Bulls

LIVE: Bulls go for nine straight, sweep of Pacers

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LIVE: Bulls go for nine straight, sweep of Pacers

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted: 10:37 a.m.

Associated Press

Derrick Rose has certainly done his part offensively, but the Chicago Bulls have won a season-high eight straight and taken over the Eastern Conference lead primarily thanks to their outstanding defense.

That's exactly what's helped them cruise to three wins over the Indiana Pacers.

The Bulls try to extend their longest winning streak in six years and complete a four-game sweep of the Pacers for the first time since 1996-97 on Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Chicago (49-18) allows 90.9 points per game, the fewest in the league, but it's stepped it up a few notches over the past two weeks. The Bulls have allowed an average of 82.0 points during their win streak - their longest since a nine-game run from March 19-April 2, 2005 - to jump ahead of Boston for the top spot in the East.

Coach Tom Thibodeau's team took sole possession of the conference lead for the first time by beating Washington 98-79 on Tuesday, and a night after the Celtics pulled back into a tie, Chicago clamped down again defensively. The Bulls played a fourth straight game without Carlos Boozer (sprained ankle), but got Joakim Noah back from a one-game absence and held New Jersey to 34.9 percent shooting Thursday in an 84-73 win.

"That's what we've been doing the whole year, playing defense," said Rose, who had a team-high 21 points and has led or shared the team lead in scoring during each of the past eight games.

"If our offense isn't going, and that rarely happens, we rely on our defense. That's what we did tonight, make it tough on them. At first, they were getting everything they wanted. Then we just closed down the paint and rebounded the ball."

The 73 points matched the fewest Chicago has allowed this season, a low-water mark Indiana knows all too well. The Pacers (29-39) have averaged 82.7 points and shot 36.2 percent in three losses to the Bulls this season by an average of 17.6 points, which included a 92-73 defeat without Danny Granger on Dec. 13 at the United Center.

Tyler Hansbrough also missed two of the losses, but he'll be on the floor Friday for the Pacers.

He's been a revelation lately for Indiana, averaging 25.2 points in his last five games heading into TD Garden on Wednesday, but the Celtics did plenty to frustrate Hansbrough and the Pacers. Indiana had a 49-36 rebounding edge but shot just 37.5 percent - including 4 of 14 from Hansbrough - in a 92-80 loss.

With Charlotte's loss at Houston, however, the Pacers stayed a half-game ahead for the East's No. 8 spot - which would match them up with the Bulls in the first round.

"It is definitely a lesson, and it's tough," Granger said as Indiana fell to 1-13 against the conference's top five teams. "It's virtually impossible to come in here and win, when you're not really going to the line a lot. It's tough but you got to play through it."

It's unclear if Boozer will be healthy enough to return Friday, but the Pacers would certainly prefer if he missed another game. Including last season with Utah, Boozer has averaged 23.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last five games versus Indiana.

Granger has averaged 27.5 points in his last four home games against Chicago.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

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USA TODAY

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining. An update from Shams Charania of The Vertical said Butler could return for the postseason.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.