Posted Dec 26 2008 9:31PM
MIAMI (AP) -- Knowing the outcome was decided, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said he was simply removing three starters and eliminating any chance of a freak injury.
Instead, the Chicago Bulls saw it as an insult.
And so goes a new chapter of a Heat-Bulls rivalry that just won't go away.
Spoelstra called a timeout with 30.9 seconds remaining in Miami's 90-77 win over Chicago on Friday, doing so to get Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem out of the game. But the Bulls were irate about the move, saying it was only some unnecessary gamesmanship.
"That upset the team. They hit our pride," Bulls forward Andres Nocioni said. "There was nothing good about calling that timeout. I feel it was out of place. That is something only done to disrespect the opponent."
There's history between the Bulls and Heat, going back to the Michael Jordan days when Miami's first trip to the Eastern Conference finals was quickly ended by Chicago in five games in 1997. The teams didn't meet again in the postseason until 2006, when the Heat needed six games to oust the Bulls in the first round and eventually go on to win the NBA title.
So the Bulls and Heat met on opening night the following year; Miami raised its title banner, and Chicago won 108-66. The Bulls swept the Heat out of that season's playoffs, and there's been other acrimony as well, including a play where Nocioni committed a flagrant foul against Wade in April 2005, then shoved the Miami star to the court for good measure.
"I wasn't clearly doing anything to show anybody up," said Spoelstra, who added that he thought some Chicago players were waiting to get into the game when he called the time-out.
Replays showed there were no Bulls at the scorer's table waiting to sub in for other players with 30.9 seconds left, although it wasn't clear if any were summoned back to the bench in the final moments. The Bulls did not make any changes during that time-out.
"There is no excuse or motive to call a late timeout with 25 seconds left and the game already decided," Nocioni said.
Spoelstra said he was made aware of the Bulls' unhappiness with the timeout when he saw some Chicago coaches pointing angrily at the Heat bench and assistant coach Ron Rothstein.
"If they want to make a big deal about it, whatever," Spoelstra said. "It's a pretty normal thing. I was perplexed by that, to be honest."
Many Heat players said they weren't aware of the situation during the stoppage, and Wade defended Spoelstra.
"Coach is very first-class," Wade said. "He's not into trying to rub anything in at all."
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro sarcastically wondered if Spoelstra called the timeout "to set up a play or something," then added that "we'll play them again."
Mark it down: Feb. 12 in Chicago.
"That's going to stick with us for a while, until we play them again," Bulls guard Derrick Rose said.
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