The Chicago Bulls have moved on in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament after an incredible 19-point comeback against the Toronto Raptors in a 109-105 victory. The regular season No. 10 seed Bulls will now face the regular season No. 7 seed Miami Heat for a spot in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The Heat are coming off of a disappointing loss at home to the regular season No. 8 seed Atlanta Hawks, and are now facing an elimination game for the season. Whoever wins between the Bulls and Heat will get a first-round NBA Playoffs matchup with the regular season No.1 seed Milwaukee Bucks, while the loser will go home. When it is all said and done Friday, the Chicago Bulls will beat the Miami Heat and advance. There are three reasons why.
After the first half of their game against the Raptors on Wednesday, the Bulls season looked like it was heading for a close. They were down 65-50 at the break, and that deficit stretched to the aforementioned 19 points. Then, Zach LaVine caught fire, and the rest of the Bulls team rallied around him in the comeback. LaVine finished with 39 points, 30 of which coming in the second half, and had a plethora of key buckets down the stretch. DeMar DeRozan also poured in 23 points and 7 rebounds, and his daughter Diar DeRozan provided a mental edge from the stands. She went viral for screaming at every free throw attempt by the Raptors, who subsequently missed a season-high 18 freebies out of 36 tries.
As the Bulls prepare for Friday’s game against the Heat, they have plenty of momentum on their side. While the Heat put forth a sluggish performance against the Hawks, the Bulls showed heart and toughness, and really have nothing to lose. They would be the first No. 10 seed to advance to the NBA Playoffs via the NBA Play-In Tournament with a win against Miami. Here are the three reasons why the Bulls are going to make history.
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Zach LaVine continues torrid stretch for Chicago Bulls
After the all-star break, Zach LaVine averaged 27.0 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 22 games. Add that to his 39-point outburst in Wednesday’s game against the Raptors, and LaVine can be considered one of the hottest players in the NBA. Bulls fans were hoping LaVine started the season playing at this level, but they are certainly grateful he has rounded into form at exactly the right time.
LaVine showed the ability to score at all three levels against the Toronto Raptors. In the second half, he was pulling up in transition to nail 30-foot three point shots, all the while hitting spectacular finesse layups in crunch time. After missing the All-Star Game, something must have clicked for Zach LaVine. He has upped his level of play, and it was on full display in the first-round of the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament.
In Friday’s game against the Heat, LaVine will continue to score at will, despite whatever the Heat throw at him. The Bulls will find themselves advancing to the 2023 NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks behind another big scoring line from Zach LaVine.
A lack of touches continues for Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo
There were a number of disappointed Miami Heat players and coaches alike after Tuesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks. While head coach Erik Spoelstra has hinted at possible lineup and rotation changes for Friday’s game, center Bam Adebayo was honest about his desire for more touches. Adebayo kept it frank in that he knows other guys can be playing well and should get the ball, but the offense needs to do more to give him his opportunities.
Being public in his desire for more touches will immediately alert the Bulls and head coach Billy Donovan. The Bulls will scheme Adebayo out of the game-plan defensively, and the disappointment will continue. The lack of touches will not necessarily be as important as the resulting frustration from Adebayo. A big reason for the Heat’s loss on Tuesday was the lack of energy, focus, and overall enthusiasm displayed by Miami. Frustrating key guys like Adebayo early will bother the Heat from the get-go, and consequently cause the Heat to lose focus and chemistry.
Even if the Heat scheme some forced touches for Adebayo early, the Bulls will make sure he remains neutralized on offense. Another game with low usage will frustrate Adebayo, inherently infecting the rest of the team. This will be a key reason the Bulls will move on to the NBA Playoffs.
Diar DeRozan does it again for the Chicago Bulls
After Diar DeRozan went viral for her antics against the Toronto Raptors, it is just prudent for the Bulls to have her in attendance for Friday’s game. She will immediately lend the Bulls a mental edge over the Heat, despite just being another fan at the end of the day. It will be an extra motivator for the Bulls players, and a de facto inspiration to move on and keep her in the stands.
If Diar DeRozan can get behind the hoop and scream during the Heat’s free throws, even players with the greatest mental fortitude will not be able to ignore her. They might pretend she is not a distraction, but after the Raptors’ abysmal free-throw line percentage, there is no denying even the smallest impact. Even just one forced miss can impact a playoff caliber game like Friday’s NBA Play-In showdown.
The Bulls are going to get Diar DeRozan in the stands as an extra defender for Chicago. In turn, she will help the Bulls advance to the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
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