Bulls vs. Heat prediction, odds, injury report, TV channel, key matchups for 2024 NBA Play-In Tournament game

The final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs will be determined via a rematch between the Heat and Bulls.

In last year’s Play-In game, the Bulls held a late lead against the Heat. Then Jimmy Butler and Max Strus took over, finishing the night with 31 points each. The Heat advanced to the No. 8 seed after a 102-91 victory, eventually making their way to the Finals.

This year, the players on the floor will be mostly different. Only four of the 10 starters from last year’s game are expected to suit up (five if Alex Caruso can overcome an ankle injury suffered on Wednesday). Will the results be the same? 

Here’s everything you need to know in advance of Friday’s do-or-die contest.  

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Bulls vs. Heat prediction

This season series was all over the place. The teams split it 2-2, and three of the games were within single digits. Interestingly, they played back-to-backs twice, giving all four games a playoff-like feel in terms of the ability to make more adjustments than a typical regular season game. 

The Bulls came back from a 22-1 deficit the first time these two teams played. They stole the game late thanks to their usual clutch heroics. Two days later, the Heat came out to another 12-2 lead and held onto it this time, taking the rematch 118-100. 

Those first two games probably won’t be very instructive for Friday’s matchup. The Bulls had a totally different team dynamic when playing with Zach LaVine. The Heat had Kyle Lowry and Butler, both of whom won’t be there on Friday. Tyler Herro missed all four regular season games. He should be a key player for this one.  

The two games played in December should be a little more informative. The Bulls jumped out to a 33-8 lead after the opening nine minutes in the first of those games and held on to win. They dropped the rematch two days later on a Butler game-winner with time expiring. 

If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s that the Bulls and Heat have been unbelievably streaky against each other. That is probably due to how much both can struggle to score at times.

No lead is going to be safe in this one. Just look at last year’s Play-In, where the Heat closed on a 15-1 run to claw out a come-from-behind win. 

I imagine that Friday’s game will be close in the fourth quarter because these teams are evenly matched.

The Heat will be missing their most clutch guy in Butler. The Bulls will have DeRozan, who is among the league’s best in winning time. For that reason alone, I’m giving this one to the Bulls. 

Prediction: Bulls take the eighth seed, Heat eliminated.

MORE: TSN’s Steph Noh shares his expert All-NBA picks

Bulls vs. Heat odds

The Heat open as 1.5-point favorites against the Bulls per BetMGM, an authorized gaming operator of the NBA.

Team Spread Total Moneyline
Bulls +1.5 O 206.5 (-105) +105
Heat -1.5 U 206.5 (-115) -125

Bulls vs. Heat injury report

The Bulls have been missing LaVine, Patrick Williams and Lonzo Ball all year.

Caruso had his foot stepped on in the team’s Play-In victory on Wednesday and was not able to return to the game. His status for Friday is unknown — he’s expected to be a game-time decision, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — but he indicated after Wednesday’s game that he was going to try and play.

The Heat will be without Butler and Terry Rozier, the team announced. Duncan Robinson has also missed several games with a back injury. While he was technically available on Wednesday, he did not play.

MORE: TSN’s Steph Noh shares his expert All-Defense picks

Bulls vs. Heat date, time, TV channel

  • Date: Friday, April 19
  • Time: 7:00 p.m. ET | 6:00 p.m. CT
  • TV channel: ESPN
  • Live streaming: Sling

Bulls vs. Heat will be broadcast on ESPN. Viewers in the U.S. can also live stream Play-In Tournament games with Sling.

Sling is the home for avid sports fans offering a range of sports channels so you can always cheer for your favorite teams with channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT, NFL Network, FS1 and more.

DeMar DeRozan

Bulls vs. Heat key matchups and strategies

Can the Heat generate enough offense without Jimmy Butler?

The Heat played a lot through Butler in all four of their regular season matchups against the Bulls. They hunted mismatches, targeting Coby White in particular. Butler feasted in the post, forcing the Bulls to double-team him. He averaged 22.3 points and 4.3 assists on a solid 45.0 percent shooting from the field.

Without Butler, the Heat will struggle to create advantages. Robinson’s status will be crucial to make up that offense.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra has shown time and time before that he will create some sort of amazing game plan no matter what players are available to him. The Heat are a good screening and passing team with shooters that fly all around the court. That’s not going to change.

Bam Adebayo is going to do a lot of stuff as the hub of the Heat’s offense. He’s great as a passer at the elbows, at the top of the floor and as a dribble handoff threat. He led the Heat in assists against the Bulls in the regular season, averaging 5.5 per game. 

Jaime Jaquez Jr. is going to get a lot more touches as well. He’s an ultra-skilled scorer who put up 31 points on Christmas with Butler out. His post moves are a joy to watch. 

The Heat are going to need a lot more from Herro than what he brought against the Sixers on Wednesday. He was extremely ineffective for most of that game, going 9-of-27 and getting targeted on defense repeatedly. He’s been working his way back from injury, which partially explains that poor performance. 

The Heat don’t necessarily have to score a lot because they are probably going to try and muck this game up as much as possible with their zone defense. 

Can the Bulls crack Miami’s zone? 

Miami’s zone has been its ace in the hole for years now. It is a devastating weapon that can throw teams off-kilter. It did exactly that in the first half of the Heat’s game against the Sixers before they chose to mysteriously go away from it.

Adebayo and Kevin Love are great at quarterbacking it from the middle. The rest of their guys really confuse teams with how quickly they close gaps. 

MORE: What is the Heat’s 2-3 zone defense and why is it so effective? 

The Bulls have either been a great or slightly below-average team against zone this year, depending on which tracking service you look at. Their 126.9 offensive rating against zone defenses was the fourth-highest mark in the league, per Second Spectrum. Synergy has the Bulls with a much worse 100.8 offensive rating, ranking 21st.

In other words, it’s unclear if the Bulls are actually good or not, but they’re certainly not terrible against zone. 

One good way to beat a zone is to put pressure on the rim. The Bulls have some capable weapons in DeRozan and White that can do that well. Both have had success against the Heat this year, averaging 22.0 and 20.5 points per game, respectively. 

The other classic zone-busting technique is to collapse it by getting the ball into the middle of the floor. DeRozan has been a killer shooting from that soft spot of the zone.

Nikola Vucevic is also well-served in that zone-buster role because of his passing acumen and decent touch on short midrange shots. (He shot 52.9 percent from that distance this year, ranking in the 88th percentile per Cleaning the Glass). He is very dangerous when the Bulls can get him the ball near the free-throw line. 

Both of the above baskets against the Heat’s zone came from the Bulls’ Angle pick-and-roll set, which is one of their most commonly used actions this year. Look for it a lot — it helps the team maintain excellent spacing, as Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has explained in great detail in the NBA’s Coaches’ Corner segments. 

How the Bulls beat the Heat

White is coming off a stellar career-high 42 points on Wednesday in which he got to the rim at will against a bad Hawks defense. If he can replicate that type of performance facing a tougher Heat group that was ranked fifth in the league, then the Bulls are going to take this one. 

DeRozan is also going to have to repeat his heroics. The Heat lost two of their better options in defending him after trading Lowry and losing Butler to injury. They will probably start Caleb Martin on him. Don’t sleep on Haywood Highsmith as a very talented defender, too. If DeRozan can get Jaquez on him and bait him into some rookie fouls, that can give the Bulls a big boost. 

Caruso’s health is going to be hugely important. The Bulls are a different team with him on the floor. His defense is game-changing, and he always seems to save his best plays for the last few minutes. 

How the Heat beat the Bulls

You can never count the Heat out. They’re banged up, they’re missing their best player and none of that might matter. Spoelstra always finds a way. 

If the Bulls aren’t decisive against the Heat’s zone, then they’re toast. Those openings appear only for an instant. They need to make very quick reads or else they will fall victim in the same way that so many other teams have over the past few seasons. 

The Heat still have good firepower at their disposal despite their rash of injuries. Martin was a playoff hero last season who might have been the team’s MVP through some rounds. If Robinson is good to go, the Heat are going to have shooters that will barrage the Bulls’ defense. That has been a particular weakness of Chicago, which gives up the most 3s in the league

The Bulls are also more than capable of beating themselves. They’ve lost to some of the worst teams in the league, including the Pistons, Grizzlies and Raptors. There was a seven-win gap between these two teams during the regular season, and the Heat have home home-court advantage for this one. The Bulls could very easily play themselves out of a win. 

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