NBA

Donovan praises short-handed Bulls for withstanding 'defensive pressure'

By Sports Desk January 25, 2022

Billy Donovan praised his short-handed Chicago Bulls side for coping with the "defensive pressure" applied by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Monday's narrow 111-110 triumph.

The high-flying Bulls have been faltering in recent matches and had lost six of seven heading into the contest but managed to see it out against the Thunder to improve to 29-17 for the season.

DeMar DeRozan was rested, while Lonzo Ball (bruised knee) and Alex Caruso (fractured wrist) were absent in a match where the Bulls had to withstand heavy fourth-quarter pressure.

"Two of our primary ballhandlers in Lonzo and Alex are not here," said head coach Donovan, a former Thunder coach who had a 243-157 record with Oklahoma.

"And when you get into these situations in the fourth quarter where teams turn up the defensive pressure and pick up full court, you've got to be able to handle it."

Nicola Vucevic had 26 points and 15 rebounds for the Bulls, while rookie Ayo Dosunmu put 24 for a season high and Zach LaVine contributed 23.

LaVine had not played since January 14 due to a bruised left knee and was happy to be back out on court for a Bulls side that lost by 19 points to the league-worst Orlando Magic last time out.

"It felt good," LaVine said. "I got tired of just sitting at home watching. I'm about as healthy as I can get, but it just sucks sitting at home and not being able to help."

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  • Heat's Erik Spoelstra looking forward to 'throwback' Eastern Conference Finals Heat's Erik Spoelstra looking forward to 'throwback' Eastern Conference Finals

    Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said the Eastern Conference Finals will be an old-school defensive slugfest, and that he feels the best two teams made it.

    The Heat needed six games to triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Boston Celtics came back from 3-2 down against the Milwaukee Bucks to get the job done in Game 7.

    As a reward for getting their series out of the way early, the Heat will have five days of rest before Tuesday's Game 1, while the Celtics have just one proper rest day between series.

    Speaking to the media after Monday's practice, Spoelstra said it is shaping up as a series that will warm the heart of Heat president Pat Riley.

    "Pat's [Riley] probably is going to enjoy this," he said. "This is like a throwback series. 

    "If both teams are really on top of their games, this should be a series where neither team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense, and making multiple efforts and being disciplined to schemes. 

    "So it will be a lot of plays and things in the margins… really, we were the two best teams in the East most of the season and it's fitting that we're moving into the conference finals.

    "Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It's not by accident. They're playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends."

    Heat star Jimmy Butler was asked about his potential matchup against Jayson Tatum, and he had nothing but praise for the Celtics' best player.

    "He's one of the best in the game right now," he said. "As much attention as he draws on the offensive end – and then I think what's really impressive is the way that he's picked up his defensive intensity. 

    "You got to tip your hat to that and respect him, I think those are the guys that you want to go up against."

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