Bulls

LIVE: Bulls trail Heat 65-63 after third

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LIVE: Bulls trail Heat 65-63 after third

Sunday, March 6, 2011
10:20 a.m.
Associated Press

After the Miami Heat lost their last two games in stunning fashion, questions are mounting about their toughness and confidence.

The Heat can silence some of their critics with a victory over the surging Chicago Bulls on Sunday. A loss, however, would likely still leave them searching for answers.

Miami hopes to earn a rare victory over one of the league's top teams while the Bulls, winners of eight of 10, look to hand the Heat another stinging loss.

The last two games for Miami (43-19) have gone about as bad as they could go.

The Heat blew a 24-point lead in Thursday's 99-96 home loss to Orlando, and fell behind by 24 in the first quarter in Friday's 125-95 defeat at San Antonio, their most lopsided loss of the season. It was the third straight defeat for Miami and the fourth in five games, with the first loss of that stretch coming in Chicago.

"We're still a confident bunch," said LeBron James, 2 for 15 from 3-point range in the last five games. "We know it's a tough stretch for us right now. We lost three games in a row, but I feel like all it takes is one win."

A victory over the Bulls (42-18) would also help show they can contend with some of the league's elite. The Heat, who are opening a six-game homestand, are 1-8 against the NBA's top five teams, including 0-2 versus the Bulls.

"We got to make a stand on Sunday against a team that is gaining confidence," coach Erik Spoelstra said.

The Bulls, 17-9 against teams over .500, have moved percentage points ahead of Miami for second place in the East.

When the Heat visited the United Center on Feb. 24, Derrick Rose, one of the top MVP candidates along with James, had a team-high 26 points and Luol Deng scored 20 - including a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 16 seconds left - in Chicago's 93-89 win.

Dwayne Wade had 34 points in that game and James finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds, but Chris Bosh missed 17 of 18 shots and scored just seven.

Chicago won the first meeting 99-96 on Jan. 15 behind Rose's 34 points. Wade scored 33 for the Heat, who played without James (sprained ankle).

The Bulls were without Joakim Noah (right thumb), their top rebounder at 11.7 per game and a longtime adversary of James.

Despite missing Noah for one of the games in this series, Chicago has dominated the boards, outrebounding the Heat 95-69. The Bulls are second in the league in rebounding at 44.4 per game, and Miami is 3-8 when allowing a team to grab 45 boards.

Chicago, concluding a five-game road trip, outrebounded Dwight Howard and the Magic 50-30 in Friday's 89-81 win in Orlando.

Rose scored 24 points and Deng added 16 for the Bulls, who bounced back from Wednesday's discouraging 83-80 loss to Atlanta, when they blew a 19-point lead.

"Just staying solid," Rose said of Chicago's effort. "That was the biggest thing. When we got the lead, we just wanted to keep it."

The Bulls did that by keeping the defensive pressure on the Magic and forcing them to take bad shots. Chicago, second in scoring defense at 91.9 points per game, held Orlando to its fewest points in a month.

The Heat have scored 96 or fewer in three straight and are 10-15 when failing to surpass that mark. The Bulls are 38-4 when holding opponents to 96 points or less.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

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USA TODAY

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.