Costly win for Bulls? Hard fall injures Boozer

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Costly win for Bulls? Hard fall injures Boozer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Posted 8:30 p.m. Updated 10:48 p.m.

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Following two broken hands and a bad thumb that left them short-handed for much of the season, the Chicago Bulls finally got their core healthy and quickly became one of the most feared teams in the NBA.

WATCH: Boozer hurts ankle

Now another injury on a meaningless play at the end of a blowout win has cast more doubt about the Bulls' depth.

The sight of Carlos Boozer limping off the floor with a left ankle injury following Kwame Brown's flagrant foul considerably dimmed Chicago's 101-84 victory over the slumping and undermanned Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

"X-ray was negative and we'll have to wait and see (Thursday) what type of swelling he has," coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Derrick Rose had 20 points and six assists, and Kyle Korver scored 12 of his 20 points in the decisive fourth quarter for the Bulls, who also got 12 points and 13 rebounds from Joakim Noah in their 11th win in 13 games.

Chicago moved within 1 12 games of Eastern Conference-leading Boston, but there was reason for concern in the locker room.

"Carlos brings a lot to this team," said Noah, who returned Feb. 23 from a thumb injury that sidelined him for 30 games. "His physicality and what he can do offensively."

Boozer, who had 10 points and seven rebounds despite early foul trouble, was going in for a layup as Chicago led by 17 points with less than 5 minutes left when Brown swiped and hit him across the chest. Boozer's left leg bent awkwardly as he tumbled to the floor.

Boozer, who missed 15 games with a broken right hand and three more with a sprained left ankle earlier this season, hobbled to the locker room and didn't return.

"This is the NBA, nobody wants to get embarrassed and nobody is going to let anybody get anything easy," said Taj Gibson, who had 14 points and would be counted on to fill in if Boozer is sidelined. "That was just a basketball play that Kwame made. It was just unfortunate that it hurt Booz in the long run."

The Bobcats, the only sub-.500 team to beat Chicago more than once this season, know all about injuries.

Gerald Henderson had 20 points and eight assists, but got little help as the Bobcats played without top scorer Stephen Jackson (hamstring), sixth man Tyrus Thomas (knee surgery), backup center Joel Przybilla (knee) and reserve guard Matt Carroll (ankle) in their sixth straight loss.

The best part about things for Charlotte is Indiana has been almost as bad of late. Its fifth straight loss Wednesday in Minnesota left the Bobcats still just a game out of the final playoff spot.

"We just kind of ran out of gas, but I thought the guys played hard and played with effort," coach Paul Silas said. "I told them if they play that way and we get our full complement of guys, then I like our chances."

Even with Charlotte having only 10 healthy bodies, it took a while for Chicago to take control.

With former Bulls star and Bobcats owner Michael Jordan sitting courtside, Henderson did a decent impersonation of his boss on a twisting reverse layup along the baseline in a third quarter that saw Charlotte take a 68-67 lead on another hoop by Henderson.

WATCH: Rose leaves Jordan amazed

Then Rose went to work with a nifty fadeaway and 3-pointer to give Chicago a 75-69 lead entering the fourth.

Korver had two big 3-pointers in Chicago's dominant fourth quarter. The first made it 84-72 with 7:13 left and the second put Chicago ahead 92-75 with under 5 minutes to go.

The Bulls shot 51 percent and held an eighth straight opponent to under 90 points as they continue to show the potential to win the East - if they can stay healthy.

"It's going to hurt us but we've still got to go out there and play the game," Rose said of the prospect Boozer could miss games. "We know that it's going to take a lot more energy, a lot more focus going to into games and people are going to have to step up. If he doesn't play, Taj did a great job when he was out."

Notes

Jordan will be in Chicago on Saturday for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Bulls' first championship. ... The Bulls improved to 18-14 on the road, earning one more victory than all of last season.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade lift Bulls to win over pesky Heat

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade lift Bulls to win over pesky Heat

The emotion of playing in Miami may have been missing for Dwyane Wade but it was still the Miami Heat on the other side, the franchise he put it all on the line for before the two sides couldn’t agree on a contract last summer.

So he still had some extra juice on a snowy Saturday night that probably made him yearn for the breeze of South Beach, giving the pesky Heat some of his wrath and little flash in a 105-100 win at the United Center.

Wade scored 28 points on 11 of 24 shooting in 35 minutes to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two blocks against his former team.

Wade got the Bulls off to a better second half start while Jimmy Butler, all too happy to lurk in the wings while Wade got his shots up, had his say late in the fourth when the Heat hung around longer than expected.

Butler and Wade combined to strip Goran Dragic on a weave play that could’ve tied the game for the Heat with seven seconds left and the Bulls leading by three, as Butler sealed the game with two free throws, finishing his 31-point, seven-rebound and five-assist night.

Bullying the smaller and slightly-built Heat defenders, he got to the basket at will and kept the pressure on the interior defense of Hassan Whiteside. Most of his production came from the midrange or the paint, as the Bulls took just eight 3-pointers and committed just 11 turnovers—making for a clean if not old-fashioned game.

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

They seemed to follow Wade’s lead, at least in style, as he probed and spun and danced his way to the rim for as many shots in the paint as he’s taken all season despite leaving more than a few on the lip of the rim or giving the officials sideways looks after not getting what he felt were rightful foul calls.

Wade scored 11 third after the Bulls were sleepwalking on one end of the floor for the first half, leading to a 55-all game, the type of performance that Gregg Popovich would’ve given a media lashing to afterwards.

Dragic owned his matchup against Rajon Rondo, getting to the paint at will, forcing switches and attacking the rim relentlessly whenever the Bulls left a sliver of an opening, scoring 21 with 11 assists before his unfortunate turnover.

One can say Dragic essentially kept the Heat in it for the first half as the Bulls’ defense hadn’t received its wake-up call, but it came in the form of Wade’s aggressiveness to start the half.

A sweeping hook shot was followed by the 34-year old splitting the defense on a fast break for a dunk and 3-point play, and he finished the spurt with a baseline spin and layup to put the Bulls up double-digits.

But the Heat wouldn’t go away—or the Bulls wouldn’t put a team playing its fourth game in five nights away—as the energetic Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardons came off the bench to give an ailing team a boost, combining for 26 points.

Whiteside was swatting away more than his share of shots and changing a few others, as he scored 18 with eight rebounds and three blocks but went scoreless in the fourth until his basket that brought the Bulls’ lead to one with a little over 10 seconds left.

It wasn’t pretty but it was effective enough for the Bulls to settle themselves and reverse a too-common trend of a big letdown after a big win.

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”