|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
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The Chicago Bulls will make the trip down to South Beach on Saturday to finish off a short two-game road trip against the Miami Heat.
Both of these teams have played stellar basketball recently, and once again find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. Chicago enters this one with an overall record of 17-9, good for the No. 2 spot in the East, while Miami is sitting fourth in East with a record of 15-11.
In their matchup earlier in the season, Miami escaped with a narrow 107-104 victory in what was a tightly contested contest. However, a lot has changed for both squads since that matchup as injuries and COVID-19 have taken control.
Both teams are severely shorthanded and without some of their stars, but one of them has to leave with a win. Will we see the Bulls go on the road and redeem themselves from an early season loss to Miami, or can the Heat put the pieces together and find the recipe for a win?
Can the Bulls Overcome Major Absences?
COVID-19 has found its way onto many rosters this season, but it has likely done the most damage to this Chicago Bulls team.
Due to the virus, the Bulls are going to play without DeMar DeRozan, Javonte Green, Matt Thomas, Derrick Jones, and Coby White. On top of that, Alex Caruso is questionable because of a hamstring injury, so their depth has taken quite a hit recently for a variety of reasons.
We got a glimpse of what their play was going to look like with their shorthanded squad when they faced Cleveland on Wednesday, and it was not pretty. Chicago shot just 42% from the floor and 27% from behind the arc, both of which are far worse than their season averages of 46.8% and 36.6% according to NBA.com.
However, despite that sub-par performance, Chicago is still a team that certainly has the potential to cause problems even while shorthanded.
Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic are still healthy and set to suit up on Saturday. That is a core of guys that is certainly capable of leading a team to victory, and is a group that has made major contributions on both ends of the floor this year.
In the grand scheme of things, Chicago is still ranked eighth overall in Offensive Rating, scoring 109.9 points per 100 possessions, and fifth overall in Defensive Rating according to NBA Advanced Stats. Obviously not having Derozan available is not ideal, but this is a star-studded team that can still compete.
Can Miami Build on a Strong Win?
Miami is in a slightly better situation when it comes to the injury report compared to Chicago, at least in regard to the number of players that are on it.
However, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are not going to play in this matchup, and that changes the game dramatically. Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo are not going to suit up either, and Duncan Robinson enters this matchup as a game time decision.
Miami managed to win their last game against Milwaukee without having Butler or Adebayo on the floor, but overall this team has struggled since Bam was forced to get surgery and miss time. In the five games since Adebayo’s injury, the Heat are 2-3 overall and are scoring an average of 100.6 points per game and allowing their opponents to score an average of 109.6 points.
Furthermore, Miami is normally a fantastic defensive team inside, giving up the fewest points per game in the paint with 40.5. However, according to Team Rankings, that number has jumped up to 44.7 in their last three games and the Heat allowed 44 points in the paint in their last matchup without Adebayo and Butler.
The defensive presence of Adebayo has been missed, but so has his rebounding presence. The Heat are being out rebounded 231-182 in their last five games without Bam, a recipe that will often lose a team many games and explains some of their struggles.
This is one of the deeper teams in the NBA, but not having arguably their top two scorers and defenders has proven to cause some problems.
A game that was supposed to be filled with All-Star caliber players is now riddled with injuries, and I think Miami’s injuries are going to have more of an impact on their success than Chicago’s.
The Bulls are 1-1 since DeRozan’s absence, but I think their core of LaVine, Ball, and Vucevic is going to be enough to at least stay competitive against a shorthanded Miami team. In addition, according to Team Rankings, the Bulls are 9-5 ATS as the away team this season and 6-2 ATS coming off of a loss, while Miami is only 7-7 ATS after a win.
Chicago has been great on the road this year, and I think their talent is still superior to Miami’s even when both teams are missing key players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win this outright.
Pick: Chicago Bulls +1.5 (-110)