NBA play-in: Heat ride blazing start to 112–91 win over Bulls, advance to playoff rematch with Celtics

Miami beat Boston in last season's Eastern Conference finals

So far this postseason, the Miami Heat's 2024 playoff drive is looking a lot like their 2023 run.

Last season, the Heat lost their first game in the NBA play-in tournament, but recovered in their second game to make the playoffs as a No. 8 seed.

To begin this year's postseason, Miami lost its first play-in matchup to the Philadelphia 76ers. But with a second chance to earn the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, 112-91, to advance to a first-round series against the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Miami had a blazing start to the game, going on a 19–0 run in the first quarter that had the Bulls backpedaling. Chicago didn't help itself by shooting 3-for-13 from 3-point range on its way to scoring only 17 points in the frame. That long-range shooting didn't improve, as they shot 5-for-23 from 3 in the first half. Overall, the Bulls shot 27 percent in the first two quarters.

Heat did not miss Jimmy Butler

Tyler Herro led the Heat with 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Rookie Jamie Jaquez Jr. added 21 points with six rebounds and six assists. Kevin Love provided a nice boost off the bench, scoring 16 points on 10-for-10 shooting from the free throw line and 2-for-3 on 3-pointers.

The Heat earned its decisive victory despite missing leading scorer Jimmy Butler, who suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during Wednesday's loss. Butler was initially only ruled out for Friday's game, but is expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks with the injury.

Chicago was led by DeMar DeRozan's 22 points with 16 points and 14 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic. The Bulls were hurt by Coby White's poor performance. After scoring 42 points in a play-in win over the Atlanta Hawks, White shot only 5-for-16 from the field and finished with 13 points.

Bulls could overhaul roster

The Bulls could have a different look next season. Head coach Billy Donovan will probably return. There was chatter that Kentucky might take a run at him after losing John Calipari. But the Wildcats hired Mark Pope, which takes a potential option away from Donovan – if he even wanted to return to college coaching.

Chicago's biggest question will likely be whether or not to keep Zach LaVine. The veteran guard was frequently featured in trade rumors, but season-ending foot surgery nixed that possibility. However, LaVine should be ready for training camp and if he shows he's healthy, trade rumors will likely resume.

The team could also decide to move on from DeRozan and center Andre Drummond, both of whom will be unrestricted free agents. DeRozan was the Bulls' leading scorer this season (averaging 24 points per game), but he'll be 35 next year and the front office may not want to make a big investment in that.

Rematch with the Celtics

Going into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed last season was no obstacle for Miami, which upset the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. The Heat then defeated the New York Knicks and beat the Celtics in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Denver Nuggets in five games.

Do the Heat have another upset over the Celtics (and another No. 1 seed) in them? Boston surely remembers losing last year's Game 7, 103–84. That was a shocking result for a team looking at a possible NBA championship. The Celtics rebounded to finish 64–18 during the regular season, by far the league's best record. Consequently, they're the favorites to win this year's title.

Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics first-round playoff series tips off Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.