Just 2.5 games in the standings separate the third place Miami Heat from the eighth place Chicago Bulls in the highly contested Eastern Conference. These two teams prepare to play each other today with quite a lot on the line as the NBA season enters into its final stretch (7.30pm ET, Tuesday).
The Bulls have had their ups and downs this season and once again been forced to fight off an injury bug which has led to both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler missing important games recently. As a result, Chicago has barely held on to their eighth and final spot in the East’s playoff picture. The team, which is 3-4 in their last seven, is coming off of back-to-back losses against the Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trailblazers. The team has seen the losses pile up since Butler and Rose went out and has seen their standing in the East drop as well.
They are coming off of two days’ rest, however Butler is still about a week away from returning and Rose is a game time decision for this, which seems to be delaying the sportsbooks’ game odds. Chicago is running out of time to right the ship as other teams are closing the gap on that eight-seed. Not to mention, Miami is not exactly an easy opponent and for Chicago to be missing two of their best players doesn’t bode well for their chances in what is starting to amount to a run of must-win games.
Although, as good as the Heat can be, recently they’ve only been slightly better than Chicago, posting a 4-3 record in their last seven.
Miami is coming off of a win however against the New York Knicks and a very competitive close loss against the class of the NBA in the Golden State Warriors just a few games prior. They have played a tough schedule but have handled it well, especially with the trade deadline addition of Joe Johnson (pictured) who helped the team win big over the Knicks.
Both teams have the capability to play big games however and they share quite an extensive history of competitive contests including the last time they met. Needless to say, Miami is likely to be favored but it really is anybody’s game. It will come down to a few factors, a few keys, which I’ve detailed in this preview below.
Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler: Can the Bulls win without their Stars?
Obviously, Derrick Rose is an asset and one that Chicago would rather have in their lineup than not. That said, the team has been able to somewhat hold their own without their top player. At least, they had before a two-game losing streak against top teams has shown the team’s weaknesses without Rose.
Chicago is currently 6-4 without Rose who has missed quite a significant amount of time over the past few years. If history is any indication, Chicago can only weather the storm for so long. Without Rose, the Bulls have struggled offensively and it’s expected this will continue with the more time he misses. In the past few years, the Bulls have been unable to stay competitive without Rose. This year that pattern is repeating as the Bulls began the Rose-less stretch 6-2 before dropping the last two.
To be fair, it’s not just Rose’s absence however that is playing into Chicago’s struggles. Jimmy Butler has been as much of an issue, as both his offensive and defensive contributions are being heavily missed. Butler leads the team with 22.4 points per game but has been away from the action since February 3rd. In that period, the Bulls have lost six of nine. It was also in this period that the team began to drop in the standings.
Health has been Chicago’s biggest enemy over the past few years and it seems to be striking in full force again. The team has only been able to field a makeshift lineup and while it started successfully has broken down a bit as of late. Unfortunately, against the Heat, this is not a position the Bulls want to be in. Without Rose and Butler, the losses are beginning to pile up and the Bulls’ playoff hopes may be fading just as quickly.
Miami’s New Faces have Meshed into a Cohesive and Dangerous Team
While the Bulls have undoubtedly struggled to put together a lineup capable of competing and winning consistently since Rose and Butler went down, the Heat have done just the opposite. They have dealt with injuries as well, most notably to Chris Bosh, but have managed to mesh old faces with new to produce what has been a cohesive and extremely dangerous team.
Miami’s success has been in large part due to Hassan Whiteside, a D-league find from last year who has been a double-double machine. He has five straight double-doubles off of the bench and is averaging 18.8 points and 16 rebounds as a reserve. He’s one of the best bench players in the league right now and seems to only get better.
Then there is Luol Deng, who has been critical to the Heat’s success ever since Bosh has been forced to miss significant time due to recurring issues with blood clots. Deng has averaged 18.7 points and 11.2 rebounds in the last six games. Another guy who has picked up the slack is Goran Dragic who has averaged 18.7 points and 6.8 assists in his last six as well.
And then there’s Johnson who has come to Miami in a seamless transition. Johnson was a star in Brooklyn and Atlanta before that and enters into a Heat situation with incredible chemistry. A perfect role player, Johnson has fitted in well, even if the sample size is small.
Point being, Miami is a team that plays like a team whereas Chicago, with all of the injuries, is still trying to figure out just exactly who that team needs to be.
Our Preview’s Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat Betting Picks Predictions
Miami is at home, has chemistry and, for all intents and purposes, is healthy. Chicago is still finding their way without Rose and Butler and while those two may be back in time to help the Bulls return to the playoffs, they won’t be back for this game against the Heat.
- The sportsbooks have been slow to price up the betting lines for this NBA game and the odds are not available at time of writing. It makes a betting pick hard in the dark, but we expect the spread to have Heat as around 8pt favorites @ -110 odds. If that is the case then bet on Miami -8pts to beat that deficit with Bovada, BetOnline or 5Dimes.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.