Bulls

Bulls/NBA Playoffs action returns to CSN

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Bulls/NBA Playoffs action returns to CSN

First Round Coverage Begins this Sunday, April 16 at 4:30 PM CT

Network to carry exclusive Bulls vs. Celtics “Hometown Call” coverage featuring Neil Funk & Stacey King!

CSN to air Games 1-4 in the Chicago Market (and Games 5 & 6 if nec.; Game 7 TBD)

Live streaming coverage of EVERY Bulls NBA Playoffs First Round telecast – including all Pre/Postgame Shows – to be made available to authenticated subscribers on CSNChicago.com and via the NBC Sports app

CSNChicago.com to provide LIVE video stream of EVERY Bulls post-game press conference, plus exclusive coverage from team practices and pre/post-game reports from Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill

“Bulls Playoffs Preview presented by State Farm” special airs TOMORROW NIGHT (Fri, Apr. 14) at 11:00 PM!

Chicago, IL (April 13, 2017) – CSN Chicago (CSN), the home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Bulls, is ready to deliver electrifying 2017 NBA Playoffs “Hometown Call” coverage as the Bulls, led by three-time NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler & three-time NBA Champion/12-time NBA All-Star/Chicago native Dwyane Wade, look to further extend their season in Eastern Conference first round action against two-time NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas (the NBA’s third-leading scorer this season) and the #1-seed Boston Celtics.  CSN will be the exclusive “local” coverage home in the Chicago market to see live coverage of Games 1-4 (and Games 5 & 6 if necessary, Game 7 is TBD), featuring the always-entertaining Bulls announcing tandem of Neil Funk & Stacey King.

In addition -- EVERY Bulls/NBA Playoffs first round telecast on CSN, including surrounding Bulls Pre/Postgame Live coverage, will be accessible live via CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated CSN Chicago subscribers.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  For a full list of carriers and more information about CSN Chicago’s live streaming service of Bulls games, viewers are urged to visit the following link: http://www.csnchicago.com/live-faq .  

CSN’s Bulls/NBA Playoffs first round coverage gets underway this Sunday, April 16 beginning at 4:30 PM CT with a special, one-hour edition of Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light, featuring hosts Mark Schanowski, former Bulls center/four-time NBA Champion Will Perdue, and former University of Illinois/Bulls standout Kendall GillBulls Pregame Live will provide a complete Game 1 preview, analysis, interviews, along with the latest team/player news and updates from Bulls beat reporter Chuck Garfien & CSNChicago.com Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill

Then, at 5:30 PM, fans can look forward to the exclusive “Hometown Call” coverage of Game 1 between the Bulls and Celtics live from TD Garden in Boston, featuring Neil & Stacey with the game call.  Immediately following Sunday’s playoff opener and after every Bulls playoff game, CSN will carry Kia Bulls Postgame Live (hosted by Schanowski, Perdue, and Gill), featuring live locker room interviews, detailed analysis, along with head coach Fred Hoiberg’s post-game press conference and numerous player interviews.  (CSN’s complete Bulls first round coverage schedule is included in this release.)

 TOMORROW NIGHT (Friday, Apr. 14) at 11:00 PM, Bulls fans can look forward to an NBA Playoffs primer with Bulls Playoff Preview presented by State Farm.  This half-hour special, hosted by Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue, and Kendall Gill will provide a detailed, inside look at the Bulls vs. Celtics first round match-up, a recap of every regular season battle against the Celtics, along with the very latest player status updates, a recap of the entire regular season featuring key highlights, plus - player/coaches interviews and an overview of the entire NBA Playoffs picture with analysis on both conferences.

Throughout the playoffs, viewers are also urged to tune in nightly to In The Loop at 6:30 PM & In the Loop Prime (presented by GMC at 10:00 & State Farm at 10:30PM) for the latest Bulls playoffs news, social media highlights, viral videos and much more, along with CSN Fast Break nightly at 12 midnight for a full recap of every NBA Playoffs match-up, including game recaps, next game previews, up-to-the-minute team/player updates, interviews and numerous playoff highlights from around the league.  Plus – host David Kaplan and a panel of Bulls/NBA experts will deliver the hottest NBA Playoffs discussion and game breakdowns every weeknight on SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado (check your channel guide for specific times or visit CSNChicago.com for detailed listings).

In addition to its live stream of every first round playoff telecast, CSNChicago.com will also provide fans with even more exclusive Bulls/NBA Playoffs content including the following:

  • CSNChicago.com will stream EVERY Bulls postgame press conference LIVE (sponsored by Xfinity) providing insider access to head coach Fred Hoiberg addressing the media as it happens.
  • CSNChicago.com Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill will be on-site -- for EVERY Bulls playoff game -- filing stories and video for each game and team practices, plus Goodwill will provide up-to-the-second Tweets via @vgoodwill throughout the playoffs.  In addition, Bulls digital reporter/producer Mark Strotman (@markstrot) will also provide Bulls opponent perspective/reports on days of home games, along with providing Bulls and NBA Playoffs reports/features on the beat with Goodwill.  Follow @CSNBulls on Twitter for full team coverage, giveaways, fan photos and game day news straight from the United Center. Fans are also urged to follow Stacey King (@Stacey21King), Mark Schanowski (@MarkSchanowski), Will Perdue (@Will_Perdue32), Kendall Gill (@KendallG13), and Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) for even more Bulls/NBA insider coverage.
  • Video highlights include interviews from game day/off day practices, as well as extensive post-game reaction from the locker room and analysis via “Kia Bulls Postgame Live”
  • “Bulls Talk PODCAST” – Featuring Bulls Pre/Postgame Live host Mark Schanowski, analyst Kendall Gill, “Insider” Vincent Goodwill, and an array of special guests, CSN’s “Bulls Talk” podcast features in-depth Bulls discussion on the hottest topics and breaking news throughout the NBA Playoffs. Fans can download all of CSN’s podcasts at CSNChicago.com/podcasts and simply subscribe to them via iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.
  • Push Alerts: CSN Chicago will deliver Bulls push notifications for breaking team and player news, “Insider” reports, plus game reminder alerts via CSN Chicago’s SportsTalk app for iOS and Android devices.
  • BullsTalk (CSNChicago.com/bulls) - CSNChicago.com’s high-velocity, real-time, comprehensive Bulls/NBA Playoffs news and opinion section featuring original commentary, reporting and social media aggregation. BullsTalk contains interactive content with continually updated insights from the network’s talent, which includes the new #BullsTalk podcast.
  • Fans can also follow and connect with CSN’s extensive Bulls coverage on Facebook (including numerous “Facebook Live” segments with CSN talent), Instagram and Snapchat at @CSNChicago
  • CSNChicago.com, NBC Sports and ProBasketballTalk.com will also produce Bulls and NBA content in tandem throughout the playoffs, which will include on-camera segments and digital reports.
  • Bulls/NBA Playoffs coverage on CSNChicago.com is presented by Toyota.

Note the following first round schedule of games and additional coverage information on CSN/CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app:

CHICAGO BULLS vs. BOSTON CELTICS on CSN CHICAGO

* Game 1: Sun, April 16, 5:30 PMBulls at Celtics (TD Garden)

LIVE STREAM also available on CSNChicago.com & the NBC Sports app

(NOTES: Bulls/NBA Playoffs coverage on CSN begins at 4:30 PM with a special, one-hour edition of Bulls Pregame Live with Bulls Postgame Live immediately following the game; In the Loop Prime will air 10:00 PM/10:30 PM with even more comprehensive Bulls/NBA Playoffs coverage; game replay at 12:30 AM & Mon, Apr. 17 at 3:30 PM)

-- IMPORTANT WHITE SOX NOTE:  The White Sox at Minnesota game will air in its entirety on CSN+/CSN+HD (also streaming live on CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app), but will also air on the main CSN channel location from 3:00-4:30 PM (White Sox Pregame Live coverage begins at 2:30 PM, first pitch at 3:00 PM; viewers urged to visit CSNChicago.com for exact channel locations in their area).

* Game 2: Tue, April 18, 7:00 PMBulls at Celtics (TD Garden)

LIVE STREAM also available on CSNChicago.com & the NBC Sports app

(NOTES: Special Bulls-focused edition of SportsTalk Live hosted by David Kaplan at 5:30 PM, which will be followed by In the Loop at 6:00 PM; Bulls Pregame Live airs at 6:30 PM with Bulls Postgame Live immediately following the game; In the Loop Prime will air 10:00 PM/10:30 PM with even more comprehensive Bulls/NBA Playoffs coverage; game replay at 12:30 AM & Wed, Apr. 19 at 3:00 PM)

-- IMPORTANT WHITE SOX NOTE:  The White Sox at NY Yankees game will now move to CSN+/CSN+HD (also streaming live on CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app) (White Sox Pregame Live at 5:30 PM, first pitch at 6:00 PM; viewers urged to visit CSNChicago.com for exact CSN+ channel location in their area).

* Game 3: Fri, April 21, 6:00 PMBulls vs. Celtics (United Center)

LIVE STREAM also available on CSNChicago.com & the NBC Sports app

(NOTES: United Center remote edition of SportsTalk Live hosted by David Kaplan at 5:00 PM; Bulls Pregame Live at 5:30 PM/Bulls Postgame Live after the game, both shows from the UC; game replay at 12:30 AM)

-- IMPORTANT WHITE SOX NOTE:  The White Sox vs. Cleveland game will now move to CSN+/CSN+HD (also streaming live on CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app) (White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 PM, first pitch at 6:30 PM; viewers urged to visit CSNChicago.com for exact CSN+ channel location in their area) (This game will ALSO be joined in progress on the main CSN channel location immediately following Bulls Postgame Live).

-- IMPORTANT FIRE NOTE:  The Fire at Toronto MLS game at 6:00 PM (currently scheduled to air on CSN+) will move to CSN+2 (Specific CSN+2 channel location details will be available here: csnchicago.com/channel-finder) (This Fire game will also re-air in its entirety on CSN+ at 11:00 PM). 

* Game 4: Sun, April 23, 5:30 PMBulls vs. Celtics (United Center)

LIVE STREAM also available on CSNChicago.com & the NBC Sports app

(NOTES: Bulls Pregame Live begins at 5:00 PM with Bulls Postgame Live immediately following the game (both shows taking place at the United Center); In the Loop Prime will air 10:00 PM/10:30 PM with even more comprehensive Bulls/NBA Playoffs coverage)

* Game 5:  Wed, Apr. 26 (Channel Location/Time TBD) – Bulls at Celtics (TD Garden) (if necessary)

* Game 6: Fri, Apr. 28 (Channel Location/Time TBD) – Bulls vs. Celtics (United Center) (if necessary)

* Game 7:  Sun, April 30 (Channel Location/Time TBD) – Bulls at Celtics (TD Garden) (if necessary)

ALL TIMES ARE CENTRAL TIME

The Pecking Order: A very crazy week for the Bulls

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

The Pecking Order: A very crazy week for the Bulls

This has felt like a very crazy week for the Bulls. Lots going on. We’ve seen more losses in winnable games and another win over the lowly Pistons. Swirling around the game action we’ve had more injuries surface, more intriguing Jim Boylen quotes, more minutes for the “grit and toughness” squad, and more underwhelming performances from the supposed stars of the roster. To top it off, Bulls fans were hit hard in the feels on Wednesday night when the team honored recently retired Bulls legend Luol Deng at the United Center with many of his old teammates in attendance.  *Reaches for the nearest box of tissues*

I feel in need of a good long nap before we get to the weekend back-to-back. Before that nap, though, here are the biggest thoughts occupying my tired mind in Week 5 of the Bulls’ regular season. It’s the Pecking Order.

  1. I’m getting really sick of the 4th quarter collapses.

In losses to Brooklyn (sans Kyrie Irving) and Milwaukee (twice), the Bulls coughed up three more winnable games with painful collapses in the 4th quarter.  In the first of their two recent matchups, the Bucks gave the Bulls every opportunity to steal one.  Milwaukee missed a boatload of free throws (34-47).  They shot 18.2% (WHAT. EW.) from downtown and turned the ball over 22 times.  To his credit, Ryan Arcidiacono performed admirably when Jim Boylen tasked him with guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo down the stretch.  (WHAT. EW.)  Archi forced a Giannis midrange miss at the 1:35 mark and the Bulls only trailing by three.  But Lauri Markkanen, among others, failed to corral the defensive rebound and Eric Bledsoe made them pay with a second-chance bucket.  A missed Zach LaVine three on the other end and another Bledsoe bucket meant curtains for a golden chance at an impressive win against a respected opponent.

Two days later, the Bulls allowed the Nets to score 43 points in the final twelve minutes after bouncing back from an ugly start and taking leads into the 3rd and 4th quarters. The fact that 20 of Brooklyn’s 43 points in the final frame came courtesy of the recently Bulls-spurned Spencer Dinwiddie added extra pain to the evening. 

That dude can ball. 

Thank goodness we waived him to free up that roster spot for Michael Carter-Williams...Wait, what do you mean MCW isn’t leading the Bulls’ second unit with face-palming plays and bricked shots anymore? When did that happen?  (Aaaah, the “Three Alphas” season. Fun memories.)

In their second attempt to knock off Milwaukee, the Bulls again were in it late. But awful nights from Markkanen and LaVine led Boylen to leave his second unit on the floor late into the 4th. That’s something we’ve now seen several times through the first 15 games. After a Coby White three gave the Bulls a 99-98 lead with 6:23 remaining, the Bucks finished the game on a 17-2 run. Zach and Lauri checked in at the 5:04 mark, but all the supposed star duo could collectively provide was two free throws from Lauri. Zach had a bad turnover on a crucial possession, Lauri had a shot in the paint blocked by Brook Lopez, and both missed all their field goal attempts.

Yes, young teams like the Bulls usually struggle to finish close games. Yes, Lauri and Zach are underperforming. But this string of collapses in winnable games is a concerning trend. If you look at their net rating by quarter, it’s not a pretty picture. Per stats.nba.com, the Bulls are tied for 9th in the NBA with a 1st quarter net rating of +5.8. Their 2nd quarter rating of -1.2 ranks 19th, 3rd quarter rating of -4.6 also ranks 19th, and 4th quarter rating of -10.3 ranks 27th.

Jim can preach about needing to start games better, especially at home.  He can praise his guys for winning first and second quarters all he wants.  But it’s impossible to ignore the numbers. The Bulls perform worse as the games go on. Some of that is young players failing to close. It’s also an indictment on a coach who can’t adapt and make the proper in-game adjustments. But yeah, Archi sure played the Greek Freak tough! *facepalm*

 

  1.   Just when you thought we were finally going to have a healthy season…

Just kidding.  Who needs a healthy roster?  The already-limited Bulls, that’s who. But here we are, in late November, and we’re already dealing with injuries to several players. Sure, some are more important than others. Based on his poor shooting and defensive exposure before being removed from Boylen’s rotation – and the emergence of Daniel Gafford – I’m sure Bulls fans are more than fine with Luke Kornet taking all the time he needs to get those sinuses cleared out or whatever sinuses need to be good sinuses. (Making myself LOL at “good sinuses.”  What are “bad sinuses”?  Sinuses that live on the other side of the tracks and peer pressure you into skipping school?  Moving on…)

The foot injury to Otto Porter Jr. is a gigantic concern. Yes, he’s been middling at best so far this season. But in the Bulls’ first win over Detroit, you saw exactly what he can provide when healthy and playing well. We saw it immediately when he arrived via the trade with Washington last season. Now his backup, Chandler Hutchison, is dealing with “sore shins” that caused him to miss Wednesday’s game. That’s on top of the hamstring injury that held Hutch out of training camp and the first several games of the season.

Just as concerning as the injuries themselves are the vague updates we’re getting from Boylen and the Bulls’ medical staff.  Boylen recently said, “Otto's is a slow, meticulous process.  As symptoms subside, he gets better. Some days those symptoms are less, and some days they are the same as the day before. So that's where that's at.  He's working at it. He's trying. Again, this is a tough one. It's not a definitive thing. I'm sorry I don't have more answers for everyone. We're just trying to do the best we can with it."

Does anybody know how to interpret any of that?  Now we’ve also learned that Otto’s second MRI revealed a bone bruise in his foot that was “not apparent” in the first MRI.  He’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks.  Who’s got any confidence that reevaluation will bring good news?  Not this guy.

As for Hutchison, Boylen’s comments on Otto’s backup and his shins are equally confusing. But here’s a sample from Wednesday: “He’s out tonight, and that’s about as much as I can tell you. It doesn’t seem to be a quick fix; I don’t want to give you a timetable there.” Awesome. 

Did I mention that Lauri is still likely playing through an oblique injury – one the Bulls didn’t disclose until two weeks after it happened – and Coby White tweaked an ankle during warmups before the Pistons game? 

  1. Daniel Gafford is very fun to watch. 

He also appears to be more than qualified to play meaningful minutes. And not just in the G-League. (As my pal John pointed out on a recent Outsiders episode, the “G” in G-League stands for Gafford. I guess the “N” in NBA stands for daNNy duNks.)  With his breakout performance against the Bucks on Monday, Bulls fans must be wondering: 1) If Gafford was so positively affecting the game, why didn’t Boylen use him down the stretch of a winnable game?  2) If Gafford is this effective, why did it take 14 games – many of which featured an underwhelming Kornet – for Boylen to give him a chance?  And 3) What does all of this say about the talent evaluation abilities of Boylen, his staff, and everyone else in Advocate Center offices?  *Uncomfortably grabs collar*…

  1. Speaking of players who can’t get an opportunity, what on earth is going on with Denzel Valentine?

If there were ever a chance for Denzel to get out of Boylen’s doghouse and onto the court, Wednesday night was it. No Otto, no Hutchison, and a Pistons team that has one of the weakest wing depth rosters in the league. But still, no Denzel. Shaq Harrison (a guard) got the start at SF.  Ryan “I Take Charges” Arcidiacono continued his regular usage off the bench with 21 minutes. Denzel couldn’t even get onto the floor in garbage time. (That’s partly because Boylen apparently doesn’t believe in garbage time when his team is winning. See #6.)  If Boylen can’t find any minutes for Denzel in a game when the Bulls are down two wings and are up to twenty points late, when will he ever find time for him? Not to mention Denzel’s most useful ability, three-point shooting, has been one of the Bulls’ greatest weaknesses so far this season.

Why is Denzel on this roster?  If Boylen refuses to play him at all, then trade him if you can or waive him.  All you’re doing right now is wasting a roster spot.  With injuries piling up, maybe you could find somebody useful to take that spot?  But what do I know?

  1. Jim Boylen says lots of stuff.  On Wednesday night, he quoted his friend Tom Izzo.  It was weird.

After the win over Detroit, Boylen praised the efforts of Shaq Harrison in his first meaningful minutes of the season by citing a phrase coined by his friend and former colleague Tom Izzo. “P.P.T.P.W.” stands for “Players Play, Tough Players Win.”  Cool.

Shaq might embody that saying in Boylen’s mind, but he didn’t play for Izzo at Michigan State.  He played at Tulsa.

…Didn’t Denzel Valentine spend four years at Michigan State playing for Izzo?  Hmm…

  1. About the final minutes of Wednesday’s victory.

With the Bulls up 100-80 with 4:51 remaining, the following players were on the floor: Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr, Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoranský, and Shaq Harrison. The four normal starters weren’t subbed out until the 1:32 mark when Shaq remained for mop-up duty. Why did Boylen feel the need to play his primary starters for those three extra minutes when the game was already in hand? Did he feel that a Pistons comeback was still possible? I know the Bulls have given up leads in the 4th quarter several times this season, but it would’ve taken a meltdown of epic proportions to blow that lead. I’m just glad nobody got injured.

Also, I’m not sure what’s weirder: Boylen playing his starters down the stretch of a blowout or playing his second unit down the stretch of a close game. Neither is a good thing, in my humble opinion.

  1. I really enjoyed Derrick Rose’s interview with Will Perdue.

I am not the Rose Hater that Kendall Gill makes me out to be. I just don’t think it’s healthy for Bulls fans to live in the past when the rocky and worrisome present demands our full attention. That being said, you should definitely check out the interview if you haven’t already.  It’s fantastic.

  1. I felt all the feels on Luol’s big night.

Good for the Bulls for signing Luol Deng to a one-day contract to allow him to retire here, where his NBA career began and blossomed. Good for them, also, for honoring Luol during a break in the action on Wednesday night. The video tribute was great. Even better was seeing Luol hang out in the owner’s suite with former teammates Joakim Noah, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas (dunks!  LaMarcus Aldridge!), Jannero Pargo, John Lucas III (Revenge on LeBron Game!), Nazr Mohammed (LeBron Shove!) and Aaron Gray (Aaron Gray!) …like I said. All the feels. Cheers to Luol on a great career.

  1. Tomas Satoranský finally showed us something.

It wasn’t an other-worldly performance, but it’s a start. In two recent games, Sato scored the Bulls’ first five points and never scored again. His assist numbers have been mediocre, and he hasn’t looked to shoot much despite a blistering 46.3% from beyond the arc. 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-5 from deep, plus 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals is a solid night at the office. Satoranský and Boylen both spoke recently about his need to be more aggressive to help the Bulls’ struggling offense. Hopefully, his game on Wednesday was a good start.

  1. I’m excited to watch Jimmy’s new team on Friday night.

The Bulls will host another reunion on Friday when Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat visit the United Center for the final game of this homestand and the first game of a weekend back-to-back. The Heat’s fast start (10-3, currently 3rd in the East) has surprised many. They’re getting solid production from a pair of rookies, Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro. But it’s Jimmy leading the way, averaging 18.7 points, 7 assists and an NBA-best 2.7 steals per game. I haven’t watched the Heat much so far this season, but I like what I’ve seen. They move the ball well and play solid defense. I’m excited to watch them on Friday night. And by excited, I mean terrified.

Thanks for reading.  Here’s hoping for a few more wins and some good news on the injury front. I also wouldn’t mind more 20-point games from Lauri. Please. For the love of God, please.

Till next time.  See red, be good.  - Peck 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

What to watch for when Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat take on the Bulls

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USA TODAY

What to watch for when Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat take on the Bulls

Friday night, Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat (10-3) visit the United Center to take on the Bulls (5-10). The game tips off at 7 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago — until then, here's what to watch for:

Not your mother’s Miami Heat

The Heat’s torrid 10-3 start to the season has caught much of the NBA cognoscenti by surprise — not necessarily because of their general performance, but because of a number of new  names helping lead the charge. 

Chief among that group are rookie guard Kendrick Nunn and second-year forward Duncan Robinson. Each of them have carved out spots in the team’s current starting lineup, and their play has been critical with both Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow missing stretches early on (Winslow, along with Derrick Jones Jr., didn’t travel with the team for tonight’s game or their game in Philadelphia on Saturday). 

Nunn hit a blip at the beginning of November after a scorching hot October, but is averaging 19 points, 5.3 assists and 1.5 steals on 53.4% shooting (43.5% 3-point shooting) in his last five games. He’s a certified pest, defensively, too. Robinson, for his part, is coming off the game of his life, in which he stroked nine three pointers (seven in the second quarter) in a blowout win over Cleveland:

 

Of course, the heralded guys are performing, as well. Since returning to the team, Butler is doing Butler things — leading the team in usage, scoring and assists, while also ranking top two in the league in steals (2.7, 1st) and deflections (3.9, 2nd) per game. Goran Dragic, who’s been supplanted by Nunn, has adapted nicely to a bench role and Bam Adebayo is fast becoming one of the more dynamic two-way bigs in the league.

Offensively, the Heat are a team predicated on quick and consistent ball movement — they’re ninth in the league in passes made per game and second in assist rate. That kind of philosophy can result in turnovers, and the Heat are dead last in the NBA in that category, both in turnover rate and turnovers per game. If the Bulls’ rotations are sound, that’s an area they can capitalize in

Still, Miami is a well-coached and well-rounded squad that plays every game like it’s their last. A Bulls upset won’t come easy.

A tough defensive matchup

Miami enters the game the third-rated defense in the league, buoyed by a robust rotation of pesky on-ball defenders and the switchable, high-leaping Adebayo in the middle. They’re a tremendous defensive rebounding group, force the second most turnovers per game (trailing only the Bulls) in the NBA and don’t allow many looks around the rim — a place where the Bulls shoot frequently and inefficiently.

Where the Heat have gotten somewhat fortunate is defending the three-point line. Miami is alone at the top of the league in opponent three-point percentage (30.1%), but opponents are shooting only 33.5% on ‘wide-open’ attempts against them (as defined by NBA.com as shots without a defender within six feet of the shooter). The Bulls allow the same percentage on ‘wide-open’ three-pointers, well below the league average of 37.8%.

If the Bulls can catch fire from behind the arc, as they did against Detroit (14-for-27 from deep), it could be an area they can close the gap. And in that vein, after struggling mightily on the glass at the outset of the season, the Bulls rank fifth in the NBA in rebounding rate (52.5%) in their last five games — two of which were against formidable frontcourts in Milwaukee and Detroit. The Heat excel in that area, so it’s worth monitoring if the Bulls can keep that momentum rolling.

Bulls get (another) shot at a good team

The Bulls enter this contest 0-6 against teams with winning records this season. They were 7-40 in that department in 2018-19 and 9-41 the year before. That’s a combined 16-87 record against better-than-.500 teams in the last three years. Yikes.

Tonight, they get a chance to begin flipping that script. Blowing out dismal Detroit is encouraging, but conversations about a real corner being turned should be suspended until the Bulls start at least competing against the league’s best.

Jimmy Butler returns for the third time, with a third team

Since being traded from the Bulls in June 2017, Jimmy Butler has returned to the United Center as a visitor twice, once with the Timberwolves and once with the 76ers. Both of those games resulted in one-point Bulls wins.

In Miami, it seems he’s found a home. But Chicago still holds a special place in his heart.

“It’s always special to play here. This is where I started,” Butler said of returning to Chicago. “I was fortunate to be able to play in front of these wonderful fans in this great city and obviously all the history that went on here with the players that I was able to play with… I’ll always have love for this city. That will never change.”

Chicago fans will appreciate that sentiment, but certainly wouldn’t mind if tonight’s matchup goes similarly to Butler’s last two return trips. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.