NBA Playoff: Heat journey begins with 112-91 win over Bulls, advance to rematch with Celtics

So far in the postseason, the Miami Heat's 2024 playoff campaign looks a lot like their 2023 run.

Last season, the Heat lost their first game in the NBA Championship, but rallied in their second game to reach the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.

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

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

Tyler Herro was the Heat's top scorer with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. Rookie Jimmy Jaquez Jr. added 21 points with six rebounds and six assists. Kevin Love had a nice surge 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 achieved their decisive victory despite the absence of top scorer Jimmy Butler, who sprained his right knee during Wednesday's loss. Butler was initially only ruled out for Friday's game, but is expected to be sidelined for several weeks with the injury.

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

The Bulls can fix the roster

The bulls could have a different look next season. Head coach Billy Donovan will likely return. There has been talk that Kentucky might draft him after losing John Calipari. But the Wildcats hired Mark Pope, which takes a potential option away from Donovan — if he even wants to return to coaching in college.

The biggest question in Chicago will likely be whether or not Zach LaVine will be retained. The veteran guard has often appeared in trade rumors, but season-ending foot surgery quashed that possibility. However, LaVine should be ready for training camp and if he shows he is healthy, trade rumors will likely resume.

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

A rematch with the Celtics

Making the playoffs as the No. 8 seed last season was no obstacle for Miami, who upset the No. 1 seed 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.

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Do the Heat have another upset over the Celtics (and another No. 1 seed) in them? Boston certainly remembers the Game 7 loss last year; 103-84. That was a shocking result for a team eyeing a potential NBA championship. The Celtics rebounded to finish 64-18 during the regular season, the best record in the league to date. Therefore, they are the favorites to win this year's title.

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

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