Report: Vinny Del Negro fired in Chicago

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UPDATE 7:59 pm: The Bulls have called a press conference for noon tomorrow to make this all official. As if it isn’t already.

7:18 pm: At least he’s not twisting in the wind anymore.

After taking their sweet time to get around to it, the Chicago Bulls have fired Vinny Del Negro, according to the CBS station in Chicago.

This move was the opposite of a surprise, rumors had been swirling around him since the start of the season. Del Negro had met with owner Jerry Reinsdorf Sunday at the end of a series of organizational meetings and the firing was expected to come tomorrow, but the sooner the more merciful.

In two years, Del Negro was 82-82 as the head of the Bulls. His detractors pointed to a very simplistic offense that relied heavily — even by NBA standards — on the pick-and-roll. His rotations were questionable, as were his in-game adjustments, defensive coaching and use of timeouts.

There had been clashes between team Vice President John Paxson and Del Negro, clashes that had gotten physical. The clashes reportedly had been over limiting the minutes of Joakim Noah as he came off injury, although it ran deeper than that. However, officials have said the firing has nothing to do with that. Right.

Say what you will of Del Negro, his players busted it hard for him. He took a limited roster — one that this season had been stripped down to clear cap room, had mid-season trades of key players and had a rash of injuries — to the playoffs both years. Last year the Bulls pushed the Celtics to seven games in the first round.

In addition, the two stars of the team — Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah — had come out in support of Del Negro.

But this move was really about the Bulls management feeling it needed to make a move that would entice a big free agent to come to the Windy City. Chicago has a lot to offer hometown boy Dwyane Wade or a center like Chris Bosh — great city, good talent on the roster, history of winning, and most importantly a lot of money (and cap space) to stock the roster with talent.

The Bulls have not yet reached out to another coach, however they are said to want somebody with NBA head coaching experience. Coaches listed as potential replacements include Doug Collins (which would be a second time around, so probably not), Lawrence Frank, Kevin McHale, Maurice Cheeks, Byron Scott and Dwane Casey. Ironically, the coach the Bulls hired that had the most success — Phil Jackson — had no NBA head coaching experience at the time.

Matthew Dellavedova steals pass, hits wild scoop shot at buzzer (VIDEO)

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Matthew Dellavedova is a hustler. Everybody knows that. Well, unless you want to argue he’s more about grit. It’s really your call.

But against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Dellavedova came through with whatever you want to call it — hustle, grit, moxie, gumption.

As the first quarter wound down and the Celtics tried to inbound the ball, Dellavedova spied his opponents rolling the basketball in order to save time on the clock.

That allowed the Australian native to fly in and do this:

That’s a steal, a scoop, and a score all within 1.2 seconds.

Milwaukee won Game 4 and evened the series with the Celtics, 2-2.

Cavaliers tie series with Pacers in Indiana, 2-2

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Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.

Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.

The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.

Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.

LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.

James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.

Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.