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Bulls get hot but lose to Heat

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Mar 13

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Forget fighting their adversity. Better, the Bulls fought back this time. Now, they just need to turn that into a victory. A baby step, if you will.

The Bulls lost their seventh consecutive game Friday, 108-95 to the Miami Heat with starters Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all out injured.

But they delivered their own blows this time as they were clawing back trailing 84-77 midway through the fourth quarter. At least until they blew as coach Vinny Del Negro, Brad Miller and Kirk Hinrich drew technicals, Miller also a flagrant foul against Dwyane Wade, and Hinrich eventually ejected with a second technical foul with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter, after which he charged referee Bennie Adams and appeared to bump Adams.

That would carry with it a suspension, which the Bulls hardly need now with Rose tending to a sprained left wrist, Deng a strained calf and Noah his plantar fasciitis, which Taj Gibson is painfully playing through, as most can see.

Though the Bulls said Hinrich merely was going to get an explanation for being ejected and was pushed into the referee. Taj Gibson said the referee merely flinched mistakenly thinking Hinrich was coming more quickly than he was. Hinrich declined to comment after the game.

“The referee stopped,” said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. “That’s the only reason he bumped him. I was right there. He was walking toward him and the referee was walking away and the referee turned and walked toward him. And they bumped. Kirk wasn’t going to bump him. There was some contact, but it was because the referee stopped right in front of him.”

And perhaps the buck finally stopped here for the Bulls.

With worrisome signs lately in a string of blowout losses, Friday’s game suggested the Bulls, at least, aren’t going to give up without a fight.

“We got to find a way,” said Brad Miller, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds and with buddy Hinrich seemed to infuriate Wade, who afterward told reporters to tell Miller to stop crying.

“They were trying to be tough guys. We’ll see them again,” promised Miller.

That’s the stuff.

“There’s lots of games. A lot of things can happen,” Miller added though the Bulls fell to 31-34 and two games behind now Toronto for eighth. “It’s the East. I’m not saying you can take a seven game (series), but hopefully (we‘ll) stay with it. D-Rose will be back. Lu, Jo. We have the pieces here. Everyone has fun. That’s the good thing. I’ve been around teams where you lose and everyone hates to be around eachother. We want to play longer. We got a taste last year. We want to right this son of a (gun) and get back.”

So, it was a start.

James Johnson showed the promise the Bulls saw him as the No. 16 pick in the draft with a career high 20 points along with six rebounds and two blocks. He was active, finishing strong at the rim and on follows and shot eight of 11 even with his exceedingly high arcing shot.

Jannero Pargo added 20, Flip Murray came off the bench for 15 and Hinrich did another terrific defensive job on Dwyane Wade, who had 22 points on seven of 16 shooting while Jermaine O’Neal had 25 and Quentin Richardson 23 with seven three pointers.

Say what you will about Hinrich, but even Miami insiders said no one in the NBA does a more consistently better defensive job on Wade than Hinrich. In 22 games against the Bulls, Wade has shot better than  50 percent just five times. He’s also scored more than 25 points just five times.

Enough reason to come to Chicago as a free agent? Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Well, the Heat did win as it was at least a bit reminiscent of some terrific games between the teams, who met in playoff series in 2006 and 2007, the latter when the Bulls swept the defending champions.

This time, the Bulls weren’t able to control a surprisingly lively O’Neal, who had a season high points. And as impressive as Johnson was overall, he continually lost Richardson on defense as Johnson concentrated on helping close the lane and Richardson had four threes in the first quarter.

Though the Bulls would recover nicely and take a lead early in the third quarter before wearing down and shooting a few too many jumpers and allowing Miami to take control after the middle of the third.

But the Bulls weren’t giving in or standing by and watching this time, as it seemed they did when Rose was taken down again by Dwight Howard Thursday and no one responded.

No one wanted to say that was the reason for Friday’s frustrations, but it boiled over like we hadn’t seen this season late in the fourth as Wade went barreling into Miller on a drive and collapsed down.

There had been some words between the two just before as Miller appeared to give Wade a bit of a hip check on a drive. Good. Just before that Wade had battered Taj Gibson on a drive, and the normally subdued rookie had to be calmed by Miller. Miller too care of the kid.

Miami was hitting; the Bulls were hitting. The difference was the Heat was getting to the free throw line more frequently.

“Dwyane undercut me and I was (upset),” said Gibson, “because the referee saw it and he just asked me, “Are you OK.’ I was like ‘Am I OK?’”

Then came Wade with 4:43 left and the Bulls trailing 89-77 running into Miller and going down. Wade is a world class complainer, not unlike many of the top stars of the game. He’s notorious for complaining every time he doesn’t get a call and not coming back on defense as a result. But he gets his share, 12 free throws Friday, though Miller stood his ground.

Wade went into a dramatic dive and, stunningly, certainly to the Bulls, referee Adams called a flagrant foul. The Bulls bench erupted in disbelief as Del Negro, who got a technical Thursday in Orlando, already had gotten one earlier in the game.

“I led the league in flagrant fouls (with) Ron Artest in Indiana back in the day,” said Miller. “I know the definition (of a flagrant). I was just standing there with my arm up and he came like he always does and I just don’t fall down. You get a flagrant for taking a hit. It’s certain people against certain people.”

This is where Miller began thinking that it is costly to criticize refereeing in the NBA, so he began to talk only about “people,” and as we know from the famous line from the Seinfeld show, “People, they’re the worst.”

“Taj, two guys hit him in the face after the whistle and the people say you’ve got to keep playing. People control it and there’s not a damn thing we can say,” said Miller. “People will fine us and other people do other things. There’s not much you can say specifically

“Kirk’s like me,” said Miller. “They call us the Bash Brothers, don’t give a damn about much. If we feel get wronged we’re gonna voice our opinion. It’s hard telling what the people are going to do. People can do what they want. You have to deal with it.”

People are not necessarily the luckiest people in the world.

The Heat took that first quarter 28-22 lead behind Richardson’s threes. But the Bulls came back strong in the second quarter with Johnson leading the team with eight points, which included a three and 20 footer consecutively, some tough defensive rebounds in an area he’s been weak in and a drive to give the Bulls a one point lead late before the Heat took a 50-49 halftime lead.

It was interesting pregame to watch Johnson listening intently as Deng went over and over the defensive assignments as the two sat alone, Deng telling Johnson where to expect the play from and how to respond. I listened in for awhile and then got into a discussion with Johnson about his two large tattoo murals on his large arms, one which took five hours to do (all in one sitting) and the other eight hours, though over a few sittings. He seemed very proud of both and said even the procedure was an enjoyable feeling as they depict symbolic family and life objects.

Perhaps Johnson will have a life with the Bulls after such a slow start to the season.

It also was pretty remarkable to see that starting group he was a part of, as Miller pointed out.

“Obviously, we’re frustrated with the way we’ve played,” said Miller. “Two weeks ago was a different story. We had our white (reserve) squad who started the season on the out there tonight.”

Yes, think of that.

The starters to open the season were Rose, John Salmons, Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Noah. They scrimmaged against the five who now are starting. The Heat was without No. 2 pick in Rose’s draft, Michael Beasley with a leg injury, and Dorrell Wright, suspended for a DWI charge.

“We’re at a critical time,” agreed Johnson. “But we’ve got guys who are hungry and losing and don’t feel good at all (about that). Sometimes the game can get to you and you can lose your emotions.”

It began to get away from the Bulls in the third as Del Negro first drew a technical on a questionable foul for O’Neal, and then the Bulls went dry with six of eight missed jumpers as Miami went up by a dozen.

But you could see it coming then.

Jamaal Magloire fouled Hakim Warrick extra hard. On the next possession, Miller gave Magloire a big shot.

“Magloire, that’s normal,” said Miller. “We go way back. We recruited him at Purdue. I took him out on his visit. That’s how he plays.”

Miller was getting into it now, and he’s perhaps the only big guy on the Bulls who’ll play like that. I was hoping he’d take some hard fouls on Howard Thursday after Rose went down, though Rose said before the game he was satisfied it was just a regular basketball play (see my previous blog entry for fuller details).

It was on in the fourth as the Bulls got more aggressive and began to cause turnovers. Unfortunately, Pargo missed three straight jumpers before Murray hit one when the Heat went briefly to a zone.

Wade began driving hard to the basket and expressing his own frustration at the Bulls defensive effort on him with some extra curricular defense of his own. Gibson wasn’t too appreciative.

“I’ve learned to control my anger. I’m a rookie,” noted Gibson, as we all know in the NBA as much as it is supposed to be a foul sometimes it is not what happened but whom it happened to. “I’m not going to explode on anyone. I felt like exploding on (Wade). The play was over and he ran up on me. We played a physical, tough game. Calls were tough on us. It took the fun out of the game. It’s the NBA. You try to keep playing and hope they see the tape and try to make it better.”

It’s a message for the Bulls, too. Take a look at that attitude. It still was the 10th straight game allowing at least 100 points, the longest such streak since 1989 when the Bulls won doing that. But now get Rose and Deng back next week and maybe Noah the week after and who knows.

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