MIAMI, FL, USA - The defending NBA champion Miami Heat lost their third consecutive playoff game to the the Chicago Bulls Friday night, losing by a score of 104-96. Chicago guard Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 27 points, while forward Luol Deng added 24 points and 11 rebounds.
After the game, Heat head coach Pat Riley revealed that he will be sidelined following hip replacement surgery.
"It was an unfortunate loss, and I'm sorry to miss game four, but my long-term health demands that I go forward with the surgery as soon as possible," said Riley, "The timing of this is not the best, but I can assure Heat fans everywhere that it is pure coincidence that I undergo this procedure after we go down three games to none."
This upcoming surgery will mark the fourth hip replacement for Pat Riley in the last eleven years. The first came in 1996 when Riley abruptly left the New York Knicks due to acute joint pain. After a south Florida rehab session, Riley ended up with the Miami Heat head coaching position.
The second hip replacement came in 2003, where persistent hip pain which began in 1999 (following a devastating loss to the eighth seeded Knicks) continued to hamper Riley in 2001 during a crushing three-game sweep at the hands of the Hornets. After two years in which the Heat missed the playoffs entirely and the joint pain intensified, Riley went forward with the second surgery just before the start of the 2003-04 season. Observers wondered how Miami would weather the loss of Riley and predictions of a terrible 2003-04 season, but last-second replacement Stan Van Gundy managed to coach the Heat into the playoffs.
Pat Riley spent two seasons in the Miami front office, and his hip pain became manageable - just shortly after Miami acquired all-time NBA great Shaquille O'Neal and his Heat narrowly missed playing for the 2005 NBA Championship. He entertained dreams of coaching again - dreams which became a reality after Van Gundy stepped down from his head coaching position to spend more time with his family. Rested and seemingly healed for good, Riley coached the Heat to their first ever NBA championship one year ago.
But Pat Riley's hip troubles weren't over.
After the Heat staggered out of the gate this season, Riley's inflamed hip impared him yet again - and Riley decided a third hip replacement was in order. While Riley recuperated, interim head coach Ron Rothstein managed to guide Miami back into the playoff picture.
Sadly, the third surgical procedure failed to produce any lasting success. According to unnamed sources within the Heat organization, Pat Riley's hip condition has "deteriorated with every playoff game". It is because of this deterioration, said the source, that Riley decided to have the surgery immediately following the game three setback.
Trooper, warrior, and non-opportunist that he is, Pat Riley sounded optimistic about his return.
"I'll be back on the bench as early as halftime of game four, depending on the score of the game...er, I mean, progress of the new joint."