After sweeping the Charlotte Hornets for two straight wins, the Miami Heat will face the Chicago Bulls on the second night of a back-to-back Thursday at Kaseya Center. Here’s how they can make it three in a row.
1. Don’t let Coby White beat you
Before dropping two games to Finals favorites in the Nuggets and Bucks, the Bulls had won four straight games. With Zach LaVine sidelined with a foot injury, Coby White has stepped up and is starting to deliver on the expectations that come with being the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Over the last six games, White is averaging 26.2 points, six rebounds and six assists – resembling numbers set by Jayson Tatum, LeBron James and Donovan Mitchell.
Among players averaging at least seven 3-point attempts this season, White is fourth in 3-point field-goal percentage at 43.2%. (Duncan Robinson is first at 43.9%!)
White has scored 34 points in two games against the Heat this season. In their last matchup, the Heat had Kyle Lowry guard White most of the game. White made three of his four field goal attempts but also had two turnovers and no assists in the time Lowry guarded him. If Lowry plays on the second night of this back-to-back set, expect him to draw the assignment. If not, the Heat could turn to Caleb Martin or, if he’s back from his non-Covid illness, Josh Richardson.
2. Keep the Bulls off the offensive glass
The Heat and Bulls split their series so far this season. In the game the Bulls won, they doubled Miami in offensive rebounds, 10-5. Backup center Andre Drummond – among the greatest rebounders in league history – accounted for thre of them.
The Heat will again be without Bam Adebayo in this one, so Orlando Robinson, Thomas Bryant and Kevin Love will have to be diligent about boxing out Drummond, Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams to make sure Chicago doesn’t steal too many second-chance points.
3. Avoid clutch time
The Heat are 7-5 in clutch time games this season but would like to avoid playing a close game without Adebayo and Tyler Herro, and with Jimmy Butler and Lowry potentially playing their second game in two nights. The Bulls will have both the rest advantage and DeMar DeRozan, who is shooting 57.7% in clutch time this season.
Despite Miami’s season-long problems in the fourth quarter (minus-3.1 per game), the Heat rank fifth in first-quarter point differential (plus-2.1 per game) while the Bulls rank 29th (minus-3.8). Getting out to a big lead early could set the table for a drama-free night.
It might be a lot to ask – and probably goes without saying – but the easiest way to win this game is to get a lead early and not let it slip away.