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.

LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan's record by becoming NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer

LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan's record by becoming NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer

The LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate tends to heat up around playoff time, and The King fueled the fire Thursday with his latest accomplishment.

After sinking a 3-pointer in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, the four-time NBA MVP surpassed Jordan for most postseason points in league history with 5,989. Jordan scored 5,987 points in 179 games while it took James 212 to surpass that mark.

Before the game, James said that chasing Jordan has been a personal goal of his and left the debate to media members.

The SportsTalk Live panel talked about those comments, and joined in on the debate in the video above.

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

The deadline for underclassmen to pull their names out of the NBA Draft passed on Wednesday at midnight.

There were a few surprises, and a handful of decisions had an effect on how the Bulls will go about next month's draft.

Staying in the draft

Caleb Swangian, PF, Purdue: The sophomore All-American surprised many by keeping his name in the draft. Swanigan actually tested the waters after his freshman season but returned to the Boilermakers in 2016. He averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 35 games, earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and was a National Player of the Year candidate. It's no secret the 6-foot-9 Swangian can score  - he had 15 games of 20 or more points - and showed some ability to shoot from deep, making nearly 45 percent of his 85 3-point attempts. Quickness and conditioning will be the real test for the 245-pound Swanigan, who has already lost significant weight since high school. Questions about his defense (he had just 27 steals and 36 blocks in two seasons) also stand out. With Nikola Mirotic's future in Chicago unknown, the Bulls could be in the market for depth at power forward. He wouldn't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14, but if he slides out of the first round he could be an option at No. 38.

D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan: After averaging just 6.1 minutes as a sophomore, Wilson burst onto the scene as a junior, averaging 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 30.4 minutes for the Wolverines. He did his best work during the postseason; during Michigan's Big Ten Championship run and Sweet 16 appearance, Wilson averaged 15.6 points on 54 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Standing 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Wilson leaves some to be desired on the defensive end but has the ability to play as a combo forward - he had a 3-inch growth spurt after high school. Like Swanigan, Wilson won't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14 but could be a second-round option. He'd give the Bulls a similar look to what Bobby Portis does with a little more versatility on the wing.

Going back to college

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky: The NBA Draft's biggest mystery could have been a home-run selection for the Bulls in the first round. Alas, Diallo has decided to play a year under John Calipari at Kentucky and likely boost his draft stock. Having not played since December, where he played at a prep academy in Connecticut, so there wasn't much film of the 6-foot-5 leaper. Still, after Thon Maker went No. 10 to the Bucks last year there was thought that a team would take a gamble on a high-upside mystery.

Andrew Jones, PG, Texas: There was little surprise that Jones, a five-star recruit who put together a solid freshman season, returned. He's still a bit raw as a prospect despite having elite size (6-foot-4) and solid athleticism, and another year running the point with incoming five-star recruit Mo Bomba could really improve his draft stock. The Bulls clearly have a need at the point (less if Rajon Rondo returns) and if Jones had made the leap he likely would have been around at No. 38. Even still, Jones is a player to keep an eye on during next year's draft, assuming Cameron Payne and Jerian Grant don't make significant improvements.

Moritz Wagner, PF, Michigan: There's a need on every NBA team for a stretch forward with 3-point potential. But those teams will have to wait at least another year after Wagner decided to return to Michigan for his junior season. Like Wilson, who kept his name in the draft, Wagner had an excellent postseason run for the Wolverines. That stretch included a 17-point effort against Minnesota and a career-high 26-point outing in a win over Louisville. He weighed in at just 231 pounds and only averaged 4.2 rebounds per game, so adding some strength to his game will help his draft prospect for next year. He could have been an option for the Bulls at No. 38.