Bulls

Heat's Miller is perfect in return

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Heat's Miller is perfect in return

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Every part of Mike Miller's game was on display. A perfect night from 3-point range. Diving for loose balls. Coming up limping and in obvious pain after he dove for those loose balls. As a season debut goes, it certainly was memorable. "Fun!" Miller tweeted afterward. That's one way to describe his night. Miller was 6 for 6 from the field, all those shots coming from beyond the arc, and scored 18 points in 15 minutes. Still not fully recovered from offseason surgery to repair a hernia problem, Miller helped spark a huge second-half comeback by the Miami Heat, as they rallied from down 17 points late in the first half to run away from the San Antonio Spurs 120-98 on Tuesday night. "Every once in a while you get going when you're a shooter," Miller said. "I just happened to do that. First game back, it felt good." His teammates were more succinct. "You couldn't even script that any better," said Heat forward LeBron James, who led Miami with 33 points. Miller was able to leave the arena without any visible limps or icepacks, which these days represents a major victory for the veteran swingman. Since signing with the Heat in the summer of 2010, Miller has missed more than half the team's regular-season games and undergone four surgeries. His run of bad luck started after snapping his thumb when it got tangled in James' practice jersey during a training-camp workout last season, and he also dealt with shoulder and ankle problems over the remainder of the year. This season, it was the hernia issue that popped up shortly before training camp, and he sat out Miami's first 12 games even though he regularly pleaded with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra that he was ready to return. On Tuesday, Spoelstra was convinced -- to a point, anyway. He planned to play Miller for no more than six minutes. Making six 3-pointers led to a change in that plan. "I've played with this guy for four years, so this is old hat for me," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "I've seen him do this time and time again. He's one of the special shooters in the league. ... He gives us a lot more options. In a game like tonight when we needed a spark, he can give you that spark." He can also give coaches angst. Undeterred by his near-constant state of injury since joining the Heat, it took Miller -- who got a huge roar from the sellout crowd after checking into a game for the first time this season -- about two minutes before his first dive to the court on Tuesday night. By the second or third, he was limping away with some sort of lower-leg problem. "That's who he is," Spoelstra said. "At this point, I can't cringe any more than I already do. You can't tell him to play to a different personality than what he is. That's what he's always been. You go back to his days at Florida, he played with reckless abandon. That's why you love that guy, for the hustle, the effort plays. He's relentless." It was the 22nd time in Miller's career that he hit at least six 3-pointers, and the first time he took at least six without missing any. He was 5 for 5 from 3-point range on Feb. 17, 2010, for Washington against Minnesota. The six 3-pointers matched his most in a Heat uniform. Chris Bosh scored 30 points and the Heat used a historic third-quarter turnaround to erase the big deficit. Miami outscored San Antonio 39-12 in the third quarter -- matching the second-largest differential for any quarter in Heat history, and matching the second-worst differential for a period in Spurs history, according to STATS LLC. Even after a night like that, the most popular topic in the Heat locker room was Miller's return. "The fans, from Day 1, have been amazing to me," Miller said. "Last year when I came back, it was the same thing." He said he and the Heat have worked out an arrangement. If they don't ask him about any injuries, he won't tell them. "I'm not going to do another X-ray," Miller said. "Anything that comes in an X-ray is bad news. So they know my stance right now and I'm going to continue to play."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.