Chicago Bulls at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: HEAT
The Miami HEAT host the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Bulls 100-88 in their last meeting on Jan. 27. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:00 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: Even as they lost in overtime, what positives did you take away from Monday’s contest against Minnesota?
Couper Moorhead: While the final numbers didn’t reflect it defensively, Monday was a step forward as far as the connectivity the team had been discussing in the two days prior. The Wolves, one of the league’s top offenses so far, still put up 111.2 points per 100 possessions but there were a couple long stretches where Miami gave up absolutely no ground as the Wolves were forced into one tough jumper after another. Whether or not Hassan Whiteside returns Wednesday, the HEAT appear to be taking steps in the right direction.
On the other side of things it may seem counter-intuitive to say the HEAT had a good offensive game when they had 24 turnovers, but they scored 108 points per 100 and their 73 drives were the most by any team this season and third-most by any team in the last five years. With some added miscues that may partially be due to teams developing a more advanced scheme for this core group, the HEAT’s offense is working as intended when it comes to the drive-and-kick look we saw throughout last season. The main cause for the current drop in efficiency overall? The team is shooting 32.4 percent on catch-and-shoot threes as compared to 37.2 percent last season. That is more likely than not something that will sort itself out as long as the team continues to take the right, open shots.
Joe Beguiristain: My main takeaway was that the HEAT’s defense looked sharper than it had been for most of the season. While Andrew Wiggins had his moments late in the game, both he and Jimmy Butler were bottled up for a majority of the night. In fact, both wing players shot just 12-of-36 combined against Miami. Of course, Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson had a lot to do with that, but even Bam Adebayo had a nice defensive sequence when matched up one-on-one with Butler late in the fourth quarter. What’s more, the rookie led the team with 14 shots contested and 13 rebounds (10 of which came on the offensive end).
Speaking of the offensive end, the HEAT’s backcourt duo was masterful on Monday. Goran Dragić kicked off the game with 16 of his 18 points in the first half, while Waiters scored 21 of his team-high 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined. As Coup mentioned above, Miami routinely attacked the basket and broke down the defense. Although the team fell short this time around, that is definitely a recipe for success.
2: What changes has Chicago made to its roster and how will the different look affect this matchup?
Couper: Similar to how the Atlanta Hawks have fully moved on from the Millsap-Horford teams of a few years back, the Bulls have entered a new era. Gone last year were Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, then Taj Gibson signed in Minnesota during the offseason and All-Star Jimmy Butler was traded to the Wolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen. This is no longer the group that grinded its way into the playoffs every year, through all sorts of injuries, under Tom Thibodeau.
These are the young, developing Bulls now. Markkanen has been a nice surprise for a 20-year old, even a No. 7 pick, averaging 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds on 60 percent true-shooting. Robin Lopez is as dependable as ever in the middle of the floor while Justin Holiday leads the team in scoring at 15.8 while shooting 33.3 percent from the field. With an offensive rating that currently sits last in the league, this is a group that’s still figuring itself out. And when you come up against a team like that, it’s usually best to focus on yourself and maximize what your system is intended to do.
Joe: As Coup chronicled above, the Bulls have made wholesale changes at a number of different positions. Case in point: Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant are the only two starters who played significant minutes with Chicago last season. While Grant has struggled, Lopez has been his usual self with averages of 14.2 points, 5.8 boards and 2.8 assists per game.
With all the new inexperienced players, things have been tough for Chicago to start the season. In addition to being 1-4 on the year, the Bulls are ranked last in offensive rating (91.0) and effective field goal percentage (44.7 percent). However, they do own the second-highest assist percentage (63.8 percent), but that’s likely because there isn’t a bonafide go-to scorer on the roster.
3: With a six-game road trip coming up, what would you most like to see from the HEAT in this final home game?
Couper: The easiest thing to say here is that it would be good to see the team starting hitting a few more of all the uncontested threes they’re generating, if only because that’s one of the most glaring numbers available that we would expect to sort itself out in time. But ‘in time’ doesn’t have a due date, so to speak, and it can take some time for regression on either side of the spectrum. If the shooting doesn’t come for a little while, that’s perfectly normal. In the meantime, cutting the turnovers down to a more reasonable level – Spoelstra referenced aiming closer to 12 or 14 a few days ago – could go a long way. With the HEAT leading the league in drives, most of their possessions that end in a shot being taken have been positive possessions, process wise.
Joe: Given the fact that Chicago is struggling, I’d like to see a complete performance from the HEAT. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in the end, but it’d be good to see Miami put itself in a position to take care of business. That begins with taking care of the ball and not letting the opposition get easy buckets in transition.
After practice on Tuesday, Erik Spoelstra and a few players talked about the fine line between staying aggressive and not committing turnovers. That’ll be important to master since Miami is obviously at its best when attacking the basket. In fact, the team leads the league with 60.7 drives per game and is ranked in the top five in field goal percentage off those looks at 52.9 percent.
INJURY UPDATE: Whiteside (left knee contusion) went through Wednesday morning’s team shootaround.
“He’s going to show up to the arena tonight with the intention to play.” - Spo
- The HEAT are 2-4, while the Bulls enter the contest at 1-4.
- Goran Dragić has scored in double-figures in a career-high 52 consecutive games.
- Justin Holiday leads Chicago in scoring at 15.8 points per contest.
- Rodney McGruder (left tibia surgery) is out, Hassan Whiteside (left knee contusion) is questionable and Goran Dragić (illness) is probable.
- HEAT Offense: 102.8 (19)
- HEAT Defense: 107.6 (24)
- Bulls Offense: 91.0 (30)
- Bulls Defense: 107.4 (23)