The Chicago Bulls’ season is over, and they can thank Chicago’s own son, not to mention a former Bulls player, for sending them packing.
Behind 31 points from guard Max Strauss, the Miami Heat eliminated the Bulls in the final game of the East play-in tournament and advanced to the NBA playoffs. With Game 1 scheduled for Sunday at 8:30 p.m., they will face the No. 8 seed in the first round.
Struss, who was born and raised in the Chicago area and played for local colleges Lewis University and DePaul University, opened the game in tears. He scored the Heat’s first 12 points with four 3-pointers in the first five minutes, and had 14 points by the end of the first quarter.
He wasn’t too bad in the fourth quarter either, hitting a clutch 3 with 1:14 left to give Miami a 5-point lead.
Struss was one point shy of 31 points on 16 shots (7-of-12 from 3-point range), and he finished the game with seven rebounds. The Bulls are very good for a player after his two-way contract expires in 2020.
“It’s a little better against them, I’m not going to lie,” Strus told TNT’s Chris Haynes after the game.
The win was a career highlight for Struss, who appeared in just two games for the Bulls in 2019-2020, decamped from DePaul and spent most of his rookie season in the G League. One season after he found his home, he became the Heat’s latest developmental success story and saw his role on the team grow each season.
This year, Strus is averaging 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, career highs, while shooting 35.0% from deep.
Struss wasn’t the only former Bull going for Miami, as Jimmy Butler also had 31 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. If he survives the playoffs, Butler will reach the NBA playoffs for the 11th time in his 12-year career and the seventh time.