Heat (37-27) @ Bulls (32-31)
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
When: Friday, March 11th 8:00 PM ET
Watch: NBATV, FS-SUN, NBA League Pass
With just 18 games left in the regular season, the Miami Heat are running out of time.
Running out of time to chase down the Boston Celtics for the number 2 seed, which they trail by two games. Running out of time to piece together team chemistry on the court to become a threat in the NBA playoffs. Finally, they are running out of time to get Chris Bosh back, even with the news yesterday, 18 games is not a lot of time to work Bosh back into the mix before the playoffs.
That’s why losses for the Heat like the one on Wednesday are unacceptable. Yes, it was a tough road game, but when facing a team 11-games under .500 at this point in the season, those are pretty close to must win games. Due to the loss and a Boston Celtic win on Wednesday, the Celtics went from a half game up to one and a half games up on the Heat.
With the Celtics already winning the season series against the Heat, the team will need to finish with a better record than the Celtics to claim the third seed.
Tonight, the Heat will have another tough, but winnable matchup. The Bulls are still a formidable opponent, but are just one game above .500 for the season and currently are locked into the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
The good news for the Bulls, Jimmy Butler should start to resume working out again after receiving a good prognosis from Dr. James Andrew on his knee. The good news for the Heat, they won’t have to face Butler tonight.
Tonight’s Bulls-Heat game is a far cry from when the two teams squared off in the playoffs during the LeBron James era. Joakim Noah, the Heat’s biggest nemesis a few years ago, is out for the season and even when healthy declining pretty quickly. Derrick Rose has not been the same MVP caliber player since knee injuries and surgeries have slowed him down.
Rose has quickly gone from an underpaid rising superstar to an overpaid black hole on offense. Despite shooting only 42 percent from the field, Rose still chucks up 16 shots a game, and 2.3 three pointers a game, even while shooting 28 percent from three. On the season, Rose owns a 26.9 USG rate, despite posting a PER of 13.81. For reference, a league average player is at a 15 PER.
With Butler out and Rose a shell of himself, on paper this looks like an easy win for Miami. But for whatever reason, the Bulls always seem to give the Heat a tougher time than expected.
X-Factor: Hassan Whiteside
Since returning from his suspension for throwing an elbow against the Spurs, Whiteside has played on another level. He has averaged 20.6 points, 15 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks per game. Whiteside has shot 87 percent from the free throw line since going 3-7 against the Wizards in his return game from suspension.
The Heat are 7-3 in that stretch, and a lot of that credit belongs to Hassan Whiteside for that. Its gotten his teammates notice, as they continue to say that the suspension and an after meeting with head coach Erick Spolestra might have served as a wake up call for Whiteside.
The Bulls will always serve as a major memory for Whiteside, as arguably his breakout game came against this team last season. Last year on January 25th, Whiteside collected 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 blocks against the Bulls in a 96-84 win for the Heat.
That game will always be on the minds of the Heat, their fans, and Whiteside every time these two teams square off.
Miami Heat offensive efficiency: 21st, 102.5 points per 100 possessions
Miami Heat defensive efficiency: T-6th, 100.5 points allowed per 100 possessions
Chicago Bulls offensive efficiency: 26th, 100.9 points per 100 possessions
Chicago Bulls defensive efficiency: 10th, 102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions