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.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).