NBA Playoffs: Bulls bring energy but shooting betrays them

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Derrick Rose was true to his word, he attacked the rim with a recklessness and aggressiveness not seen in this series.

The Bulls played defense with energy and desperation not seen this series.

And it was not enough — in the end they simply did not shoot the ball well enough from the outside to space the floor and create room for penetration, which led to more jumpshots they missed.

As a team, the Bulls shot 27.1 percent from beyond 10 feet in Game 4, and 25 percent from three. (stats via Hoopdata)

On the other side of the floor, Mike Miller came off the bench — and for Heat fans back from the dead — to knock down outside shots that helped key the Heat’s 101-93 victory.

The Bulls in the first quarter got the game to go their way. They were physical on defense and slowed the Heat attack, they created turnovers and turned those into some fast break points. But through it all their outside shots were still not falling, and as the game wears on the guys got tired the Bulls more and more seemed to settle for the jump shot. Yet those were not falling as the Bulls were 6-of-24 from three.

Neither the Heat nor the Bulls run a lot of post up plays, both get their points in the paint primarily through penetration. This has been a fantastic defensive series — both teams have walled off the paint and been very physical with whomever drives the ball. Even with some of the best penetrators in the game — Rose, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade — attacking the rim has been a chore.

The Heat have put up a wall of players in front of Rose when he wants to drive. With the Bulls shooting 6-for-24 from three, the Heat do not have to come out of the paint to respect that shot. They can create those walls and pack the paint. In the first half Rose attacked that anyway and had the monster dunk over Joel Anthony. He got some easy buckets (for him anyway) in transition. But in the second half, as he got tired, he started to settle more for jump shots. His went 1-of-9 from three. Kyle Korver is the designated shooter but he was 0-for-3 from three. Nobody on the Bulls was able to knock down shots.

Mike Miller changed that dynamic for the Heat. He went 2-of-5 from three and 5-of-8 overall, finishing with a dozen points. The Bulls had to respect his outside shot and defend it. There was a reason he was a game high +36 on the night.

That drew the Bulls defense out and gave the Heat more room inside for penetration and offensive rebounds. Miami had just two fewer offensive rebounds than Chicago (10-8) and that is a battle the Bulls need to win big.

“Mike gave us a real boost,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game in an interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Real aggressive looking for his opportunities, and they do such a tremendous job of protecting the paint and he was able to break free a couple of times. We love it. We love him even when he’s taking shots he doesn’t think he should.”

At the end of the game, with no other shooters a threat, the Bulls really had no choice but to flatten out and have Rose attack in isolation against LeBron. If Rose had not been so exhausted from the long minutes in a physical game he might have tried to get to the rim rather than settle for a jumper over a taller LeBron, but we will never know. What we do know is that shot missed.

LeBron and the Heat have taken their share of jumpers in this series because of the Bulls defense. But they hit 38.5 percent in this game, they knocked their jumpers down. Or at least enough to be up 3-1 in the series and in total command.

And the Bulls are not going to win one more game, let alone three, without knocking down some outside shots. It’s the only way.

Rajon Rondo says he will not play in Game 5, doesn’t sound optimistic about quick return

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He tried. Rajon Rondo has seen the Chicago Bulls struggle the last two games without him as a strong defender and stabilizing influence at point guard — something nobody thought Rondo would be mid-season — and he wanted to get back on the court for Game 5 against the Celtics. He took some steps toward getting ready to play.

But it’s not happening, Rondo said at shootaround Wednesday. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

And it’s not just the fractured thumb.

If the Bulls are going to win this series, they are going to have to do it without Rondo.

Isaiah Canaan will get the start in Game 5, and he will set a lot of screens in a 1/3 pick-and-roll to try and get Isaiah Thomas switched on to Jimmy Butler. Canaan can do that. He had fallen way out of the rotation and is really a two-guard not a point, but with the terrible play of Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams, coach Fred Hoiberg took a gamble. It worked, at least for one game. Canaan with the other four Bulls starters — Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez — were +12 in 11 minutes together in Game 4, and played well on both ends of the court. But Canaan was buried on the bench for a reason, he shot 36.4 percent on the season, 26.6 percent from three, and he’s not a great defender. The Celtics will be prepared for him in Game 5.

Hoiberg’s best option is to lean on a no point guard lineup when it matters most, with three wings who can handle the ball in Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and probably Denzel Valentine. That could be a challenging defensive lineup and Boston will try to get the lightning quick Isaiah Thomas switched onto Wade or Valentine (neither of which can guard him). Also, this lineup would be draining and put a big load on Butler, but he could handle it for critical stretches of the game.

Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.

The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.

The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.

Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.

The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.

The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.

Did Russell Westbrook really block a teammates shot to get ball back during Game 5?

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Well, this video plays right into the hands of the anti-Westbrook crowd.

The knock on Russell Westbrook‘s season-long triple double and MVP candidacy is that he is chasing stats, padding his numbers at the expense of efficiency and making the Thunder a better team. Basically, he’s looking out for himself and to heck with his teammates.

Which leads to this fourth-quarter video from Game 5.

It sure looks like Westbrook blocks Jerami Grant‘s shot to get the rebound (we only have the one camera angle here).

I would argue that this was just Westbrook being uber aggressive — the only way he ever plays — and he was going hard for the rebound and not noticing it was his teammate about to get the ball. Westbrook just wants the ball and gets it. But he also wants to win and would not have taken the ball out of Grant’s hands had he seen who it was in time to react.

Game 5 — where the Rockets eliminated the Thunder — was a microcosm of the Westbrook debate. Westbrook finished with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but was -18 in the 6:07 he sat. You can read whatever you want into those numbers.

Much like the video above.

Former Pacers’ star Danny Granger on Paul George: “you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana”

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There was a time when Paul George was an up-and-coming but raw young player on an Indiana team led by Danny Granger. It was when Granger went down injured that George was thrust into a larger role, where he thrived in the trial by fire.

Granger knows what it’s like to be the star player of the Pacers, and he knows George, so on Bill Reiter asked Granger his thoughts during an episode of CBS’ “Reiter Than You” and Granger’s answer was not what Pacers fans wanted to hear.

“You look at him in that press conference (after losing to Cleveland) and his face and the dejection on it – the guy wants to win. Money don’t make everybody happy, but winning and success and your craft, that does fill a void that a lot of these players have. So you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana, I’ll tell you that.”

Oh, Pacers fans will fault him. Even if he’s traded.

Pacers’ decision maker Larry Bird isn’t going to do anything until he sees if George makes an All-NBA Team, because if he does Indiana can offer him the new “designated player” contract this summer worth around $80 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer. George will not walk away from that.

However, if, as expected, George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Bird is going to have to revisit the idea of trading George, who can be a free agent in 2018 — and the sense around the league is he will walk away at that point if the Pacers are not contenders. (There are a lot of Lakers’ rumors there, but whether George would leave a team where he is dragging lesser players to a low playoff seed and a first-round exit in Indiana for the same situation in his old hometown is up for debate.)

Bird isn’t going to deal George for pennies on the dollar at this point — think the Kings’ trading DeMarcus Cousins — but if some team comes through with a legitimate quality offer of young players that can help jump start the rebuild in Indiana, he may have to jump at it.

Either way, Granger is right that you can’t blame George for wanting to move on, but plenty of fans will anyway.