In a pivotal moment during Friday’s Eastern Conference play-in game, Jimmy Butler let out a cathartic scream as he fell to the floor after converting a layup and getting fouled with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. This gave the Miami Heat a lead over the Chicago Bulls that they held onto for the rest of the game. Butler then went on to make a crucial pass that set up Max Strus for a game-changing 3-pointer, helping to extend Miami’s lead during a dominant stretch run. This ultimately resulted in a 102-91 victory for the Heat, securing the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Butler and Strus both had impressive scores of 31 points, which helped the Heat win the game. In the last three minutes of the game, the Heat managed to score 15 points while the Bulls only scored one. After the game, Butler stated that he did what his team needed him to do, which was to find a way to win. The win allowed Miami to advance to the playoffs and they will now face the Milwaukee Bucks, who are the top seed in the NBA. The first game of the playoffs will take place on Sunday in Milwaukee.
According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, with two games this week, it seems like they are already in the second round and they have now earned the opportunity to start the playoffs. The Heat had a 14-point lead in the first quarter and were up by double digits in the third, but the Bulls managed to take the lead going into the fourth quarter. However, with just five minutes left, the score was tied, which is a situation the Heat have experienced frequently this season.
Miami had the most number of clutch games this season with 54, and out of those, they won 32 while the Bulls only won 15 – the lowest among all 20 teams that made it to the postseason. Strus, who along with Butler scored 30 points each in a playoff or play-in game, mentioned that the team is accustomed to such situations as they have been in them throughout the year. “It’s nothing new for us,” he stated. This marks the first time since 2013 that two Heat teammates have scored 30 points in a playoff or play-in game, after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Despite Bam Adebayo’s poor shooting performance of only making one out of nine attempts, Jimmy Butler recognized his contribution to the Heat’s defense, particularly in the crucial moments of the game. Adebayo’s defensive efforts limited Chicago’s shooting to only five out of twelve when he was defending, with two out of five in the last quarter. According to Adebayo, scoring is not the sole determinant of a player’s impact on the game, and he believes that he made a significant contribution despite his shooting struggles.
This will mark the fourth occasion where the Heat and Bucks face off in the playoffs. It’s worth noting that in the three previous meetings, the victor advanced to the NBA Finals. The Bucks emerged as champions in 2021 following their victory over the Heat in the first round, while Miami secured a championship title in 2013 after defeating the Bucks in the opening round.
Butler acknowledged the greatness of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, citing their strong team cohesion and dedicated fan base. He emphasized that the Miami Heat would need to play near-flawless basketball to have a chance at success, but expressed confidence in their ability to do so by staying united and persevering through adversity. Butler urged his team to focus on the present and not dwell on previous outcomes as they prepare for upcoming games.
The Bulls’ season comes to an end just before the playoffs after making a comeback in the latter half of the season. Despite being seven games under .500 during the All-Star break, Chicago managed to secure the East’s No. 10 seed by winning 14 out of their final 23 games. During the play-in game on Wednesday, the Bulls found themselves trailing by 19 points against the Toronto Raptors in the third quarter. However, they fought back and managed to extend their season to Friday’s game against Miami.
However, the Bulls were unable to make a comeback in the game. Despite Zach LaVine scoring 15 points, his shooting was not at its best as he only managed to make 6 out of 20 field goals. In the final minutes of the game, Coby White scored a 3-pointer to give the Bulls a lead of 90-87. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the last field goal the team was able to score throughout the game.
Bulls’ forward, DeMar DeRozan expressed his disappointment over their recent loss by saying, “It’s painful. It’s frustrating. The outcome shouldn’t have been like that because we had a chance to win the game. We were leading but unfortunately, we committed mistakes that we shouldn’t have in such an important game. And now, we’re facing the reality of having nothing to do.”