Jimmy Butler’s Heat, Zach LaVine’s Bulls reorganize the East

CHICAGO – Jimmy Butler carefully traced the back lanes of the United Center, thanks to a brutal fall he suffered upon falling on Alex Caruso and encountering merciless ground.

Soon after, Zach LaVine was showing Butler and Kyle Lowry the area where his left thumb had sprained weeks ago, but has been playing since.

Call it the scars of war in the Eastern Conference, usually held for April and May, but apparently starting early in… November?

It’s too strong to say that the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls are the two best teams in the redeveloped East, but the supposed route through Brooklyn or even Milwaukee could have some unexpected detours, especially if roster changes then drop. that the commercial season should open. in December.

One night Kevin Durant played every minute of the second half, and then in another disappointing loss for the Nets to a top-tier team – this time the Phoenix Suns came to Barclays Center and spanked them – there’s had a showdown in Chicago.

The more experienced Heat took out a close one, 107-104, which wasn’t as pretty as one might expect given the power of the stars entering the night.

Butler, who is starting another stellar season, returns to Chicago.

LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, perhaps the most powerful duo in the NBA in the fourth quarter.

And Lowry, one of the most cunning playmakers who always makes life miserable for you and your coaching staff.

The Bulls haven’t sniffed at the playoffs since Butler transported a team carcass there in 2017 – there are three teams, if you count – and all of them came out of Butler’s experience by missing that something in. more than he brings that cannot quite be measured.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler is defended by Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic during the second half of their game at the United Center in Chicago on November 27, 2021 (David Banks / USA TODAY Sports)

So even with the Heat missing from explosive Tyler Herro, they had more than enough to keep a Bulls team on night two from back-to-back at arm’s length during those critical moments. LaVine didn’t have his usual stretch of scoring in clusters, and DeRozan played at his average. But Butler played like he knew the rims in Chicago.

It struck big late, reminiscent of its rise so many years ago.

But this Bulls team has learned on the fly and probably won’t suffer too many hard crashes like this this season. It looks like we know that even the games at the end of November will end up being very valuable in an Eastern Conference that won’t have much leeway in a few months.

“It’s not like the East at first,” DeRozan told Yahoo Sports, referring to his debut with the Toronto Raptors. “The level of competition is definitely high and it’s fun. You don’t know what can happen. The fact that we’re one of the best teams in our conference, playing a game like this evening, shows you how you have to approach each night. “

With my apologies to the aforementioned Golden State Warriors and Suns, the torchbearers in the West, quality is on the other side and appears to be enduring. It sounds like a sample size large enough to say without hesitation, especially as the Lakers continue to spit and stumble on their own feet.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan hinted that the game was kind of a measuring stick, and before you laugh, think about this: 11 teams in the East are at 0.500 or better and 12 teams have a positive deferential point.

It’s never too early for statement games, especially for a young team trying to make their mark in a competitive landscape.

It’s not just getting a top-six spot that’s a goal. Getting the homeport advantage isn’t unrealistic for either club, especially with the Philadelphia 76ers still stuttering as the Ben Simmons saga goes unresolved.

The game strategy was like playoffs, as the little Heat played ball against the smaller, faster Bulls. Nikola Vucevic, still shaking off the effects of health and safety protocols, was often guarded by Miami Bulldog PJ Tucker – a shorter man about 6 inches – and did not attack him.

The Heat scrambled their defenses and almost dared Vucevic to beat them, and that didn’t happen. It didn’t seem close to happening, as he only took nine hits in 30 minutes.

“I think it’s a very, very good game for myself to watch,” Donovan said when asked about wanting Vucevic to be more aggressive. “And we have to find ways to help him a little more in these situations. I didn’t think that in some of these situations we were using it the way we should.

Donovan will always be backing his guys, though it’s obvious Vucevic needs to find his way into DeRozan’s new hierarchy and LaVine being the aggressors and not expect the game to come to him on purpose.

But that’s often the challenge for teams in the Bulls’ position, and you’d rather attribute their ambition to them than blame the new regime for not being conservative enough – especially against a seasoned Heat team.

Miami can speed you up when trying to be deliberate and slow you down when you want to pick up the pace. It’s part of the franchise’s makeup, no matter who wears which swimsuit. And it looks like a team clearly ready to take full advantage of any indecision in the conference or on the pitch.

It’s hard to say the Bulls were caught off guard, but it’s an adjustment. United Center was ready and it looked like a playoff game.

Chicago Bulls goalie Zach LaVine moves around Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler.

Chicago Bulls goalie Zach LaVine moves around Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler during their game at the United Center in Chicago on November 27, 2021. (David Banks / USA TODAY Sports)

“In terms of aggression, intensity, I know a lot of guys on our team who have playoff experience. On our side, there aren’t too many, ”DeRozan told Yahoo Sports. “But when it comes to the physicality and the aggressiveness, tough and gritty play. It certainly is. The heat [are] one of the best teams in our conference, for us to compete and be a good team, that’s what it takes every night.

It might take a few list upgrades on both sides. Donovan likes to play smaller and faster, but it looks like the Bulls need another big one to rumble with the more physical teams, especially on nights when LaVine and DeRozan struggle to create space in such a way. consistent.

Miami also looks like it can use another big one, if only to keep the pressure on Bam Adebayo to handle everything on the inside and prepare for what could come in the playoffs if the Bucks champion returns that way.

It will be fun to watch the East rise again, and the maneuvers that come with it – scars, bumps and bruises.

Like the good old days, eh?