Bulls

Bulls live to fight another day

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Bulls live to fight another day

Following the Bulls disappointing Game 4 loss to the 76ers Sunday in Philadelphia, none other than second-year center Omer Asik said these words: We will never give up fighting.

Literally and figuratively, the Bulls did just that Tuesday at the United Center, scrapping out an ugly 77-69 win over the Sixers to keep their season alive, all the while battling even more injuries and opposing players alike in a show of heart fitting of a such a blue-collar, albeit short-handed squad, though they still face a 3-2 deficit in the first-round playoff series.

All-Star Luol Deng (24 points, eight rebounds) got off to one of his quick starts, scoring the Bulls first two buckets, but the opening period was mostly devoid of offense, as both squads struggled to put points on the board.

The starting backcourt of C.J. Watson (five points, seven assists) and Rip Hamilton, in particular, had accuracy issues, combining to go 2-for-10 from the floor in the frame, while Carlos Boozer (19 points, 13 rebounds, six assists) was scoreless.

Sixers rookie big man Lavoy Allen (nine points, six rebounds) came off the bench to score six points, helping the visitors take an early lead, though that was mitigated by their six turnovers in the stanza.

A boost of energy from reserves Taj Gibson (eight points, seven rebounds) and Ronnie Brewer (six points, eight rebounds) helped the hosts cause and after a late-period triple from Deng, they took a 17-16 advantage into the second quarter.

The game remained close and scoring was still at a premium, as both defenses clamped downAsik and Gibson were formidable shot-blocking presences on the interiorthough Dengs aggressive approach, combined with timely buckets from his teammates, kept things close. Fan favorite John Lucas III and some offensive contributions from Boozer helped the Bulls obtain some breathing room from the frigid-shooting Sixers.

As if the low-octane game needed some punchliterallyafter a scramble for a loose ball near the Bulls bench, a mild skirmish ensued, resulting in double technical on Gibson and Philadelphia veteran power forward Elton Brand, a former Bull, as well as the United Center crowd raising its energy, along with the diminutive and energetic Lucas. It carried over to the entire squad, as Boozer and Brewer, with the crowd roaring its appreciation, sparked the Bulls late in the first half, sending them into the intermission with an incredibly low-scoring 35-26 lead.

The carry-over effect continued after the break, as the Bulls maintained a double-digit cushion, played with high energy and both Boozer and Deng were offensive focal points. Brewer and Gibson again came off the bench to make key plays at both ends of the floor, but the hosts stifling defenseor depending on how you look at it, the guests floundering offensewas what was crucial in keeping the Sixers at bay, despite point guard Jrue Holiday (16 points, five rebounds, four assists), All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala (11 points), center Spencer Hawes (11 points, 14 rebounds) and sixth man Lou Williams (13 points) finally starting to emerge.

Amazingly, the injury bug hit the short-handed Bulls once again, as Gibson, after stepping on Allens foot, went down clutching his right ankle with 2:06 left in the third quarter and while he got to his feet under his own power, he hobbled over to the bench and was then helped to the locker room by the teams training staff for treatment, though hed eventually be cleared to return to the contest.

Still, with Boozer continuing to do damage, the Bulls entered the final stanza with a 57-48 edge.

Boozer continued to carry the offensive load at the outset of the fourth quarter and got help from Asik, who anchored the Bulls defense, which continued to frustrate the offensively-devoid Sixers. Deng then stepped up, draining two dagger triplesboth of which were followed by Holiday jumperscontributing to the hosts lead ballooning to as much as 15 and with Gibsons return to the court, the home crowd was in euphoria midway through the period.

As the game entered its stretch run, with Gibson hobbling and the offense starting to bog down, the Bulls were playing against two foes: Philadelphia and the clock, but as happened so many times during the regular season, they simply found a way, with a jumper from Watson and a steal from Brewer among the plays that kept them ahead.

A Deng three-pointer with 1:32 remaining, giving the Bulls a 12-point lead, effectively sealed the deal, despite a last-gasp effort by the Sixers, extending the series to a sixth game Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”

Bobby Portis apologizes to teammates as Bulls continue to deal with all-around complicated situation

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AP

Bobby Portis apologizes to teammates as Bulls continue to deal with all-around complicated situation

The mending hasn’t yet begun for the Bulls, but perhaps a good sign in moving forward from the Bobby Portis punch that delivered a concussion and broken facial bones to Nikola Mirotic is that it isn’t being ignored.

Fred Hoiberg is being tight-lipped about where matters stand, but he did at least say Portis returned to practice and apologized to the team Friday afternoon. Hoiberg wouldn’t reveal the contents of Portis’ apology and Portis didn’t address the media, but it’s clear things aren’t business-as-usual at the Advocate Center.

“Bobby was back at practice. It was good to have him back in here,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously, everybody’s looking forward to having Niko back in here, as well, hopefully soon.”

When asked about Portis’ spirit, Hoiberg deflected and preferred to talk about what adjustments the team will have to make in the immediate future, especially with rookie Lauri Markkanen having to go against Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the home opener Saturday night.

“That’s the biggest thing we have to do as far as preparing until we get our guys back, is throwing different lineups out there and hopefully getting better with our execution,” Hoiberg said.

Justin Holiday admitted that things aren’t normal, saying the actual games to start the season won’t serve as a welcome distraction because this isn’t something that can just be treated trivially.

He wouldn’t venture into getting into his teammates’ head, saying “Bobby came into today like Bobby. We’re not quite sure what he’s thinking mentally. We can’t assume that.”

But one thing that can’t be assumed is a sweeping under or pretending.

“I mean I don’t necessarily think this is a situation for us to get past,” Holiday said. “I think it’s a situation that obviously (needs) to be brought to the forefront. It’s a situation that needs to be taken care of for those two to be able to come together and be brothers again. I don’t think we’re trying to get past it.”

Holiday has been a leader during this early time, so his words and definitive tone were noticeable.

“They say sometimes you need time to heal,” Holiday said. “Again, we have to think about both situations in this. One guy is trying to get back healthy. And again, I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish we could just fix this the right way, but that’s not the case.”

It’s complicated all around, with no real precedent.

For Hoiberg, his handling has two faces. Since Portis is able to practice but has to sit out seven more games on a team-mandated suspension, he has to walk the line of incorporating Portis in daily drills and activities but also has to prepare a team that wasn’t prepared for two power forwards being out for an extended period.

That was on display Thursday as Quincy Pondexter likely played that position for the first time in his career, and it’s highly unlikely Paul Zipser practiced there at all with the depth the Bulls had until now.

“We have to get our guys ready to play positions that they haven’t played,” Hoiberg said. “We’re getting them in here early. We’re getting a group in to work on our execution. Quincy not only hasn’t played in two and a half years but I don’t know if he has ever played the 4.

“You just have to do the best with what you have.”