May 21st, 2024

The Heat are headed to Boston after ousting the Bulls 112-91 in East play-in finale

By Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press on April 19, 2024.

MIAMI (AP) – Tyler Herro scored 24 points and was an assist shy of a triple-double, rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 21 points and the Miami Heat grabbed the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, running away from the Chicago Bulls 112-91 in a play-in tournament elimination game Friday night.

Kevin Love scored 16 and Bam Adebayo added 13 for Miami, which gets this as a reward: a rematch of the last two East finals against the Boston Celtics. It’s Round 1 this time, the Heat set to be huge underdogs against the runaway favorite to win the NBA title.

The Heat won’t have Jimmy Butler against Boston because of his injured right knee and played again without point guard Terry Rozier, still out with a neck injury.

No matter. They took control over the Bulls with a 19-0 run in the first quarter, and a 14-0 run midway through the second half ended all doubt. Herro finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists, and the Heat eliminated the Bulls in the last East play-in game for the second straight year.

DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points for the Bulls, who got 16 points, 14 rebounds and five assists from Nikola Vucevic. Coby White scored 13 for Chicago, which was trying to become the fifth team in the last 35 years to make the playoffs after not spending a single day all season over the .500 mark.

The 19-0 run – which matched Miami’s longest run of consecutive points all season, done two other times – put the Heat on top, turning an 11-6 deficit into an early 25-11 lead. Jaquez and Nikola Jovic combined for 11 points in the burst, which fueled Miami taking a 17-point lead after one quarter and pushing it to 20 in the second quarter.

It was a rare stretch of decent offense on a gritty, gutty, win-or-go-home night.

The Heat managed only 13 points in the second and still went into the half with a 47-37 lead, because the Bulls were even colder from the field. Chicago started 4 for 5, then went 8 for 39 over the rest of the half. The Heat started 8 for 9, then finished the half by going 9 for 35.

This is how bad it was: Chicago missed 14 of 15 shots in one stretch, while Miami had spans of 0 for 8 and 0 for 6. But the Heat had the two big runs – and now are back as the No. 8 seed, the one they rode all the way to the NBA Finals last season.

It’ll be far more difficult this time against a Boston team that won an NBA-best 64 games this season and is likely still smarting from losing a Game 7 of last year’s East finals to the Heat at home.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

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