Short-handed Bulls play with emotion, but Robin Lopez takes it to the extreme

SHARE Short-handed Bulls play with emotion, but Robin Lopez takes it to the extreme

MIAMI — It was a memory that almost brought a tear of joy to coach Fred Hoiberg’s eye.


In prepping for the game against the Heat, Hoiberg was going through the film of the last time the Bulls faced Miami.


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It was a Jan. 15 home game in which the Bulls ended the Heat’s seven-game winning streak, beating them 119-111 in arguably their most well-rounded performance of the season.

Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine were playing together, the pace was electric and the bench was lethal. It was “Hoiball’’ at its finest.

So excuse Hoiberg if he had a tear in his eye for a different reason after the Bulls’ 103-92 loss Thursday.

Call it the reality check.

“Going back and watching the last Miami game — it was the game before Kris Dunn got [the concussion against the Warriors] — it really got me excited again,’’ Hoiberg said. “We were moving the ball, we were sharing, our pace was great, everyone was in, guys were making plays. Zach was playing, like, 20 minutes at that time, and he was unbelievable.

“So when you watch those stretches, it gets you excited, but we have to have that same passion and energy when we’re on the floor, regardless of who’s out there. We have to finish this thing off the right way. Win or lose, you have to play with great effort.’’

Lose they did, dropping to 24-51, and as far as who was out there? Well, let’s just say Jan. 15 was a long time ago.

Markkanen (right elbow/back), LaVine (left knee), Dunn (toe), Cristiano Felicio (back), Paul Zipser (left foot) and Antonio Blakeney (left wrist) were out.

The injuries to Dunn and LaVine remain the most concerning, especially with only seven games left and both falling out of shape with each day they miss.

“[Dunn] hasn’t done anything on the floor since he really hurt the toe, so we’re getting to the point now where he would really have to be reconditioned to get back,’’ Hoiberg said.

Hoiberg was asked if there would be enough time to do that, and he didn’t sound optimistic.

“That’s the question,’’ Hoiberg said. “I don’t know that. That will continue to go day by day with him. Zach, he’s getting multiple treatments a day, and it’s a pretty similar situation to Kris.’’

But at least his team played with effort and emotion against Miami. In Robin Lopez’s case, there might’ve been too much emotion.

The big man put in almost 31 minutes and scored 13 points but was ejected with 8:43 left after picking up two quick technicals, and he didn’t go quietly. He actually had to be escorted into the locker room as he pointed at official Rodney Mott and unleashed some choice words and even scarier stares.

“So I thought the first one was warranted,’’ Lopez said. “I got my money’s worth on that one on the first technical. The second one, I was venting and walking off the floor, so I’m not sure it was quite as warranted. But I’m sure Rodney [Mott] wanted to grab the game by the horns and wrestle control back toward the officials.’’

Asked why it took him some time — and some help — to leave the court, Lopez was honest.

“I understand that I should’ve left the court in a little more hasty manner,’’ Lopez said. “I’m trying to get a word in edgewise. I feel like the refs always end up with the last say in that situation.’’

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