NBA Basketball

In-house frustrations color Bulls-Heat matchup

Things are really bad right now for the Chicago Bulls. The championship franchise of Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and the rest is now in ruins.

The Bulls, who host the Miami Heat on Saturday, have lost nine games in a row and sport a miserable 10-35 record, which ranks as the second-worst mark in the NBA.

On Monday, two Bulls teammates -- center Robin Lopez and guard Kris Dunn -- nearly came to blows during a physical and intense practice.

Last month, coach Fred Hoiberg was fired. He was replaced by Jim Boylen, but nothing much has changed.

"We had a very competitive practice," Boylen said after the Lopez-Dunn skirmish. "We have guys who are sick of losing games."

To make matters worse for the Bulls, they are without 6-foot-10, 255-pound rookie center Wendell Carter Jr., the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Carter, a former Duke standout, is out due to an injured left thumb. Doctors are recommending surgery, which would knock him out for eight to 12 weeks.

"We've lost two of our best defenders in the Justin Holiday trade and Carter being hurt," Boylen said. "Somebody has to step up -- we are desperate for more physical play."

Indeed, the Bulls allowed the Denver Nuggets to score 135 points on them Thursday in Chicago's 20-point loss. Denver shot 52.1 percent from the floor and made an incredible 20 of 40 3-point attempts.

Those numbers have to make Miami's shooters salivate. However, the Heat have their own problems, having lost two games in a row to drop under .500 at 21-22.

Miami fell 98-93 on the road to the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. The Heat shot 50.6 percent from the floor, held Detroit to 42.7 percent shooting and outscored the Pistons 52-32 in the paint ... and yet still lost.

The problem was at the foul line, where the Heat shot a hard-to-fathom 5 of 19 (26.3 percent). The Pistons made 15 of 18 free throws (83.3 percent).

Miami center Hassan Whiteside, who had eight points, a team-high 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, went 0-for-8 on foul shots.

"Hassan works on his free throws as hard as anyone, and he has good technique," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He has had (bad) stretches like this before, but he'll get it back."

As for the rest of the Heat team shooting 5-for-11 at the line, a frustrated Spoelstra said: "We work on free throws all the time. Maybe we should stop working on them."

Aside from the free throws, there are other frustrations with the Heat, most notably shooting guard Dion Waiters, who was a starter last season but has been a reserve since coming back from ankle surgery.

Waiters made his season debut on Jan. 2 and has played just six games so far. He played at least 20 minutes in two games, but he has been used for 12 minutes or less in the other four. In addition, he was a healthy scratch twice since returning from surgery.

On Thursday, Waiters used numerous profanities to complain to the media about his lack of playing time. On Friday, Waiters was fined an undisclosed amount by the Heat before playing less than nine minutes and scoring just two points.

Shooting guard Josh Richardson, who leads Miami in scoring, did not play against Detroit due to an illness, which seemingly opened the door for Spoelstra to start Waiters.

Instead, the coach started Tyler Johnson, who scored 16 points in 34 minutes. Reserve shooting guard Dwyane Wade -- who is retiring after this season -- led Miami with 20 points in 28 minutes, and the Heat also have Wayne Ellington at the position.

All that depth at shooting guard has led to Waiters' frustration, which somewhat mirrors the situation in Chicago. The Bulls reportedly are looking to trade Lopez due to his unhappiness over declining minutes.

In other words, these are two unhappy teams. That emotion will only grow for one of the squads on Saturday.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 19, 2019

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