- Created on 06 May 2013
MIAMI — If needed, there's plenty of things Miami and Chicago could use as extra motivation before meeting in a playoff series, like how the Heat rolled to a win when they met in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago or how the Bulls snapped the reigning champions' 27-game winning streak down the stretch of this regular season.
Then again, maybe the simple fact these clubs don't particularly like each other is all the fuel they'll need.
Top-seeded Miami plays host to fifth-seeded Chicago in Game 1 of an East semifinal series on Monday night, with the Heat coming off a week of rest after sweeping Milwaukee and the Bulls dealing with aftereffects of a grueling, seven-game first-round series.
Chicago took an injury-and-illness-riddled roster into Brooklyn and ousted the Nets on Saturday night.
"Them being the Bulls is enough," Heat forward Chris Bosh said Sunday. "Heat-Bulls, I think that's enough to really get your minds going and have some passion for the series. I mean, it's the second round. We have some major accomplishments we're trying to get to and they're a good, tough basketball team. I think given our history before, that's enough to lace 'em up and get going."
The teams split four regular-season meetings, each going 1-1 in home games.
For Miami, the biggest injury question is Dwyane Wade, who is officially listed as day-to-day with bone bruises around his right knee, but is expected to play on Monday. For Chicago, the medical report is far tougher to decipher. Luol Deng wrote on Twitter that he would "see you guys in Miami" after missing the end of the Brooklyn series because he needed a spinal tap to rule out meningitis, and Kirk Hinrich missed the last three games of Round 1 with a calf injury.
The status of Deng and Hinrich for Game 1 remained unclear Sunday.
"We know how good Miami is," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We're going to have to be at our best, or playing great basketball. They're a very deep team, extremely well-coached, very well-balanced. So we're going to have to be at our best, right from the start."
The Bulls arrived in Miami early Sunday and took the day off, which was surely a well-needed break.
Meanwhile, a couple hours before LeBron James formally picked up his fourth NBA MVP award, the Heat were in their practice gymnasium at their home arena, mouth guards in place, knee pads in position, going through a physical workout. For the first time since ousting Milwaukee, they took the floor knowing which team would be their next foe.
"We're preparing to make sure that we play our game, in our building," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We haven't played in a week and we understand that. We've been working hard this week. Our guys are looking forward to getting out there and competing. So let's tip this thing up."
The Derrick Rose watch is still on for the Bulls.
The star point guard hasn't played in more than a year after needing reconstructive knee surgery. Rose often works out before games and there's almost daily speculation about whether he will return in these playoffs — so the Heat say they will be ready either way.
"We gameplan with the awareness of everybody," Spoelstra said. "But again, the majority of what we do won't change. We've built up these habits."
Regardless of who's healthy or not, the Bulls got Miami's attention — as if they didn't have it already — by the way they fought through plenty of adversity in the opening round.
Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said after Saturday's win in Brooklyn that he didn't think many people expected Chicago to win.
"We've been hearing that noise all year that we don't have enough, that we're missing this and we're missing that," Boozer said.
James insisted the Heat aren't among those who might think that way. In fact, the now four-time MVP said he expected Chicago to pull off the rare trick of winning a Game 7 on the road against Brooklyn.
"It's how it should be in the East right now," James said. "It's the top four teams. That's what I believe. No matter the seedings, it's the top four teams, with us, Chicago and Indiana-New York."
- Created on 03 May 2013
The Brooklyn Nets wiped out their deficit. Now, they will try and finish off an improbable comeback.
The Nets are one win away from overcoming a 3-1 series hole after beating Chicago 95-92 Thursday night to force a seventh game.
Then again, the way Gerald Wallace sees it, they never should have been in that predicament.
"We feel like we're the better team," he said. "We feel like we shouldn't have gotten down 3-1. We feel like just as they won three games in a row, we can win three games in a row."
Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson each scored 17 points, and the Nets again avoided elimination, beating the short-handed Bulls.
The series goes back to Brooklyn for Game 7 on Saturday, with the winner getting defending champion Miami in the second round.
"We just believed," Johnson said. "We believed in one another. In practice (Wednesday), we went over a lot. More so than anything, it was about who wanted it badder."
The Bulls hung in until the end even though they were missing Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, but Brooklyn came away with its second straight win to avoid elimination.
A layup by Nazr Mohammed cut the Nets' lead to 93-92 with 25.2 seconds remaining.
Nate Robinson then fouled Andray Blatche, who had missed a free throw only moments earlier. This time, he hit both to make it a three-point game with 19.2 seconds left.
The Bulls had opportunities to tie it, but Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer and Joakim Noah stepped out of bounds with about six seconds left.
Chicago still had a chance, though.
Noah tied up Williams after the inbounds, resulting in a jump ball with 3.6 seconds left.
Johnson controlled the ball, and the Nets hung on.
Wallace added 15 points for Brooklyn.
Only eight NBA teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-7 series, but the Nets are in position to do just that.
"Most people would have counted us out being down 3-1," Blatche said. "But we kept fighting. We showed that we have a lot of heart. Now that it's tied up, we have to go out with the same hunger, the same attitude, finish this off."
And the Bulls?
"We're a team of fighters," Noah said. "We keep getting punched in the face, but we fight back. I'm proud of this team."
The Bulls stood their ground even though Hinrich missed his second straight game with a bruised left calf, and Deng got sent home from the arena with flu-like symptoms, forcing coach Tom Thibodeau to shuffle the lineup.
Belinelli started at shooting guard with Jimmy Butler moving to small forward. He scored 22 points and tied a career high with seven assists. Robinson started his second straight game and finished with 18 points, but it's no secret that the offense runs smoother with Hinrich and that he does a better job containing Williams.
"Yes, it was big," Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It affects the game because he's one of their best players, not just as a defender."
Butler had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Chicago. Noah added 14 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Carlos Boozer scored 14 and grabbed 13 boards.
The Nets were leading 81-73 early in the fourth after 3-pointers by Wallace and C.J. Watson.
Robinson wowed the crowd when he faked picking up his dribble for a jumper and drove past a leaping Kris Humphries for a layup that made it 83-79 with about 7:30 remaining.
Noah scored on a tip-in that made it 87-85 with four minutes left. Then, after Lopez dunked, he rotated over for a huge block of Lopez, delighting the crowd.
The fans were really screaming when Belinelli made a 3 to pull Chicago within 90-88 with 2:19 remaining.
Blatche then banked in a fadeaway with 1:15 remaining, but Robinson quickly answered with just over a minute left.
He also missed a driving layup with 32 seconds to play. Boozer got called for a loose ball foul on the play, and Blatche hit the second free throw to make it 93-90.
"There is not a team in the league that plays harder than them," Carlesimo said. "We could have made it easier on ourselves and given us more of a cushion if we made some layups and free throws late in the game."
- Created on 30 April 2013
NEW YORK — Kirk Hinrich was missing. So was Chicago's usual rebounding and defense.
Tom Thibodeau is used to being without key players, but counts on the Bulls having the other skills.
"He's not out there, but I think it was a three-point game with seven minutes to go. We've got to find a way to get it done," the Chicago coach said. "So we didn't play our best, the rebounding was a big problem and defensively we've got to get it together."
Brook Lopez had 28 points and 10 rebounds, Deron Williams added 23 points and 10 assists, and the Nets beat Chicago 110-91 on Monday night, cutting the Bulls' lead to 3-2 in their first-round playoff series.
Recovering from a collapse two days earlier that sent them home on the brink of elimination instead of tied, the Nets battered the Bulls on the boards and forced Chicago into being the team that wilted down the stretch.
"We came out very aggressive, as we have the past few games. I think the difference was just we sustained it for essentially a full 48 minutes tonight," Lopez said.
Andray Blatche scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter and Gerald Wallace had consecutive baskets in the finishing surge as the Nets finally pulled away in a game they led most of the way, but never by too much.
Two days after rallying for a 142-134 triple-overtime victory, the Bulls were outscored 15-1 at the finish and failed to set up a second-round series with Miami. Instead they will host Game 6 on Thursday.
"It was just a lot of mental mistakes. A lot of mental mistakes," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I feel like we had our chances. We beat ourselves. They played well. You've got to give credit when credit is due and now it's on us to come back and be ready for Game 6."
If the Nets win that one, they would host Game 7 on Saturday.
Nate Robinson had 20 points and eight assists starting in place of point guard Hinrich, who bruised his left calf in Saturday's game and was in a walking boot Monday morning.
"For us, I knew it was going to be tough; it was going to be a challenge," Robinson said. "At the same time, we've been here before playing with a guy short. It's something we've got to do. We've just got to muster something and bring that energy and continue to play like we've been playing."
Jimmy Butler scored 18 points for the Bulls, who were outrebounded 44-33 and gave up 24 second-chance points. Brooklyn shot 50 percent from the field.
"That's the difference in the game, the rebounding," Thibodeau said. "If you defend fairly well and then you give a team a second and a third crack at it, it's hard to win like that."
Only eight NBA teams have overcome a 3-1 deficit, but the Nets remained confident after Saturday's collapse, feeling they had outplayed the Bulls for long stretches during the series. They have led by double digits in four of the five games.
"I believed that we would respond," Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "We've bounced back all year too well, and as disheartening a loss as that was on Saturday, there's still been enough good minutes in this series. Neither of us are getting away from each other."
But they need two more wins against a Bulls franchise that is 12-0 all-time when holding a 3-1 lead.
"We feel like we're the better team," Wallace said. "We've just got to play a 48-minute game completely and stay in attack mode."
Robinson scored 29 of his 34 points after the third quarter Saturday in a game the Nets led by 14 late in regulation. Coming off his big game and agitating to opposing fans even when he's struggling, Robinson was loudly booed during introductions, and each time he touched the ball early on.
He made a jumper with 4:17 remaining to cut Brooklyn's lead to 95-90, but there would be no charge this time. Lopez converted a three-point play, and after a free throw by Butler, Wallace nailed a 3-pointer, then came up with a steal and dunk to give the Nets a 103-91 advantage with 2 minutes to go.
The Nets finished it off with ease, prolonging their first season since moving from New Jersey.
The Nets ran off seven straight points late in the first quarter, five from Lopez, to turn a 17-17 tie into a 24-17 lead.
Brooklyn got eight second-quarter points from Kris Humphries, then opened its biggest lead when Johnson and Wallace made consecutive 3-pointers before Lopez made two free throws to make it 50-40. The Nets led 52-44 at the break.
The Nets had the lead into double digits a few times in the third quarter but never built on it. The Bulls were back within four by the end of the period after making 11 of 16 shots (69 percent).
Butler made a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter and make it a one-point game, but Chicago never could grab the lead in the final period.
Wallace scored 12 points and Reggie Evans grabbed 12 rebounds as the Nets improved to 6-0 all-time in Game 5s at home. They have never lost a series when holding home-court advantage.
- Created on 02 May 2013
The owner of the Chicago Cubs threatened to move the team out of Wrigley Field for the first time publicly if his plans for a big, new video screen are blocked, saying Wednesday he needs new advertising revenue to help bankroll a $500 million renovation of the storied ballpark.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts until now had said nothing as dire, despite months of contentious negotiations over how to keep everyone happy in sprucing up the 99-year-old stadium in the heart of Wrigleyville on Chicago's North Side.
"The fact is that if we don't have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, we'll have to take a look at moving — no question," Ricketts told reporters after outlining renovation plans to Chicago business leaders.
He added that he remains committed to working out a deal and it is difficult to imagine the Cubs playing anywhere else. But the fight over the Friendly Confines boils down to money and, of course, something unusual — it's the Cubs, after all.
By far the thorniest issue is the plan for a 6,000-square-foot video screen over left field, a common feature in many major league ballparks. The difference is that Wrigley Field — the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball behind Fenway Park in Boston — is surrounded by privately owned clubs with rooftop bleachers whose owners object to any changes that could block their bird's-eye views into the stadium.
The rooftop businesses have been left out of discussions on the proposed upgrade, but they feel they should have a seat at the bargaining table because they have a contract in which they share 17 percent of their revenue with the Cubs. Legal action is a possibility.
Ricketts presented an architectural rendering of the video screen during his speech to the City Club of Chicago and insisted that the team's own studies have shown it would have minimal, if any, impact on the views. He described the sign as "midsize" compared with those at other stadiums, though it is nearly three times as large as the scoreboard currently atop the centerfield bleachers. Another smaller sign with the name of a sponsor is planned for right field.
He said without such signage, the team was losing out on $20 million a year in ad revenue — essential for helping fund the extensive renovations without dipping into taxpayer funds.
"All we really need is to be able to run our business like a business and not a museum," Ricketts told the audience.
Ricketts said the team formally filed its full renovation proposal with the city of Chicago on Wednesday. The plan must get approval from city planners and the City Council. There will also be public hearings.
The overall plan calls for more night games, a 175-room boutique hotel across the street, a new clubhouse and upgrades for fans. The proposal also calls for an open-air plaza and an office building with retail space.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the alderman whose ward includes Wrigley Field, Tom Tunney, support the overall plan. The mayor's office has already agreed that the outfield signs can be installed, but there has been no agreement on size or design.
If the deal wins approval, Ricketts said work could begin after this season ends and be completed over the next five years. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said Wednesday that he hopes the public approval process moves quickly so renovation work, especially upgrades to the clubhouse, starts soon.
"If it drags on too long, it's going to be unrealistic to get it done this winter," Epstein said before the team's game against the San Diego Padres. "Then we're probably looking at opening day 2015 for the renovated clubhouse."
One of the rooftop owners, Beth Murphy, told reporters after listening to Ricketts' speech that it was the first time she'd seen any drawings of the screen and that she and other owners would have a lot of vetting to do before determining if the proposal works.
"It looked big to me and it looked like it blocked out the neighborhood," Murphy said.
The rooftop owners have previously threatened legal action, and Murphy said she was confident their contract would hold up and protect their businesses.
Commenting on the possibility that Ricketts might really take the team elsewhere, Murphy said doing so would not be "a wise business decision."
"The reason the Cubs are such a tourist destination ... is because it's a ballpark in a neighborhood," Murphy said. "I don't think a new ballpark in a parking lot is interesting and that's why other ballparks don't have the tourism that Wrigley Field does."
If Ricketts is serious about leaving, he already has a suitor. Several weeks ago, the mayor of nearby Rosemont said that the village near O'Hare International Airport has a 25-acre chunk of land that the Cubs could have for free if they wanted to build a replica of Wrigley Field there. While Mayor Bradley Stephens said the idea of the Cubs leaving Wrigley was the longest of long shots, he wanted to make sure that if the Cubs did decide to leave they knew about the offer.
Cubs fans said they doubted Ricketts would move the team and that he most likely raised the prospect out of frustration with the negotiations.
"I'm surprised it's taken him this long to snap," said Rick Kaempfer, who created the fan blog www.justonebadcentury.com .
He said he shared those frustrations and wished the rooftop owners would back off and allow Ricketts to run the club as he sees fit.
"I think we should trust this organization because they have shown over time that they take the history of Wrigley Field seriously and so far nothing they have done has diminished it, in my opinion," he said.
- Created on 29 April 2013
NEW YORK — No use looking back now for the Brooklyn Nets.
Game 4 hurt, physically and mentally, but there's nothing they can do about it. The missed free throws, the blown boxouts, cost them what should have been a victory, and they realize things would be a whole lot different if they were coming home tied at two games apiece instead of trailing the Chicago Bulls 3-1.
That's history now. If they don't win Game 5 on Monday night, they'll have all the time in the world to think about what might have been.
"I think they are very acutely aware of the mistakes that we made and I don't think we need that for tomorrow. I think tomorrow is more positive and I think it's really important for us to be looking ahead, not backwards, tomorrow," coach P.J. Carlesimo said Sunday, revealing that the Nets won't look at specifics of their collapse when they gather Monday morning.
"They'll be enough motivation. They're not going to forget what happened on Saturday, but I don't think we need it. We need to dwell on Monday, not Saturday."
What the Nets are trying to forget is the 14-point lead they couldn't hold late in regulation on Saturday. Nate Robinson led the Bulls back, and they pulled out a 142-134 triple-overtime victory. As meaningful as it was for the Bulls, they understand they also need to let it go quickly.
"Well, it's one game," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I like the fact that we never quit on the game. That's been the nature of the team all season. They'll keep battling. Things weren't going our way, but there was no give-in. They just kept going."
That spirit has Chicago on the verge of the second round in a season in which Derrick Rose hasn't played at all, Joakim Noah has battled chronic pain in his right foot and some other injury often seems around the corner, even it's not serious. This time it's a bruised calf for point guard Kirk Hinrich.
So the Bulls know never to expect anything to come easily, certainly not a close-out game on their opponent's home floor. The Nets are 5-0 in Game 5s at home.
"They're going to be in their building, so they're going to have juice and energy from the crowd," forward Carlos Boozer said. "For us, we just have to stay focused, poised, tighten up our defense."
Indeed, the Bulls aren't used to having to rely on something like the 29 points Robinson scored after the third quarter. They prefer to lean on their defense but realize there are some nights against teams like the Nets where they will have to win by making shots.
"The thing is, you've got to win different ways," Thibodeau said. "They make shots. Some of the plays were defended well. We knew that going in. You can't let your guard down against them. They're a great team. They've shown that all year. We know we're going to have to play our best game tomorrow."
Only eight NBA teams have overcome a 3-1 deficit, yet Carlesimo remained optimistic Sunday — even talking about the days off in between Game 6 and Game 7. He believes the Nets have outplayed the Bulls for long enough stretches during the series to think they can do it for an entire game.
"I mean, we know it should be 2-2, and you know the whole line of questioning would be totally different. But it's not, it's 3-1, and that's our fault and we've got to deal with it," Carlesimo said on a conference call. "But we know how close it was to being 2-2 and a totally different scenario.
"Playoffs are a game at a time. The mindset will be totally different tomorrow night and if we can get the job done it'll be totally different going into Thursday."
With only one day of rest between games, Carlesimo said he may have to extend his rotation Monday after Deron Williams played 58 minutes Saturday and every other starter played at least 48, the equivalent of a full game. Thibodeau, who has been criticized for riding his starters too long, actually got more key minutes from his bench because Robinson was playing so well and because Noah's time on the court has to be limited because of his foot.
Thibodeau did say that Noah has been feeling less soreness the day after games than he was late in the regular season. The center was on the floor 39 minutes Saturday, about 10 more than Thibodeau wants to play him.
The Bulls also went 3-1 against the Nets during the regular season, though most of the margins were as close as Chicago's have been during this series. So Carlesimo, who helped the Nets win 49 games in their first season in Brooklyn after replacing the fired Avery Johnson in December, doesn't think their work is done yet.
"I don't think it's difficult for our guys to feel that they're capable of doing this," he said. "I think that they feel we can beat the Bulls. Have we done it? No, we haven't done it enough. But they know that we can do it, they know that this game is in Brooklyn, and I do think they'll bounce back and I do think it's doable."