The Chicago Bulls 2022-23′ season has officially come to a close, losing to the Miami Heat in the final Play-In Tournament game 102-91. A tight game the entire way, Miami pulled away late after the clutch plays of Jimmy Butler and the shot-making of Max Strus. Take a look at how the last Bulls game of the year went down in Miami and what’s next for the Windy City.
Live And Die By Zach LaVine
As great of a performance as Wednesday night was from Zach LaVine, tonight was equally as poor from the three-time All-Star and ultimately sent Chicago packing. Scoring just 15 points on a terrible 6-of-21 from the field, including 0-for-6 from three-point range, was not enough for the Bulls. Add in his game-high five turnovers and only two assists, and this is one to forget for LaVine.
This comes as no surprise to Chicago fans; with as elite as LaVine can be at scoring the basketball, which is undoubtedly among the elites of the NBA, he can be equally as careless with the ball, make poor decisions, and continue to be wildly inconsistent. Tonight was the version of LaVine that many had thought was left in the past, as he was playing the best basketball of his career leading into tonight.
Defensive Adjustments Went Missing
Just one game removed from Billy Donovan making some of the best mid-game adjustments we’ve seen as the Bulls head coach, tonight was the complete opposite. Only one player for the Miami Heat made over one three-point shot, Max Strus, and the failure to adjust the defense to locate and prioritize him led to a 7-for-12 from beyond-the-arc performance for the 27-year-old, his most threes made since November of 2022. In the final minute, he buried the Bulls on a three-point make and was fouled on one the next position, sending the Bulls home for good behind his 31-point effort.
The Miami Heat have been known to have one killer on their roster for the past several years, someone the Bulls should know very well, Jimmy Butler. He was second on the team with a +18 plus/minus in 43 minutes of action, scored 31 points on just about 50% from the field, and had two clutch passes to Strus in the final minute. The lack of trapping and forcing other Heat players to make plays ultimately cost the Bulls this game. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro combined for 6-for-21, including 0-for-5 from three-point range, and struggled the entire game. Forcing them to make plays down the stretch should have been the focus for Chicago.
DeMarvelous Nowhere To Be Found
Just hours after being named a finalist for the NBA’s first Clutch Player Of the Year award, DeMar DeRozan sure didn’t fit that description tonight. His last made field goal came with 8:27 remaining in the game, and he and LaVine combined for 0-for-5 in the final stretch. Chicago scored just four points in the game’s final five minutes, a free-throw from DeRozan and a three-point basket from Coby White. Not showing up when it mattered most makes Bulls fans question if LaVine or DeRozan has the pedigree or sustainability to bank the franchise’s future on.
Buckle Up For The Summer
Now comes the intrigue of what Chicago will do this offseason. There will surely be major changes, and they have some key free agents to make decisions on. Coby White, Nikola Vucevic, and Ayo Dosunmu headline the expired deals that the Bulls will need to decide if they’ll want them back or if we’ve seen the last of them in the red and black.
After an immensely disappointing season capped with a heart-breaking loss where they held the lead for most of the fourth quarter, it’s time for reality to set in for the Bulls. This roster is poorly constructed, needs a point guard and three-point shooting desperately, and might have to break up the big three of DeRozan, LaVine, and Vucevic as they played the most minutes of any trio in basketball this year and still finished with a sub-.500 record on the season.
While the 2022-23′ season is mercifully over for Chicago, this summer could be full of franchise-altering moves and will almost certainly feature a hefty chunk of new pieces to chase the title again next season. Can Zach LaVine be built around? Does DeMar DeRozan hit the road? Is Nikola Vucevic headed elsewhere? Stay tuned, Chicago faithful, it could be a bumpy ride.