NBA Playoffs

Bulls-Heat: Who has edge in Play-In matchup?

The winner of Friday's game advances to a first-round playoff matchup versus the NBA-leading Celtics

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DeMar DeRozan vividly remembers the Chicago Bulls' plane ride from Miami to Chicago last April.

"Everybody was just frustrated," he said. "That feeling sucked."

That's because the Bulls led the Miami Heat 90-87 on Coby White's 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 47 seconds to play, only to score one point the rest of the way and watch their season end in a 102-91 loss in the Play-In Tournament game.

Miami seized that opportunity to advance all the way to the NBA Finals after upsetting the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. And while the Bulls would be considered massive longshots to do the same against the top-seeded Boston Celtics, they would love to get the opportunity by avenging last April's loss in Miami.

Their opportunity awaits on Friday in the same building.

"The run they went on last year was incredible," Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said. "It's a team that's really battle-tested in all sorts of moments. It will be a great challenge on the road. We all have an enormous amount of respect for them. We know how good they are. You'll have to play well."

Here are some matchup comparisons.


The Heat ranked 21st with an offensive rating of 113.3, two spots lower than the Bulls' rating of 114.

Obviously, the loss of Jimmy Butler to a knee injury is a massive blow to the Heat. But Donovan cautioned against the 3-point shooting ability of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson and the passing and facilitating of Bam Adebayo.

Robinson, who has battled a sore back down the regular-season stretch, didn't play in Wednesday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers despite the Heat competing without Terry Rozier. The Heat ranked 18th in 3-point attempts. They get plenty of their scoring from getting to the line -- although Butler is their leader in this department -- and cutting and movement in the halfcourt setting.

Coby White authored his best offensive NBA game at an opportune time on Wednesday. The Bulls' best success comes when someone -- whether it be White, Nikola Vucevic or Ayo Dosunmu -- has a big game alongside the consistent output of DeMar DeRozan.

Along those lines, White averaged 20.5 points on 41 percent 3-point shooting with an impressive volume of 9.8 attempts in the four-game season series.

This game will be physical, with points likely hard to come by. It probably won't feature the free-flowing nature that defined the victory over the defensively-challenged Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls would be well-served to get any decent imitation of their relentless attack on paint penetration that they had against the Hawks.

Edge: Bulls


The Heat posted a top-five defense during the regular season, finishing fifth with a defensive rating of 111.5.

The Bulls dropped from last season's top-five ranking all the way to 22nd, allowing 115.7 points per 100 possessions.

Injuries to Butler and Alex Caruso will impact this game, even if Caruso plays on his bothersome left ankle as expected.

The Heat use zone defense for different looks, and it has challenged the Bulls at times in their four-game season series. They've been an inconsistent 3-point shooting team. Trying to hit Nikola Vucevic, who is an adept passer, in the pocket would help attack the zone.

Adebayo's ability to switch onto smaller players while also offering rim protection makes him one of the game's elite defenders.

Edge: Heat


The teams split the four-game season series, with each team winning one game on the visiting court. The season series played out in unique fashion -- two sets of two-game series with the one set in Chicago in November and one set in Miami in December. Butler won one of the games in Miami with a buzzer-beating jumper.

But it's hard to take too much from those four games. Zach LaVine played in two, while Patrick Williams played in all four. Neither will play Friday.

Herro didn't play in any. Adebayo only played in two, while Butler played in all four.

Depending on the status of Robinson, the Heat bench features Kevin Love, who still can get hot from 3-point range at times, impressive rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., Delon Wright and Haywood Highsmith. Rozier remains out. For the Bulls, it's clear Andre Drummond isn't 100 percent; he's listed as questionable.

The Heat's homecourt advantage sometimes is offset by a late-arriving crowd. The Heat finished 22-19 at home.

Edge: Bulls

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