Bulls fail to match Miami's physical play in loss

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Bulls fail to match Miami's physical play in loss

MIAMIThe scene in the visiting locker room at American Airlines Arena was forlorn. Empty stall after empty stall, no typical postgame chatternot even angry whispering, as usually occurs after tough lossesand save for a few stragglers, an exiting assistant coach or two and the teams equipment manager, nobody to talk to about the Bulls 83-72 loss to the Heat Thursday night.

Joakim Noah was there, at least physically. Mentally, however, the normally-charismatic center was in another world, speaking in short, clipped answers and in a monotone.

We didnt play well down the stretch, he said. We didnt play well offensively. Seventy points isnt going to get it done.

They wanted it more than us tonight, but well be back, Noah continued. To Miamis physical play, the Bulls didnt respond great, but well be back.

When asked about Heat reserve James Jones flagrant foulwhich led to the sharpshooters ejection and sparked the chippy play that pervaded the contestNoah tersely replied, I think he was just trying to keep me off the boards and just part of the game.

Of LeBron James devastating screen, which knocked diminutive point guard John Lucas III to the floor and led to further skirmishes between the rival teams, Noah was even less forthcoming.

It was cool, he answered. Its fine.

Itnot just the isolated play, but the Bulls mentality as a wholeclearly wasnt fine to his coach.

Every time we play them, thats the way its going to be, so you have to have the mental toughness to get through all that. You cant shy away from any of that stuff. Its going to be there and thats the way we like it. The missed shots, you can deal with that, but your defense, your rebounding, I thought we got loose with the ball in the second half and we paid for it, said Tom Thibodeau. There was a lot of stuff going on, but thats to be expected. Youre on the road, theyre a good team, were fighting for the same thing. Were going to have to deal with that more effectively.

We have to deal with it, he went on to say. A hard-fought games going to be like this. Youve still got to be able to executeI just want to see them respond.

It wasnt necessarily an overall indictment of his tough-minded team, but Thibodeau, a veteran observer of the late-90s playoff wars from when he was an assistant in New York, was clearly disappointed in his teams lack of preparedness for the games physical nature. That was exemplified by Miamis 45-40 rebounding advantage, despite being outsized by the Bulls.

Rebounding was poor. We didnt close out the second quarter the way we should have and we started the third quarter lethargically and then, the fourth quarter, we had a shot. We had a shot, 68-65, and we had a few bad possessions in a row that swung the game open, swung it the other way, and you cant do that. In a minute in this league, the game can go the other way on you and it did, said Thibodeau. They went. They were physical, they pursued, they had a multiple-effort mentality. The more you go, the more you get. Theyre quick to the ball. Youve got to play through the contact and I thought they were more aggressive.

His players even sported war wounds from the gameAll-Star Luol Deng suffered a cut above his eye; I didnt see the play. I didnt see exactly how he got the cut, but that was the nature of the game. It was pretty physical, said Thibodeaubut at least publically, the coach pledged to move on, despite failing to clinch the Eastern Conferences top seed Thursday.

You deal with it like you deal with it all year. We lost tonight. We go home, we study, get ready for Dallas. This game will reveal certain things to us, things that need to be corrected, he said. Were not going to get caught up in 1 games, 2 games, whatever. Keep doing the things that we need to do to win. Thats all that we have to focus in on.

But knowing theyll likely have to go through the Heat to reach their goal of a championship, Noah didnt mince words when asked what the Bulls have to do next time they inevitably face the Heat.

Outwill them. They wanted it more than us tonight, he said. I mean, we wanted it bad, but they wanted it more. That cant happen.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Isaiah Canaan

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Isaiah Canaan

Position: Point Guard/Shooting guard

Experience: 4th season

2015-16 stats: 11.0 points, 1.8 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’ll be a game of musical chairs in the Bulls’ backcourt this season with the backup positions and Canaan will be in the mix for playing time at both positions, despite his small 6-foot-0 frame.

He’s more scorer than facilitator and looks for his offense, being aggressive in the pick and roll and in the open floor. It could be a change of pace from Rajon Rondo’s style, as Rondo can push the pace but will definitely be in control. If Canaan beats out Jerian Grant, Spencer Dinwiddie and Denzel Valentine for minutes, he’s going to play at a breakneck speed, looking to force the action and reacquainting himself with a familiar statistic: Field Goals Attempted.

Per 36 minutes last year, he took 13.2 shots and nearly nine of them came from the 3-point line, which accounts for his career shooting percentage being below 37, as he gets up a huge bulk from the long line.

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Having spent the majority of his career with the then-tanking Philadelphia 76ers, Canaan’s value is hard to project and one wonders if he’s gotten accustomed to losing environments.

In Philly, though, he was able to get plenty of experience, playing 77 games last season in what was probably as eye-opening for him as anything he’s ever endured in the NBA.

With the depth, though, seeing the above-mentioned players likely being ahead of him in the rotation means the Bulls won’t be as dependent on him for wins — but during those dog days of the season, when the injuries can pile up and the excitement is low, one wonders if Fred Hoiberg can toss Canaan out there and his energy can help the Bulls to a win or two in February — which could come handy in April when all wins matter if you’re trying to compete for a playoff spot.

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

2016-17 Bulls player preview: Doug McDermott

Chicago Bulls training camp is right around the corner, with the first preseason game coming Oct. 3 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between then and now, CSNChicago.com will take a look at each player on the Bulls’ roster to preview and possibly project their importance to the team as the Bulls hope to qualify for the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Player: Doug McDermott

Position: Small Forward

Experience: 3rd season

2015-16 Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds

2016-17 Outlook: It’s been a steady progression for Doug McDermott from his rookie year to last season, as he’s symbolic of what Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg wants his system to be: A floor-spreading, free-wheeling wide open system, one that displays the new reality of the NBA.

McDermott, at times last season, showed his proficiency despite his limitations. Few were better from the 3-point line, as he shot 42.5 percent, ranking fifth in the NBA. In semi-transition, he was a sure bet to spot up from the left wing and position himself for a pass and quick release.

With Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo all able to make plays, McDermott will be counted on more than he has before to make shots with space at a premium.

McDermott and Nikola Mirotic will have to provide the shooting to keep defenses honest, which could lead to McDermott being the first sub off the bench for a guy like Wade or Butler, leaving the latter to anchor the second unit in the second quarter.

His game opened up last season after the All-Star break, especially with his ability to create his own shot. It’s not a staple of his game and who knows how much he’ll have to use it with the ballhandlers on the floor, but he did have a reliable baseline fadeaway and one-legged runner he would go to every once in awhile.

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The Bulls’ offense ran better with him on the floor, averaging 116 points per 100 possessions. February produced his best month as a pro, averaging nearly 15 a game on 52 percent shooting—splits that could be more common as his career progresses. But what he gives, he often gives away on the defensive end and it’ll be a battle to keep him on the floor with some of the concerns the team will have as a whole.

Keeping players in front of him with his lateral movement is an issue, and even being in the right place defensively off the ball isn’t a given. But a lot of that is scheme and the Bulls have to be better collectively.

Expecting him to take another step this season as he knows what to expect and gains more confidence in his own game isn’t unreasonable—and finding consistency will be important to his future in the league, as he’ll be eligible for an extension following his third season.

In other words, there’s plenty of tangible and intangible incentive to improve.