Chicago Bulls at Miami HEAT Game Preview

Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon

The Miami HEAT host the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and television coverage is on FOX Sports Sun. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Was there anything worth taking away from the victory in New York?

Couper Moorhead: It looked like 2012 at times with the Knicks blitzing pick-and-rolls and putting a ton of ball pressure on Miami, and it did work for a couple stretches as the HEAT struggled with turnovers which is largely how New York made it a game in the final minutes. That’s something worth taking a look at on film, but given the defensive trends of this day and age it’s unlikely the HEAT will see much more of that sort of coverage. Other than that, New York’s offense was largely dependent on pull-up jumpers and after hitting well over half of those looks in the first half, they stopped falling after the break and New York turned in a 12-point third quarter.

Joe Beguiristain: After giving up 58 points on 47.8 percent shooting in the first half, the HEAT got back to their defensive principles and stifled the Knicks as the night wore on. And while New York capitalized on turnovers in the fourth, Miami as a whole found success on the offensive end with seven guys scoring in double-figures.

Among the seven, Wayne Ellington shined the most in his first start since Dec. 4. Once the Knicks tied the game at 90 with 4:01 left to play, the 31-year-old sharpshooter responded with 10 of the HEAT’s final 16 points to put New York away for good.

“He is ignitable…and we’ve always said it, he hits two, watch out. That could go to four or five,” Erik Spoelstra said after the victory. “If the game ended up going to overtime, he probably would have hit three more.”

Lauri Markkanen2: While it ended with a similar result, did the Chicago Bulls do anything differently last game with more of a healthy roster than they had when these teams met before?

Couper: Having Lauri Markkanen available made a huge difference as the Bulls were generally able to get an open three whenever they wanted – Markkanen attempted 10 – and had another body to attack switches and mismatches. As such, Chicago’s spacing was significantly better, though that didn’t necessarily lead to more interior opportunities as they scored just 40 points in the paint, and that’s with Miami’s 17 turnovers giving Chicago plenty of chances to run. The Bulls won’t have Chandler Hutchison this time so they’ll likely start Wayne Selden, which thins out their bench rotation a little and even though Jim Boylen hasn’t been afraid to stretch out the minutes of his core rotation players, the Bulls will be coming off a game in Brooklyn Tuesday night so they might need to spread the shifts out a little more than usual.

Joe: They did.

In addition to having Lauri Markkanen available as Coup mentioned above, the Bulls also rolled with Robin Lopez and Kris Dunn in the starting lineup rather than Wendell Carter Jr. (who’s hurt) and Ryan Arcidiacono. And with Carter Jr. out for the foreseeable future, Chicago has started either Lopez or Bobby Portis based on the matchup.

Although Portis didn’t start that last time out against Miami, he still put his imprint on the game with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting off the bench. And as Coup alluded to above, Markkanen’s presence really opened things up for Portis and his teammates. In fact, the Bulls posted a 104.0 offensive rating on Jan. 19 after tallying a measly 90.6 rating in the matchup prior without the Finn forward.

3: With Derrick Jones Jr. out for at least six weeks, how will Miami’s rotation change?

Couper: First of all, let’s just note how great it was to hear on Monday that Jones Jr. was going to avoid surgery and he would be re-evaluated in six weeks. You hate to see a player just beginning to blossom in the NBA suddenly go down with an injury, but at the very least it seems the worst was avoided.

As for the rotation, the answers are fairly simple. Erik Spoelstra said at practice that James Johnson will likely see more minutes while Kelly Olynyk will see more time as well after having seen his time on the court dip a little over the past month. The more time Jones Jr. had earned, the less time it had meant for other players at a similar position. Now those players get more opportunities in spots where they’ve played a ton before. For the short term, it’s a rather seamless solution, though there’s no replacing Jones Jr.’s unique blend of energy and athleticism.

Joe: This is where the HEAT’s depth comes into play.

While Miami’s starting lineup likely won’t change, Kelly Olynyk will get back into the fray as a reserve. After Jones Jr. went down in the second quarter of Sunday night’s game, Olynyk quickly made an impact with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the period. And of course, wise attacks against mismatches and crafty finishes inside were commonplace throughout the flurry.

Now, Jones Jr.’s infectious energy and unique ability to grab offensive boards will certainly be missed, but Olynyk brings a different skillset that can help the HEAT as well. It also gives us the chance to see more of the KO/BAM pairing, which has the third-highest net rating on the team among duos (6.8, minimum of 300 minutes played).

Bulls at HEAT Head To Head

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT have won six of seven against the Bulls, including a 117-103 victory in their last meeting on Jan. 19.
  • Miami is 24-24, while Chicago enters the contest at 11-40.
  • Josh Richardson is averaging 26.5 points on 64.5 percent shooting in two games against the Bulls this season. 
  • Zach LaVine leads Chicago in scoring at 22.9 points per game.
  • Dwyane Wade (Right Knee Soreness) and Tyler Johnson (Left Calf Soreness) are questionable, while Derrick Jones Jr. (Right Knee Bone Bruises), Goran Dragić (Right Knee Surgery), Yante Maten (Sioux Falls Assignment) and Duncan Robinson (Sioux Falls Assignment) are out.

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 106.5 (22)
  • HEAT Defense: 106.3 (6)
  • Bulls Offense: 101.3 (30)
  • Bulls Defense: 111.1 (23)

For live in-game updates of Wednesday night’s contest, follow @MiamiHEAT, @CoupNBA and @JoeBeguiristain on Twitter.

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