Season over: Bulls comeback falls short against Heat
Sam Navarro - USA Today Sports

Season over: Bulls comeback falls short against Heat

by - Senior Writer -

MIAMI - To say the Miami Heat have been one of the Chicago Bulls Kyrptonite's in recent seasons would be an understatement. Going back to the Lebron James days when the Heat were eliminating the Bulls in the playoffs, this team has always had the Bulls number, given their physical style of play and the ability to knock down the outside shot.

You saw that last season when the Heat not only swept the Bulls, but did so relatively easily, as all of their wins came by double-digits. Fast forward to this season, and the Bulls swept the Heat this season, with all three wins coming by eight points or more. With both seasons on the line in a win-or-go-home game, the Bulls had a chance to sweep the Heat and make it four wins in four tries.

Unlike the games in the regular season that saw the Heat struggle to knock down triples, it was Max Strus setting the tone as he had 15 points in the first quarter on five triples. He would hit seven triples total in the game and accounted for 70% of the three-pointers made by Miami. His play helped the Heat build a 14-point lead and had things looking like a blowout.

Then came the second and third quarters, for that matter, when the Bulls started to play their brand of basketball. Not only did they put themselves right back in the game, but they eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter for their first lead since it was 2-0. They would eventually build that lead to six points and had the Heat on the brink of falling again. That was until Strus and Jimmy Butler put the team on their backs in the fourth quarter as the former Bulls put the game away and led the Heat to the 102-91 win.

Apart from the final score, this game was much closer than it indicated, as the Bulls went completely cold in the last five minutes. Mr. Clutch Demar DeRozan came up huge as he led the way for the Bulls with 26 points, including several big shots in the fourth quarter. The Bulls needed that production because Zach Lavine had a miserable 6-21 night from the field despite finishing with 15 points.

Given the struggles by Lavine, the Bulls knew that they would need some production from other people, and Alex Caruso delivered. Not known for his offensive skills, Caruso had the hot hand throughout the first half, with eight first-quarter points and 12 points at the half. He finished the game with 16 points and knocked down four of the Bulls eight triples.

Of course, the other four came from Coby White, as his game has taken off the past two months. With 22 points coming from the Bulls bench, White did the most damage as his 14 points kept the Bulls in the game and helped give them the lead. If this was Nikola Vucevic's last game as a Bull, he will finish his tenure coming off one of his best seasons to date.

Granted, his 12 points will not excite you, but adding nine rebounds was par for the course, as he was a double-double machine all season. Patrick Beverley and Patrick Williams combined for just two points, and that alone was a big reason why the Bulls offense struggled.

When it comes to the Heat, you know what you will get from Butler, and the 10-year vet certainly delivered. Listed on the short list of players who could be named the clutch player of the year, Butler was certainly clutch down the stretch as he put the team on his back to finish with 31 points. He was born for these moments, and he lived up to the moment.

Watching one former Bull have his way against Chicago is bad enough, but watching two makes you want to cringe. That is what the Bulls and their fans had to endure as Strus was on fire. As mentioned, Strus couldn't miss from deep in the first half and finished with seven triples as he added 31 points himself. It is hard to believe that Strus was once a Windy City Bull while Butler was in Chicago. The Bulls certainly could have used both of them on Friday.

With those two accounting for 60% of their scoring, the Heat knew they only needed minimal production from the rest of their roster to advance. Tyler Herro may have struggled from deep, 0-5, but he did what he needed to do to come away with 12 points. You also had Kevin Love come through with some massive minutes, and he added nine points off the bench to help pave the way for the Heat win.

The loss officially closes the 2022-23 season for the Bulls as they enter an offseason full of questions. Two of the biggest questions are what to do with Vucevic and White while also addressing the Lonzo Ball issue again and what to do if he can't return.

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