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Wade Returns Against the Nets; Bulls Lose
- Updated: April 10, 2017
What Wade’s Return Means for the Bulls Playoff Run
After suffering a fractured elbow against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 15th, Dwyane Wade was initially ruled out for the rest of the regular season. Now that Chicago is in great shape to make the playoffs, Wade returned to action against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. Dwyane missed 11 games. During his absence, Chicago managed to post a 7-4 record to position themselves into the East’s 7th seed.
Jimmy Butler led the Wade-less Bulls, averaging 27.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game during that span. Rajon Rondo saw increased playing time, and helped run the offense with his premier passing and playmaking skills. The Bulls offense seemed to rise to new heights without Wade’s 8.2 isolation plays per game. The ball kept moving, which led to more fast break points and open threes. And this time, guys like Nikola Mirotic were knocking them down.
Mirotic has shined since the trade deadline, and especially without Wade. In the month of March, Nikola averaged a shade over 15 points per game, while shooting a scorching 50 percent from the field.
What better time for Wade to return, then to do so against the NBA’s worst team, Brooklyn. Chicago went into their duel against the woeful Nets with a lot of confidence. With Wade returning, there was no way the Bulls would lose an important game to aid their playoff chances. Or at least Chicago fans thought.
Saturday’s Game Recap
Jimmy Butler had his usual game scoring 33 points, shooting 5/5 from deep, and grabbed 7 boards. But it was not enough as the Bulls fell to the Nets in Brooklyn 107-106.
Wade started and played 25 minutes in his first game back. He scored 14 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, but with 5:09 left in the 4th quarter, Dwyane exited the game after exceeding his 20 minute limit. The Bulls led 94-88. Mirotic converted a three-point play with 4:24 to go to put the Bulls up 97-88. And then it all went downhill from there for Chicago.
Caris Levert hit back-to-back three’s to pull within three. Then former Arizona star Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored two quick buckets to put the Nets on top 98-97. And where was the 12 time all-star Wade during this 10-0 run? Watching from the bench.
He would re-enter the game with 2:21 remaining, but didn’t do too much to help Chicago get a win against a tanking team. Down 105-103 with 13 seconds remaining, Butler had the chance to tie the game or take the lead, but would miss a deep jump shot from the corner, with Brook Lopez draped all over him. Spencer Dinwiddie would hit two free throws to seal the Nets win, hurting Chicago’s playoff run.
Key injury: Point guard Rajon Rondo missed Saturday’s game with a wrist injury.
What This Loss Means For the Bulls Playoff Run
This was a key game for Chicago, and it should have resulted in a win. But under head coach Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls have had the tendency to play down to their competition, which is exactly what they did in Brooklyn. The Bulls now fall to the 8th seed and are in a tie with the Miami Heat. Chicago does hold the tie breaker over the Heat, so if the season ended today, the Bulls would make the playoffs.
Luckily for the Bulls, they have a far easier schedule than Miami does. The Bulls have the two worst teams in the East at home left on their schedule. Meanwhile, the Heat have to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards. So advantage Chicago in that category. If the Bulls just handle their business, and beat the inferior teams left on their schedule, they’ll get back to the playoffs after missing last year’s.
Wade’s Impact Come Playoff Time
If the Bulls make the playoffs, which most assume they should, Dwyane Wade will have had a few games to shake off the rust after his most recent injury. And although he might not be an all-star caliber player anymore, he still brings plenty to the table.
While it seems like the Bulls were playing better without D-Wade, come playoff time, they’ll cherish him. The 3-time NBA Champ has the playoff experience that this young Chicago team needs. He’s also still a very good player, especially in isolation. He’s averaging 18.6 points per game and has a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 18.88, which ranks 6th among qualified shooting guards.
His competitive spirit and leadership can’t be matched. And he’s still a good team defender, which should help with the slow pace in the playoffs. So in the playoffs, his impact will be huge if he stays healthy.