Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game One

NBA Playoffs: Bulls look like beasts of the East in Game 1

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It was a line buried in PBT’s Game 1 preview but it ended up telling you all you needed to know — both of these teams can defend so it was about who got the easy buckets.

For Chicago, that meant offensive rebounds — and they went out grabbed 19 of them, a full 41.7 percent of their shots led to a second chance. For Miami, it mean creating turnovers and converting those to fast-break points — and eight of Miami’s first 19 points came on fast breaks. Chicago had eight first half turnovers.

But the Bulls had just one turnover in the second half, they forced the Heat to play in the half court and as the game wore on the Heat fell more and more into the isolation ball the Bulls defense wants you to play. The result was Chicago pulling away in the third quarter and a 103-82 crushing of the Heat in Game 1.

The Bulls played their usually spectacular defense, holding the Heat to 98.8 points per 100 possessions. They pressured Dwyane Wade (18 points on 17 shots) and LeBron James (15 points on 15 shots) into tough choices and long shots all night long.

The only Heat player who had a good night was Chris Bosh — 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting.

And he provides the model for what the Bulls want to do going forward — he was working off the ball behind the defense more than Wade and LeBron, who were more in their traditional roles as they guys with the ball in their hands. In the second half James kept ending up in isolation with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, a matchup he could not (or at least did not) exploit.

Against the Celtics there were points LeBron was working on the weak side and on the baseline, the Heat need to go back to that. They struggled against the pressure and forced their way into the teeth of the defense.

Meanwhile, in the second half the Bulls really started to exploit the Heat’s pick-and-roll defense. As expected they trapped to get the ball out of Rose’s hands — and they did it every time, Pretty soon the Bulls were doing a good job moving the ball around to open cutters and guys on the weakside.

Next game the Heat need to mix up their coverages. Rose had his 28 points on 22 shots. He’s going to do that anyway, but the Heat need to not let Luol Deng have 21 points on 15 shots. The Heat need to defend the arc better so the Bulls don’t hit 10-of-21 from three. Miami needs to defensive rebound much better.

They need to do all these things because the Bulls have established themselves as the team to beat in this series so far. They looked dominant.

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Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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 Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.