The Chicago Bulls are making some unexpected noise between the regular season’s conclusion and the NBA Playoffs, causing the basketball world to take notice of the newly implemented Play-In Tournament. Becoming the first 10-seed to win a game in the mini-tournament, they’ll now look to be the first 10-seed to qualify for the NBA Playoffs. Here’s where you can find lineups, where to watch, what time and place the game is tonight, injuries, and insights into the Bulls’ strategy ahead of tonight’s elimination game.
Where: TNT Network, played in Miami
Miami became the first seventh-seeded team to be upset in the Play-In format, and it’s only fitting that two upsets first of their kind would meet for the final spot in the NBA Playoffs. The Kaseya Center in Miami will lay host to this win-or-go-home matchup.
When: 6:00 PM CST on Friday, April 14th
The Bulls come in confident off a 19-point second-half comeback, whereas Miami was dominated from start to finish by the Atlanta Hawks three days prior. Chicago will also be taxed with traveling from Chicago to Toronto to Miami in three short days. The Heat hosted the Hawks on Tuesday and are staying put for this one.
TEAMRANKINGS & ESPN Analytics Predictions: MIA -5.5 , O/U 209 , 52.2% Heat
Team Rankings favors the Miami Heat by 5.5 points, and most sportsbooks have the Raptors at a similar spread. The total points line is at 209 points, a number that was surpassed during all three of their regular-season meetings. ESPN Analytics gives the Heat a 52.2% chance of winning, an advanced analytic statistic mainly derived from efficiency ratings and team average statistics.
Injuries: Lonzo Ball (CHI), Nikola Jovic (MIA), Diar DeRozan (CHI)
The only two players expected to miss tonight’s elimination game are Ball, who hasn’t seen the floor all season for the Bulls, and Jovic, who hasn’t seen the floor since December for the Heat. Several Heat players sat out yesterday’s practice with lingering small injuries but are all expected to suit up tonight. Kyle Lowry’s knee soreness is the only one still listed as questionable ahead of the matchup, but he’ll be available in full unless there’s a surprising turn of events.
Diar will sadly not provide the sideline enthusiasm that caused the Raptors to shoot an abysmal 50% from the three-throw line. DeMar officially reported this morning that school and her basketball game would take priority, so the Bulls must sadly prevail without her services.
Bulls’ Mindset: DeRozan & LaVine show, Score in transition
More in-depth game analysis can be found here, but DeRozan’s impressive 28/8/5 stat line this season against Miami will have to continue, and LaVine’s 39-point explosion in Toronto will have some carry-over into this one. As they did during the three regular-season meetings, scoring in transition will also be crucial for the Bulls.
Chicago’s Starting Five: Beverley, Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan, Vucevic
This is not made official, but expect the same starting lineup as the Bulls have had since the All-Star break acquisition of Patrick Beverley. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it is the old saying, and this lineup has the highest net rating of any five this season, including closing out the final ten minutes of the come-from-behind victory in Toronto. The turnovers this group causes and the suffocating defense make it so difficult for the opposition.
Tale Of The Tape: Small Vs. Small
Both teams are among the league’s smallest lineups and feature true shooting guards at the power forward position in Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan. While neither shot the three-ball very well, both allowed plenty of transition points, and in their previous Play-In games, rebounding was one of the most important factors. Atlanta’s 63-to-39 rebounding advantage and 22-to-6 offensive rebounding difference controlled the game’s pace and gave the Hawks countless second-chance opportunities.
Where To Next: Milwaukee Bucks
The prize for winning tonight’s elimination game will be to meet the NBA’s best team this season, the Milwaukee Bucks. Led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, it’s no surprise that they’ll be a tall task for either the Heat or the Bulls. With the best overall record in the league, the Bucks will have a week of rest on their side and two home games out of the gate, beginning on Sunday.
Talking is done, matchups are set, and popcorn is popped. Can the Chicago Bulls pull themselves out of the hole they’ve dug, or is tonight the end of the 2022-23′ campaign?