NBA play-in

Last ticket: Heat dispose of Bulls, claim East playoff berth


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Last ticket: Heat dispose of Bulls, claim East playoff berth

DUEL. Heat forward Kevin Love watches his shot against Bulls center Nikola Vucevic during a play-in game.

Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

‘We have a bunch of Type-A competitors,’ says Miami coach Erik Spoelstra as the Heat, even minus Jimmy Butler, claim the last playoff spot in the East to advance against the No. 1 Celtics

Tyler Herro recorded 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists and the host Miami Heat punched their ticket to the playoffs with a convincing 112-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, April 19 (Saturday, April 20, Manila time).

Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in the one-sided win in the final Eastern Conference play-in game. The Heat will face the top-seeded Boston Celtics on Sunday, April 21, in the first round of the playoffs. 

Miami and Boston met in the two last East finals, with Boston prevailing in 2022 and the Heat winning last season.

Miami dominated Friday’s contest even with star Jimmy Butler sitting out with an MCL injury to his right knee. Butler was injured in Wednesday’s play-in loss against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Kevin Love contributed 16 points and seven rebounds, and Bam Adebayo scored 13 points for the Heat.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of his players, “We have a bunch of Type-A competitors and I wanted them to enjoy it and embrace it and to be grateful to have a game like that where it’s not a pick-up game and a game that doesn’t have meaning.

“These are the games that you think about and reflect on later on where you’re like, ‘That game was fun.’ These games are fun. They are fun. I’d rather not be in the play-in game, but they’re fun. Our competitors enjoy that.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points and Nikola Vucevic had 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists for the Bulls. Coby White had just 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting after scoring 42 points against the Atlanta Hawks two nights earlier.

“We couldn’t get in a rhythm offensively,” DeRozan said. “We couldn’t get anything going. And they had a rhythm and hit shots when they needed.”

Javonte Green added 12 points off the bench, and Ayo Dosunmu had 10 on 3-of-15 shooting for Chicago.

Miami also defeated the Bulls last season in the battle for the final spot in the East. The Heat eventually lost to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.

Spoelstra said, “We had to earn this. You can’t influence it. You can’t pay money for it. You have to collectively come together and earn it and we had to do it the hard way just to get this first ticket punched for the first invitation to this dance.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity to be in the playoffs. I’m grateful for this locker room to have this opportunity.”

Miami shot 46.3% from the field, including 14-of-33 from three-point range.

The Bulls made 38% of their attempts and were 13-of-43 from behind the arc.

Chicago trailed 70-60 after a basket by Green with 3:15 left in the third quarter, and then Miami delivered the knockout punch.

Delon Wright and Herro made treys during the quarter-ending 12-0 run for an 82-60 lead, and Jaquez scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 24.

Jaquez later converted a three-point play and added two free throws 59 seconds later as the Heat built a 99-70 with 7:05 left in the game and cruised to the finish.

DeRozan’s trey gave Chicago an early 11-6 lead before Miami rolled off 19 straight points. Haywood Highsmith scored the final basket of the spurt as the Heat held a 25-11 advantage with 4:52 left in the opening quarter.

Miami later led by 19 in the quarter before taking a 34-17 lead into the second period.

Chicago trimmed its deficit to 47-37 at the break.

DeRozan scored 15 in the half for the Bulls, while Jaquez led Miami with 10. 

Herro, looking ahead to the series with the Celtics, said, “Obviously, they’re the best team by numbers and statistically in the league. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, but we’re built for it. We’re excited and we got to cover for Jimmy, so we’re going to Boston with a great mentality and mindset and be ready to roll.” –

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