrating at times — contest on Friday night as the Chicago Bulls visited the Miami Heat.

Neither team could find much of an offensive rhythm in the game, entering the final quarter tied at 67-67, but it was the Heat that emerged from the slop with a 102-91 win that was more lopsided than the game felt for 47 minutes of action. In the first half, it was Max Strus who carried the Heat with 23 points, outscoring the other four Miami starters by four, as he went 6-of-8 from three-point range to propel Miami to a five-point edge at the break.

A 16-4 run by Chicago in the mid-third quarter pulled them in front for the first time since the early minutes, as Zach LaVine broke free for a runout dunk off a Heat turnover to give Chicago a 60-58 advantage.

From there, the two teams would trade stops and occasional buckets through the early fourth quarter before Chicago seemingly seized a bit of control in the mid-fourth after DeMar DeRozan and Coby White started to get it rolling.

Still, the Heat had answers for every mini-run by the Bulls to open up a lead, as Jimmy Butler and Strus continually found their way to hit big shots to stay in touch.

On the other side, White became the most reliable offensive weapon for Chicago, as he hit a couple big threes to keep the Bulls in front.

However, with 2:17 to go in the game and the Heat up 91-90, White would get pulled for Patrick Beverley in a move aimed at boosting Chicago’s defense. That move would backfire as the Heat almost totally ignored Beverley on the offensive end, shutting down driving lanes and sending help at DeRozan and LaVine, who couldn’t find much in the way of useful outlets with Beverley also unwilling to shoot open threes when presented the opportunity.

With the Bulls offense in the mud, Miami began to pull away behind Butler and Strus, who knocked down his seventh three of the night to push the Heat’s lead to five with just over a minute to go, ultimately proving to be the dagger.

In the end, Butler and Strus each finished the night with 31 points, as Butler carried the offensive load for much of the third and fourth before Strus found his range again at just the right time to push the Heat across the finish line. Strus’ big night provided cover for Tyler Herro (12 points on 12 shots) and Bam Adebayo (8 points on 1-of-9 shooting) as they struggled to provide much offensively. Adebayo did, however, loom large defensively and on the boards, racking up 17 rebounds and helping wall off the rim from the Bulls, but he will need to be much more effective offensively for the Heat to have any chance in the next round.

For Chicago, DeRozan was his normal self with 26 points and nine assists, but after carrying the Bulls to a win in Toronto, LaVine struggled with just 15 points on 6-of-21 shooting with five turnovers. Alex Caruso (16 points) and Coby White (14 points) provided some lift, but the offense just sagged too much without positive contributions from LaVine as their primary creator. Now, the Bulls enter the offseason with plenty of questions about how they should proceed with this roster after a fairly disappointing season. On the other side, the Heat get the reward of the Milwaukee Bucks for at least four games, where they will be heavy underdogs given their struggles with consistency on the offensive end.