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 fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

Bulls fall flat in blowout loss in Dallas

DALLAS (AP) -- Wesley Matthews has taken greater responsibility with Dirk Nowitzki out of the Dallas Mavericks' lineup much of this season.

Matthews scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half of Dallas' 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

"Matthews was the star of the game, obviously," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He is our leader right now with Dirk out. He really sets the tone for us in the locker room and on the floor. He is just the vocal guy."

Matthews has accepted the expanded role as Nowitzki has been limited to five games by a strained right Achilles tendon.

"I feel like that's one of the reasons why they brought me over here (from Portland). Through this rough patch, injuries and everything, everybody had to mold together. It's almost like we had to restructure ourselves. I think everybody has embraced that."

Harrison Barnes scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half to help Dallas improve to 4-15.

Chicago was coming off a 111-105 victory over defending champion Cleveland on Friday night.

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 26 points.

"I don't think anybody played well tonight," Butler said. "We didn't play with energy on either end of the floor."

Barnes powered the Mavericks to a 17-point first-quarter lead with eight points.

"They came out and threw the first punch and kept throwing, and we could just never recover from that," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We did expend a lot of energy (Friday) night."

Dwight Powell (17) and rookie Dorian Finney-Smith (11) had career highs in scoring, and Deron Williams had a season-high 15 assists with only one turnover.

"The biggest thing was we were even (43-43) on the boards," Carlisle said. Andrew Bogut had a game-high 11 rebounds, and Powell grabbed eight.

Neither team scored in the first 2:15, but Dallas went on a 7-0 run over the next 1:20. The Mavericks led 23-6 with 3:17 left. The quarter ended with Dallas leading 29-18. Bogut had six points and eight rebounds.

Chicago pulled within six points three times in the second quarter, but Dallas finished the first half with a 57-45 lead. In the third quarter, Matthews had 14 points, and the Maverick led by as many as 21 points.

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

update-1202.jpg
USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bulls win first meeting with Cavs; LeBron pays off Cubs-Indians bet

Here are some of Friday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Saturday on CSN: Bradley vs. Nevada; Illinois State vs. New Mexico

Dwyane Wade, Bulls take first blood with LeBron James, Cavs

Bears-49ers: And the winner is?

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

White Sox reportedly asking for No. 1 prospect plus more in trade return for Chris Sale

'Quarterback' Rajon Rondo executes Bulls' game plan, logs first triple-double of the year

White Sox agree to one-year deals with Brett Lawrie, Avisail Garcia

LeBron James pays off bet, rocks Cubs uniform to the United Center

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 1