Allen illness mars Bulls victory

In the dizzying pace of the NBA, there is precious time to pause.

A blowout loss in Miami can turn into a blowout victory in Orlando in 24 hours--and another practice or game or flight looms.

But in the moments after their 100-76 cruise past the Magic on Thursday night at Amway Arena, the Bulls did pause, speaking in quiet and hopeful tones for one of their own.

Forward Malik Allen left the bench during a second-quarter timeout after suffering an arrhythmia and spent Thursday night at a local hospital, undergoing tests that either will reveal a benign heart blip or something more serious.

"I saw him before the game holding his chest, but I didn't know what it was," guard Ben Gordon said. "When I heard, it made sense. Anytime it's something to do with a vital organ, it's always scary. Hopefully, it's not serious. I'm praying for him. We're all praying for him."

Coach Scott Skiles said the team hopes to know more about Allen's condition Friday. Skiles and players who talked to Allen at halftime were optimistic, saying the 28-year-old veteran forward was in good spirits.

Allen left for the hospital shortly after halftime with assistant trainer Marc Boff.

"I don't think it's serious," Skiles said. "But I've had some of those issues myself. We'll see."

Indeed, heart ailments are an area with which the Bulls are far too familiar.

Eddy Curry experienced an irregular heartbeat March 30, 2005, in Charlotte. The incident led to Curry missing the 2005 NBA playoffs and becoming ensnarled in a battle over genetic testing after the Bulls wanted Curry to submit to a DNA test to rule out cardiomyopathy.

That condition killed basketball players Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. When Curry refused the test, general manager John Paxson traded the promising young center to the Knicks in a move that irrevocably altered the direction of the franchise--for better or for worse.

There's no telling yet if Allen's condition is serious. Several NBA players play with treatable heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation.

"He didn't tell me beforehand, but he told me at halftime that before the game, he felt a little funny," Skiles said. "When he got up for one of the timeouts, he was feeling lightheaded. He talked to Marc and they checked him and they could feel the arrhythmia."

To move from the serious to sports cliche, the Bulls' hearts collectively were questioned after Wednesday's drubbing in Miami. Throw out a comically careless third quarter on the offensive end, and the Bulls responded against Orlando.

"We did exactly what we had to do," Skiles said. "We took the game to them."

With Ben Wallace playing solid defense against Dwight Howard, Kirk Hinrich setting an aggressive offensive tone early and Gordon finishing late, the Bulls evened their mark on the three-game trip with a Sunday game to come in Boston.

Hinrich looked for his shot early, scoring all 17 of his points before halftime, including three three-pointers.

"I tried to be more aggressive," Hinrich said. "I feel like I haven't got off to good starts lately."

The Bulls took control in the second. The Magic failed to score on 11 straight possessions--missing 10 shots and committing four turnovers--and the Bulls responded with a 14-0 run. Tyrus Thomas scored six and Hinrich added five as the Magic went 7 minutes 1 second without scoring and 8:07 without a field goal.

Grant Hill, who had missed the last three games with a sore left foot, came off the bench for the first time this season and just the sixth time in his 13-year career. This allowed Hinrich to start defensively on Jameer Nelson and have more energy at the offensive end.

It's a good thing the Bulls had built a dominant lead given the way they kicked the ball around in the third. Nine shockingly bad turnovers helped the Magic pull to within 61-47 and prompted Skiles to burn a timeout.

But with Hinrich out after picking up his fifth foul, and Gordon the primary ball-handler, the Bulls closed the quarter with a 10-1 run as Gordon scored the final six points, including an off-balance three-pointer near the buzzer.

Gordon led the Bulls with 25.

Howard's 17 points led Orlando, although he went just 5 of 14 from the foul line.

A model of consistency all season, Luol Deng went scoreless in the first half, missing three shots. Added to a scoreless second half in Miami, Deng went the equivalent of an entire game without scoring.

But the team's second-leading scorer rebounded with 15 points in the second half and a season-high-tying 14 rebounds.

The Bulls outrebounded Orlando 48-31 after being dominated on the glass in the first two meetings. But such statistics paled in comparison to the more serious situation. Players said they either planned to visit the hospital or call Allen.

"I talked to him [at halftime], and he said he was cool," Wallace said. "But, you know, we're always going to say, `I'm straight.' We don't want people to worry about us. And we feel like we're strong and can bounce back from anything.

"So we're going to pray for him and his family. Hopefully, he can get back to doing what he loves to do soon."