The Miami Heat carry a four-game winning streak and immeasurable confidence north with them when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.
Red-hot shooting has fueled the season-best winning streak for the Heat, who are coming off a 124-100 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
The Heat are shooting 48.2 percent from the field, which ranks No. 1 in the NBA.
“The last time I played with a lot of shooters on my team was probably on my AAU team in high school. That’s about it,” Heat rookie Tyler Herro, who played collegiately at Kentucky, recently told reporters. “It just creates less stress on our offensive side. I think it opens up more space for the rest of our attackers and ball-handlers.”
All of that adds up to a defensive challenge for Chicago, which also is feeling confident after earning a 20-point win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. The lopsided victory snapped a three-game skid for the Bulls.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen will look for another strong defensive effort from his team against the Heat. Chicago allowed only 89 points against Detroit, which marked the first time in six games and only the second time this season that the Bulls have held an opponent to fewer than 100 points.
It also helped that the Bulls received a strong performance on offense from Lauri Markkanen, who scored 24 points on 7-for-14 shooting. Markkanen had been mired in a slump before his strong game against Detroit.
“You can see that we need that,” Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky said about Markkanen’s production. “Whenever he catches on fire or scores some easy points, like the two dunks he had in the beginning, it’s a relief. He had his confidence back, and it puts less pressure on our first unit. He needed that personally, and we needed that too.”
Zach LaVine leads the Bulls with 19.8 points per game. Markkanen is next with an average of 14.8 points, and rookie Coby White is averaging 13.1 points in his first season out of North Carolina.
The Heat are led by Jimmy Butler, who started his career in Chicago, with 18.7 points per game. Chicago native Kendrick Nunn is second with 17.3 points per game, while Goran Dragic is averaging 15.8 points.
Butler said young players such as Duncan Robinson and Herro also have provided a big lift.
“We’ve got a lot of scorers,” Butler told reporters. “Duncan ain’t just a shooter, you know? I cringe every once in awhile when he dribbles the ball, but I think he can do multiple things. He rebounds well for his position, he can pass the ball — same thing with Tyler. We have so many guys that can do so many things and between (Robinson and Herro), I don’t know whose swag is more incredible when they’re out there on the floor.”
Chicago is 3-5 at home this season. Miami is 4-3 on the road.
–Field Level Media