The Chicago Bulls ended their season with Friday night’s 102-91 loss to the Miami Heat in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament. Chicago had a 90-87 lead late in the fourth quarter but blew its chance to make the 2023 NBA Playoffs. The Heat outscored the Bulls 15-1 in the final three minutes, securing the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.
The Bulls rallied from an early 14-point deficit against the Heat, looking to make their second straight Play-In Tournament comeback. Two nights earlier, Chicago came back from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Toronto Raptors 109-105.
The 2022-2023 season has to be considered a major disappointment for the Bulls. After going 46-36 as the East’s No. 6 seed a year ago, Chicago finished 40-42 for the No. 9 spot in the standings. The Bulls turned their season around after the All-Star break, going 14-9 to make the Play-In Tournament. It was too little too late.
DeMar DeRozan did his part for the Bulls. The veteran scored 26 points on 19 shots to go along with nine assists. Colby White had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench. Why will it be the Heat—not the Bulls—taking on the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs?
Let’s take a look at the Bulls who deserve the most blame for Chicago’s 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament loss.
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Zach LaVine was the biggest reason why the Bulls survived the first round of the Play-In Tournament. Chicago’s star scored 39 points on 12-of-22 shooting, leading the team’s comeback against Toronto. While LaVine gets the credit for keeping the Bulls’ playoff hopes alive, he deserves blame for ending Chicago’s playoff chances two nights later.
The version of LaVine that showed up against the Raptors was nowhere to be found against the Heat. The Bulls guard was remarkably inefficient, missing 15 of his 21 field-goal attempts. LaVine scored 15 points, only one of which came in the fourth quarter. LaVine had two assists and five turnovers. Two of LaVine’s passes were stolen and one of his shots was blocked in the final quarter.
The best players in the NBA are expected to raise their game when it matters the most. As the Bulls’ leading scorer with a max contract, LaVine is more responsible than any player for Chicago’s fate. Falling 10 points and two assists shy of his season’s average with the Bulls’ playoff hopes on the line is a black mark on LaVine’s resume.
There was plenty of talk about how much credit Patrick Beverley deserved for the Bulls’ run to the Play-In Tournament. DeRozan praised Beverley for doing everything on the court. A few opposing head coaches said that Beverley was a key reason for Chicago’s late-season success. After an impressive stint in Chicago, the veteran had little to offer in the biggest game of the season.
Beverley didn’t score a single point in the Bulls’ Play-In Tournament loss to the Heat. Much of Beverley’s impact comes on the defensive end, and it’s impossible to truly measure his impact by simply looking at the stat sheet. But no team can expect to win when one of its starters plays 27 minutes and goes 0-of-4 from the field. Beverley only added a pair of rebounds and four assists in the loss.
In 22 games with the Bulls, Beverley averaged 5.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He was held scoreless three times, including in the Play-In Tournament. Chicago lost all three of those games by double digits.
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