Eastern Conference counterparts jockeying for postseason positioning will square off Saturday night in Chicago when the Bulls and Miami Heat clash.
Chicago (32-37) will be playing the second leg of a back-to-back series. It will be first of a road back-to-back for Miami (38-33).
The Heat will open a weekend double-dip that includes a visit to last-place Detroit on Sunday. Before that, Miami will try to win its third straight game after a pair of home victories Monday and Wednesday over Utah and Memphis, respectively.
Bam Adebayo led three Miami scorers who had at least 23 points in Wednesday’s win over the Grizzlies, scoring 26 on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor. Tyler Herro added 24 points, and Jimmy Butler went for 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Wednesday’s contest marked Butler’s sixth straight with at least 23 points, a stretch that peaked with a 38-point performance in the Heat’s most recent loss – a 126-114 overtime decision at Orlando on March 11.
Butler’s scoring proficiency coincides with a six-game stretch in which Miami scored more than its NBA-low 109.1 points-per-game average in five of six outings. Coach Erik Spoelstra said improved offense has been a point of emphasis heading into the home stretch of the regular season.
“[For the] first 45 games of the year, we knew how we could win games, and that’s defending at an incredibly high level and keeping games close and have our closers finish it off,” Spoelstra said, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We’ve been diligently working on our offensive efficiency, getting the ball where it needs to go, making sure we have the right shot profile, and get to our strength zones way more often, particularly in those moments of truth and skirmishes, that we continue to do that.”
Miami is seventh in the East, sitting atop the four-team play-in group, entering the game vs. Chicago. The Bulls moved into the 10th spot through games Friday with a 139-131, double-overtime win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Friday’s victory marked the Bulls’ third in their last four games. They lost at the buzzer on Wednesday to Sacramento.
DeMar DeRozan followed his 33-point effort against the Kings with a season-high 49 points against the Timberwolves. DeRozan also grabbed 14 rebounds in the win.
Zach LaVine added 39 points.
“Two guys getting going like that, it’s pick your poison,” LaVine said of himself and DeRozan.
“We know we can play with anybody,” LaVine added. “We’ve just got to turn it into wins. That’s all matters. … These last 13 games, all that matters is that W.”
Chicago also got 21 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic for his 43rd double-double of the season.
The Bulls can improve to 3-0 on the season against the Heat with a win on Saturday. Chicago won 113-103 in Miami on Dec. 20 and opened the season with a 116-108 victory, also on the road.
Saturday’s matchup will be the final one between the two teams this season.