Bulls hope to lock up top seed vs. struggling Cavs

369722.jpg

Bulls hope to lock up top seed vs. struggling Cavs

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 10:35 a.m.
Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls took a huge step towards securing the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference with a dominating performance their last time out.

A matchup against the conference's worst club could help them clinch.

Seeking a fifth consecutive win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls begin a three-game trip Friday night looking to lock up the top seed in the East.

Chicago (58-20) defeated Boston 97-81 on Thursday night to increase its lead over the Celtics and Miami for first place in the conference to four games with four remaining.

The Bulls, winners of five straight and 17 of 19, can earn home-court advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs with a win or a Celtics loss. Boston hosts Washington on Friday.

"I always said that we could compete with some of the best teams in the NBA," said MVP candidate Derrick Rose, who scored 30 points. "At training camp and in the beginning of the year, I thought my team's ready to fight. I just saw what we were going through in training camp. Guys were keyed in and focused, making sure that they came in very, very hungry, wanting to win."

Rose, the only NBA player who ranks in the top 10 in both points (25.1) and assists (7.9), is averaging 27.0 and 9.0, respectively, in three wins over Cleveland in 2010-11.

Chicago, which hasn't finished atop the East since winning the most recent of its six NBA championships in 1997-98, has won eight of nine on the road - including four straight by an average of 15.7 points while shooting 51.6 percent.

Carlos Boozer is averaging 14.7 points - 3.0 less than his season mark - on 39.6 percent shooting over his last three games. The forward, who spent the first two years of his career with the Cavaliers, has averaged 20.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in the last two contests against his former team.

The Bulls are allowing an average of 93.6 points over their current win streak. They have won 13 in a row and are 48-2 when holding opponents under 95 points.

While Chicago has held the Cavaliers to 84.3 points per game on 36.8 percent shooting this season, forward Luol Deng knows his team can't overlook them.

"We never look at their record. Cleveland is playing some good basketball," said Deng, who scored 23 points against the Celtics.

"...(Thursday) was a big game, we know that, but our mentality gotta be the next game. We walk out of this locker room, get on a plane, our mindset gotta be right, we can't take any team light."

Following a 99-89 win over Charlotte on Tuesday, Cleveland (17-61) defeated Toronto 104-96 on the road Wednesday night, recording back-to-back victories for the first time since a three-game run Nov. 5-9.

"We are starting to see the benefits of hard work," guard Daniel Gibson said. "After all of the tough things that have happened, we are starting to understand what it's all about to play basketball the right way and win games."

Big man J.J. Hickson continued his impressive play with 28 points and 10 rebounds against the Raptors.

Hickson, averaging 20.5 points and 11.4 rebounds over his last 11 games, had 13 points on 26.3 percent shooting and a career-best 20 boards Jan. 22 in a 92-79 loss at Chicago

The Cavaliers have won three of four at home while limiting opponents to 92.3 points per game.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Bulls center Robin Lopez slapped with one-game suspension after fight

Bulls center Robin Lopez slapped with one-game suspension after fight

Robin Lopez will not be suiting up for the Bulls Wednesday night.

The center was slapped with a one-game suspension from the NBA just hours before tipoff after getting into a fight with Serge Ibaka in the Bulls' loss to the Toronto Raptors Tuesday evening.

The two threw punches at each other during a dead ball toward the end of the third quarter.

Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire was fined $15,000 for pushing Bulls forward Niko Mirotic in the scuffle.

Bulls collapse in Toronto, fall in overtime to Raptors

Bulls collapse in Toronto, fall in overtime to Raptors

TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors fought and scrapped their way to their first victory over the Chicago Bulls in years.

DeMar DeRozan led the way.

DeRozan had 42 points, and the Raptors snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Bulls by rallying for a wild 122-120 overtime win on Tuesday night.

"You don't want to have something lingering like that and go a couple of seasons where you can't beat a team," DeRozan said. "When you're a competitor, just to have that in the back of your mind, it sucks."

DeRozan set a franchise record with 38 shot attempts, making 17, and also finished with eight assists. Cory Joseph had 19 points for the Raptors, and Serge Ibaka scored 16 before he was ejected for his role in a memorable fight with Robin Lopez during the third quarter.

Jimmy Butler had 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Bulls, and Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 24. It was Chicago's first loss to Toronto since Dec. 31, 2013.

Following a Butler 3-pointer with 3:58 remaining in the third quarter, giving Chicago a 16-point lead, Lopez swatted the ball out of the hand of Ibaka. The two squared up in the middle of a crowd and Lopez swung and missed Ibaka, who returned in kind, barely connecting with the head of the center.

Lopez and Ibaka were ejected following a long review period. Chicago forward Nikola Mirotic and Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire received offsetting technical fouls after getting into a shoving match following the melee.

With Lopez throwing the first punch, Ibaka said he was simply trying to defend himself.

"I'm not just going to be out there and watch a man like him punch me and walk away," he said after his fourth career ejection.

Lopez was ejected for the sixth time in his career. He said he expects to be suspended for the fight.

"I think it was a really physical game, physical game for everybody," he said. "Just kind of hit the flashpoint."

The Bulls opened a 109-94 lead on Paul Zipser's 3-pointer with 6:39 left in the fourth. But the Raptors responded with a 15-0 run, tying the game on Joseph's layup with 1:50 remaining.

"They were the aggressors on both sides of the floor, getting layups on one end and stops on the other," Butler said. "Hell, that's how we were playing for the majority of the game. Whenever you're playing like that, the game turns quickly."

Toronto grabbed the lead for the first time on a turnaround jumper from DeRozan with 1:23 to play in overtime.

Denzel Valentine missed a 3-point attempt on Chicago's next possession and Patrick Patterson had a tip-in layup to make it 119-115 Toronto with 44.7 seconds remaining.

The Raptors lead the NBA with 18 comeback victories after trailing by 10-or-more points.