Tyler Herro,Bam Adebayo,Kyle Lowry
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) guard Kyle Lowry (7) and center Bam Adebayo (13) smile during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Tuesday, March 15, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)


Mike Shara

Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls –
8 pm CST on Bally Sports South –
United Center, Chicago IL –

POINT SPREAD: Miami -2.5 on PointsBet –
OVER/UNDER: 217.5 on Caesar’s –
MONEYLINE: Bulls +115 on DraftKings –

So, your first question is: “Mike, why in the hell are you writing about this late season NBA game that happens while literally everyone on earth will be watching the Final Four game between Duke and North Carolina?” It’s a fair question, and the answer is…I’m not sure. The truth is that I don’t watch enough college hoops to bet on it without basically lighting my money on fire. This is a good policy for everyone to follow, by the way – don’t ever bet on things you aren’t familiar with – it’s a recipe to guarantee continued losing. So, I suppose that’s why I’m writing this column today. Maybe you’ll bet on this game and then tune into the second half after the UNC/Duke game is over and thank me. I’ll make my Venmo account number available upon request.

If the NBA season ended right now, the Heat (49-28) would be the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. While that sounds pretty great, there have been recent causes for concern. First of all, there are four other teams within four games of Miami in the East standings – including their opponents tonight – meaning they could finish as low as fifth in the conference if they slide during the final week and a half. They recently had a bad stretch of four straight losses that was exacerbated by footage of a Jimmy Butler/Udonis Haslem verbal confrontation on the bench during a game (that’s a fight you don’t want, Jimmy). Things have settled a bit, as they have won their last two, including an impressive road win vs. Boston on Wednesday night. Their frontline players are all finally healthy and, in the lineup, although Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin are all questionable tonight. Tonight’s game and tomorrow’s road matchup vs. Toronto are the toughest matchups remaining on their schedule. Miami have won 4 of their last 5 vs. Chicago, 4 of their last 5 vs. the spread and have gone over the total in 3 of their last 5.

In the first half of this year’s NBA season the Bulls looked like they could be a serious contender for the title of the best team in the East. At the end of February, they were 39-21 and the top seed but things have evened out and their fortunes have cratered a bit, at least somewhat because of injuries to key players like Lonzo Ball and Zach Lavine. They’ve since won just 6 of their last 17 and also have a conspicuously bad record vs. the better teams in the conference. They haven’t beaten the Heat in any of their previous three meetings this season and are a combined 0-10 vs. Miami, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. That statistic doesn’t bode well for the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs. They are a bottom third team in the NBA in defensive rating and also haven’t reached 110 points scored in any of their last five regulation length games, though they needed 135 points to beat a Paul George-less Clippers team last night in overtime. They’ve won 3 of their last 5, have gone over the number in just one of their last five and Lavine is probable tonight with a balky knee, though Ball remains out with a long-term knee issue.

The Bulls played an overtime game last night at home (both DeMar DeRozan and Lavine logged over 40 minutes) and Miami haven’t played since Wednesday, so the Heat will certainly have fresher legs tonight. As stated earlier, Miami’s key players are all healthy and they seem to be meshing at the right time. Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler are experienced playoff performers and will be demanding a high level of play from their teammates from this point forward. They are a top five defensive team whose deliberate, physical pace will give Chicago trouble tonight as it has all season long. I don’t think a tired Bulls team can score enough to compete with Miami, which should keep the number pretty low, too.

PREDICTION: Miami 101 Chicago 95

Bam Adebayo over 18.5 points
Kyle Lowry over 6.5 assists
P.J. Tucker over 10.5 points+rebounds

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