Chicago Bulls v Indiana Pacers - Game Four

NBA Playoffs: Can The Bulls put the Pacers away?

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Everyone expected the Bulls to finish up their first-round series in four or five games, and that’s exactly what they would do with a win at home against the Pacers tonight. However, each of the first four games has been far more competitive than most people thought they would be, and the Pacers have shown that the Bulls do have some weaknesses. Here’s what the Bulls need to do to end the series tonight:

– Derrick Rose’s ankle is obviously the big concern for the Bulls in this game. Rose’s ability to get to the rim at will in Game 1 of the series propelled the Bulls to a win, but he’s gotten a little bit worse in each subsequent game, and the Pacers were able to contain him effectively in Game 4. The Bulls’ secondary offensive options, namely Carlos Boozer, haven’t been doing much in this series, and Rose’s jumper has completely abandoned him. If Rose’s ankle prevents him from getting penetration and, the Bulls could have a very long night on offense.

– The Pacers don’t need to be great offensively to beat the Bulls, but they will make things a lot easier on themselves if they can manage to make some shots. Danny Granger’s quick-trigger jumpers have been fairly effective, but they don’t open things up for his teammates, and the Pacers will need somebody else to get going if they want to have any sustainable offensive success. Darren Collison’s decision-making has been iffy, Tyler Hansborough’s shooting success in Game 1 hasn’t been repeated, Josh McRoberts has been all over the place, and Roy Hibbert has been forced to rush things in the post. It’s hard to play your offensive game against the best defensive team in the league, but a bit more patience in the half-court could serve the Pacers well.

– The Bulls could really use more production from their bench, which may have been the best bench in the league in the regular season. Taj Gibson filled in admirably for Carlos Boozer when he was hurt in the regular season, but he’s done little to take the pressure of of Boozer against the Pacers. C.J. Watson hasn’t been able to spell Rose effectively. Ronnie Brewer isn’t an NBA rotation player because of his scoring prowess, but he needs to make more than a third of his shots. Kurt Thomas has been reliable and Kyle Korver has been a life-saver for the Bulls, but they need more players making contributions.

If Rose’s ankle is close to 100%, the Bulls should be able to finish up the series tonight, and they may very well have an easier time with the Magic or Hawks than they have with the Pacers; matchups are everything in the playoffs. But if the Pacers manage to contain Rose again, Chicago’s supporting cast stays dormant, and the Pacers can make a few shots, this series could actually go back to Indiana.

Kyle Lowry to critical DeMar DeRozan: ‘Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise’ (video)

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Your reminder that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the best together.

DeRozan was asked about Lowry’s long 3-pointers after the Raptors’ win over the Timberwolves last night.

  • DeRozan: “”Them shots be lucky. โ€ฆ To me, it’s a bad shot.”
  • Lowry (off camera): “Every shot you shoot is a bad shot, analytic-wise.”

That’s not quite what the analytics say, but I won’t let the facts get in the way of a superb diss.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night โ€“ which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility โ€“ and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return โ€“ a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 โ€“ which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts โ€“ unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.