A long offseason begins as Bulls fall to Heat in final play-in game

Bulls veteran DeMar DeRozan has a lot to unpack this summer now that his team has again come up short this season. The free agent-to-be first has to come to grips with again losing to Miami and its “Heat Culture.”

Wilfredo Lee/AP

MIAMI — A 1,200-mile plane ride from Miami to Chicago isn’t going to cure this one. Not this time.

It is going to take veteran DeMar DeRozan much longer than that to get over the Bulls’ season-ending loss Friday.

‘‘I’m pretty sure the next couple of days, couple of weeks, a lot of emotions are going to be all over the place,’’ DeRozan said minutes after the Bulls’ 112-91 loss to the Heat in the final Eastern Conference play-in game. ‘‘I can feel all types of negative ways right now that I may not feel next week. I try not to react off of impulse.

‘‘It’s kind of like crawling up that hill. You get knocked back down, you take a look up that mountain and say, ‘Damn, I gotta do it all over again, gotta figure it out.’ Just going to be a long summer for me, thinking about a lot.

‘‘At the end of the day, I hate losing, hate missing opportunities. It really hits you at the end of the season when you look up and the last seconds run off. You don’t have another game, and the next time I play a game it will be my 16th season. My stance on still wanting to be here is the same, but I just want to win.’’

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It was raw emotion from DeRozan, who scored a team-high 22 points but is at a crossroads that he has to sit down and think about.

When the Bulls were eliminated by the Heat in the same situation last season, they at least could use the excuse that Jimmy Butler got ’em. That’s what DeRozan thought on the plane ride home last season.

On Friday, however, the Heat played without Butler, who was sidelined by a sprained knee ligament. No, this was about ‘‘Heat culture’’ taking the Bulls down — a culture that is more physically and mentally tough than what the Bulls march out there every season.

And with DeRozan a free agent this summer, that’s a lot for him to unpack. There’s no doubt he still wants to play for the Bulls, but for the first time since he arrived, it didn’t sound like a sure thing.

‘‘I want an opportunity to win and not go home and see the first round of the playoffs, see the second round of the playoffs,’’ De-
Rozan said. ‘‘You know, it’s frustrating.’’

He wasn’t alone in that feeling, either.

‘‘It’s very disappointing that we came up short,’’ veteran center Nikola Vucevic said. ‘‘Another year that we go home early. Everyone in this locker room wanted to play in the playoffs. This wasn’t what we wanted to see.’’

What coach Billy Donovan didn’t want to see off the tip was a slow start by his offense, but that was exactly what he got.

The Bulls watched as a tie game early in the first quarter spiraled into a 19-point deficit in less than seven minutes. By the time the first quarter ended, the Bulls were down 34-17 and had shot 6-for-23 from the field (26.1%).

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As good as the Heat were defensively, coach Erik Spoelstra’s game plan completely dissected the Bulls’ defense. The Heat found very little resistance getting to whatever spots they wanted to. That included Jaime Jaquez Jr., who led them with eight points in the first quarter.

The Heat never took their foot off the Bulls’ neck the entire night, holding them to 91 points, tying a season low.

‘‘First of all, we just didn’t shoot the ball well,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘These games are going to be like that. It’s going to be ugly, grind it out.’’

That’s not something the Bulls excel at — short-handed or at full strength — and haven’t for years.

It’s a lot for everyone to think about — and not just DeRozan.

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