NBA play-in: Heat ride blazing start to 112–91 win over Bulls, advance to playoff rematch with Celtics

So far in the playoffs, the Miami Heat’s 2024 playoff campaign looks a lot like its 2023 campaign.

Last season, the Heat lost their first game in the NBA play-in tournament, but recovered in their second game to advance to the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.

To start this year’s playoffs, Miami lost its first play-in game to the Philadelphia 76ers. But with a second chance at the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Heat beat the Chicago Bulls Friday night, 112-91, to advance to a first-round series against the top-seeded Boston Celtics .

Miami got off to a hot start, with a 19-0 run in the first quarter that put the Bulls back on track. Chicago didn’t help itself by shooting 3 of 13 from three-point range before scoring just 17 points in the frame. That long-range shooting didn’t improve, as they shot 5 of 23 from three in the first half. Overall, the Bulls shot 27 percent in the first two quarters.

Tyler Herro led the Heat with 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Rookie Jamie Jaquez Jr. added 21 points with six rebounds and six assists. Kevin Love provided a nice boost off the bench, scoring 16 points on 10-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line and 2-of-3 from three-point range.

The Heat earned their decisive victory despite the absence of leading scorer Jimmy Butler, who suffered a sprained right knee in Wednesday’s loss. Butler was initially only ruled out for Friday’s game, but is expected to be out for several weeks due to his injury.

Chicago was led by DeMar DeRozan’s 22 points with 16 points and 14 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic. The Bulls were hurt by Coby White’s poor performance. After scoring 42 points in a play-in victory over the Atlanta Hawks, White shot just 5 of 16 from the field and finished with 13 points.

The Bulls could revise their roster

The Bulls could have a different look next season. Head coach Billy Donovan will likely return. There has been some talk that Kentucky might go after it after losing John Calipari. But the Wildcats hired Mark Pope, which takes away a potential option for Donovan — if he even wanted to return to college coaching.

Chicago’s biggest question will likely be whether or not to keep Zach LaVine. The veteran guard frequently featured in trade rumors, but season-ending foot surgery ruled out that possibility. However, LaVine should be ready for training camp and if he shows he’s healthy, trade rumors will likely pick up again.

The team could also decide to move on from DeRozan and center Andre Drummond, who will both be unrestricted free agents. DeRozan has been the Bulls’ leading scorer this season (averaging 24 points per game), but he’ll be 35 next year and the front office may not want to make a big investment in that.

Rematch with the Celtics

Making the playoffs as the No. 8 seed last season was no obstacle for Miami, who upset the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. The Heat then defeated the New York Knicks and Celtics in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Denver Nuggets in five games.

Do the Heat have another upset against the Celtics (and another No. 1 seed)? Boston probably remembers losing Game 7 last year, 103-84. It was a shocking result for a team eyeing a possible NBA championship. The Celtics rebounded to finish 64-18 during the regular season, by far the best record in the league. They are therefore the favorites to win the title this year.

Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics first-round playoff series begins Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

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