Bulls fall to Heat in chippy affair

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Bulls fall to Heat in chippy affair

MIAMIFinally, the rivalry thats been discussed so often, not only in the cities where the teams play, but across the basketball universe, manifested itself in the chippy play that brought back memories of postseason basketball from an era long passed.

Unfortunately for the Bulls (47-16)who were without Derrick Rose for the third consecutive game and 26th of the seasonthat resulted in an 83-72 loss Thursday night to the Heat (45-17) at American Airlines Arena, as MVP candidate LeBron James was simply too much for the visitors.

The Bulls were offensively flawless in the early going, knocking down each of their first five attempts, as the starting post tandem of Carlos Boozer (10 points, five rebounds) and Joakim Noah (15 points, 10 rebounds) took advantage of the absence of Heat All-Star Chris Bosh on the interior.

Luol Deng (11 points), in his first game back in the lineup after missing a pair of contests due to a rib injury, was also productive from the outset, displaying no ill effects from the brief layoff, as he knocked down outside jumpers.

However, the Heat tandem of Mario Chalmers (16 points, five assists), who seemingly got to the rim at will, and James (27 points, 11 rebounds, six assists) literally went on the offensive, literally, to keep pace with their guests in the opening period.

James repeatedly penetrated and hit pull-up jumpers en route to a 15-point frame, as he was matched up with Noah on switches, aiding the hosts in taking a 27-23 advantage after a quarter of play.

Backup point guard John Lucas III (16 points, six rebounds, four assists) showcased his instant-offense game in the second periodpicking up for fill-in starter C.J. Watson, who focused on distributing the ball in his first-quarter stintto propel the Bench Mob, as the only true scorer in the unit.

When the regulars returned, Noah again made an impactboth with his play and inadvertently, as he took a flagrant-two foul from Heat reserve sharpshooter James Jones, leading to the latters ejection and inciting the partisan crowd to chant derogatory slogans at the Bulls centerhelping the Bulls maintain a slim cushion.

But Miami kept plugging away behind James and his struggling sidekick, Dwyane Wade (18 points, five assists), eventually seizing the lead from the visitors late in the quarter, as Chicagos offense went through one of its periodic droughts.

While the Heat werent exactly proficient at scoring themselves, they managed to go into the intermission with a narrow 42-40 edge.

Miami gained some separation after the break, as Wade came to life, Chalmers continued to contribute and James picked his spots in which to dominate, and while Noah put up a good fight, his presence alone couldnt prevent the Bulls from falling into a hole. All of that got overshadowed, however, as the chippiness of the game took center stage, with Wade shoving longtime rival Rip Hamilton, leading to a double technical and flagrant foul on Wade.

Minutes later, James set a hard screen in the backcourt on the diminutive Lucas, as he tried to pressure Chalmers full-court, leaving him slightly dazed before going after the much bigger man, leading to technical on both players and posturing between the two teams.

Although Lucas offense and a spark off the bench from Taj Gibson kept the Bulls from facing an insurmountable deficit, the Bulls faced a 66-61 deficit heading into the final stanza, mostly due to the runaway freight-train quality and circus-shot ability of James.

Behind Lucas offensive prowess, the Bulls stayed within striking distance early in the fourth period, as the visitors defense continued to make life tough for vaunted rivals on the offensive end of the floor.

But Chicago had their own issues manufacturing offensean eye injury to Deng didnt help mattersand by the midway point of the quarter, Miami extended its lead to double digits.

While the Bulls didnt let the game get out of hand, they simply didnt have enough offense to muster a comeback in the playoff-style battle and the Heat wore them down with similarly-stifling defense and timely scoring and playmaking by James, leading to baskets from co-star Wade and role players alike.

As the game wound down, the festive atmosphere in the building built up to a crescendo, as the home crowd once again celebrated the vanquishing of their chief foes.

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.