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.

Jimmy Butler is switching jerseys to the number he wasn't allowed to wear in Chicago

Jimmy Butler is switching jerseys to the number he wasn't allowed to wear in Chicago

Jimmy Butler is paying homage to the GOAT.

The former Bulls star could never be No. 23 in Chicago because of some guy named Michael Jordan, but now Butler is free in Minnesota.

Butler posted an emotional goodbye to Bulls fans and the city on Instagram Friday afternoon and fans pointed out he also changed his IG bio to read "#23 in minnesota, forever #33 from marquette."

Butler wore No. 21 during his six years with the Bulls since the most iconic jersey number in sports is retired in Chicago.

Considering Butler is probably the Bulls' best player since MJ, it makes sense Butler would want to follow in Jordan's footsteps in terms of jersey number, too.

Butler wore No. 21 with the Bulls to honor his college teammate, Joe Fulce, who he played with at Tyler Junior College. When Fulce later committed to Marquette, he brought Butler with him in Buzz Williams' first year in Milwaukee.

Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago

Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago

Jimmy Butler is headed to Minnesota to reunite with Tom Thibodeau.

And as the former face of the Bulls packs his bags to join the Timberwolves, Butler took to social media to say goodbye to Chicago and thank the fans for all they've done over the last six years:

Chicago, What can I say?! I truly struggle with the words because you've been so much more than just my home for the last 6 years, you've been my life! You've embraced me like a son and pushed me to get better every day, every season. I can honestly say that I have always been incredibly motivated to succeed; it's just the way I'm built. But I know I owe so much to the person I am now, and to the player that I've become, to you. You always pushed me to never give anything less than my absolute best night in, night out. That's what you expected. That's what you deserved. And, I hope you know that's what I dedicated my life to every time I walked into the facility or stepped on the floor of the United Center. Thank you to the entire Bulls organization and Reinsdorf Family for taking a chance on me in 2011 and for giving me the opportunity to play the sport I love for such a great franchise. I'll never forget the feeling I had when I was drafted and when I played my first minutes. It's an experience that I wouldn't have wanted with any other team and I'm so thankful to you for giving me that opportunity. Chicago, I love you. Thanks for embracing a kid from Tomball like one of your own. On to a new home and a new organization. Thankfully, with some familiar faces! PS... AND PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANT! THANK YOU TO EVERYBODY BEHIND THE ORGANIZATION THAT DO NOT GET THE SHINE THAT THEY DESERVE!! YALL ARE THE REAL ALL-STARS!! - Jimmy G. Buckets (@staceyking21 )

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Here's Butler's complete message:

Chicago,

What can I say?! I truly struggle with the words because you've been so much more than just my home for the last 6 years, you've been my life! You've embraced me like a son and pushed me to get better every day, every season. 
I can honestly say that I have always been incredibly motivated to succeed; it's just the way I'm built. But I know I owe so much to the person I am now, and to the player that I've become, to you. 
You always pushed me to never give anything less than my absolute best night in, night out. That's what you expected. That's what you deserved. And, I hope you know that's what I dedicated my life to every time I walked into the facility or stepped on the floor of the United Center.

Thank you to the entire Bulls organization and Reinsdorf Family for taking a chance on me in 2011 and for giving me the opportunity to play the sport I love for such a great franchise. I'll never forget the feeling I had when I was drafted and when I played my first minutes. It's an experience that I wouldn't have wanted with any other team and I'm so thankful to you for giving me that opportunity. 
Chicago, I love you. Thanks for embracing a kid from Tomball like one of your own. On to a new home and a new organization. Thankfully, with some familiar faces! PS... AND PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANT! THANK YOU TO EVERYBODY BEHIND THE ORGANIZATION THAT DO NOT GET THE SHINE THAT THEY DESERVE!! YALL ARE THE REAL ALL-STARS!! - Jimmy G. Buckets 

A classy message from Butler that exudes the exact opposite tone of his personal trainer immediately following the Thursday night trade.

Absolutely love that he signed it "Jimmy G. Buckets" at the end, shouting out Stacey King with one of the most unique nicknames in Chicago sports history.