Ugly but exciting, Bulls come from 19 down to beat Hawks


There were moments in the second quarter — when at one point the Bulls were 1-of-12 shooting and the Hawks 3-for-13 — when this contest made you want to weep for the game of basketball. The art of shooting felt like it had been set back 50 years.

Then the ending redeemed all that is great about the game. Well, unless you’re a Hawks fan, then it was just frustrating.

Chicago stormed from 19 down in the third quarter to pull out a dramatic 76-74 win — on a game winning basket where Derrick Rose set the pick and was the decoy and Luol Deng slid open for a layup. Watch it for yourself.

First, we must talk about the ugliness. The Chicago Bulls started out just ice cold — there were 8-of-33 at one point in the second quarter with eight turnovers. When you have as many turnovers as baskets, you know things are going poorly. Chicago also started 0-9 from three and like they had against the Heat the night before, the Hawks looked pretty good on defense.

It got so bad the Bulls were booed by the home town faithful.

Which is unfair. In a season with barely any training camp and a condensed schedule that reduces practices we are going to see more of these off nights. We’ve already seen this before multiple times this season, where a team looks brilliant one night and a mess two nights later. Coaches are experimenting with lineups still, players are adjusting and there are inevitably sloppy nights for every team.

What mattered for the Bulls is they fought through it and turned it around.

Rose, who finished with 30, led the way scoring 17 of those in the fourth quarter. The Bulls went on a 20-6 run to start the quarter as they did it with a lineup of Rose, Deng, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik. For the whole quarter. Carlos Boozer never saw the floor, nor did Ronnie Brewer, and Joakim Noah came in just for his passing on the final play (which worked out, he got the assist to Deng on the game winner).

For the Hawks, they started to come apart under a combination of tired legs from having to play the Heat and Bulls back-to-back, then getting out of the flow of their offense. When things got tough the Hawks too often resorted to their traditional late game offense Joe Johnson pounding the ball for a while then a pull up jumper. Johnson finished the game with 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting (we told you parts of this game was ugly).

What kept the Hawks in it at the end were rainbow jumpers from Josh Smith — but when he is taking those and not attacking you live with it. Eventually he missed a couple. Meanwhile Rose kept attacking the rim all night.

Which is why the last play worked. Everyone in the building thought Rose would get the ball, so when he was the screener on Deng everyone stayed with him and by the time the pass was made and the Hawks reacted, it was too late.

Bulls win. Ugly, but that’s how good teams win some times. And it can be a lot of fun.

Cavaliers get Nance Jr., Thompson, Hood back from injuries

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are closer to being at full strength.

Forwards Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood all returned from injuries on Friday night as Cleveland, which has been riddled with injuries all season, hosted the Phoenix Suns. Acting coach Larry Drew said none of the players will start and all will be on minutes’ restrictions.

Drew, who is filling in while coach Tyronn Lue is on leave to address his own health, plans to keep his starting lineup intact and ease the returning players into the rotation.

LeBron James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green and Kevin Love were scheduled to started against Phoenix, which has lost nine in a row. Drew said he and Lue will talk again Saturday about lineup changes for the upcoming trip to Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte.

“I really didn’t want to disrupt the starting five that we have out there right now and those guys will be playing limited minutes, so I wanted to get them slowly back and acclimated to what we’re doing,” Drew said. “There’s a chance that there could be some early substitutions to get the guys in there. I’m not ruling that out, but right now I just kind of want to stay with the flow, stay with what we’ve done the last couple of ballgames and then we’ll probably after tonight we’ll see as far as where we stand as far as starters are concerned.”

Thompson missed nine games with a sprained right ankle, Nance Jr. was out four with a hamstring issue and Hood was out the past three games with a bad back.

Drew said he did not know if Lue will accompany the team on its trip.

But while the Cavs are healthier than they’ve been in weeks, the team is still missing Kyle Korver, who is with his family in Iowa following the death of his brother, and rookie Cedi Osman, who is sidelined with a left hip flexor strain.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Bulls with ankle injury

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the Milwaukee Bucks’ home game Friday night against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.

The Bucks ruled out Antetokounmpo earlier Friday.

Antetokounmpo got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.


PBT Extra: What is going on in San Antonio?

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For the last two decades, there was less drama around the San Antonio Spurs than the recent Russian election. The Lakers were the soap opera, the Spurs and Tim Duncan just kept winning titles.

Not this season. Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games, his teammates are asking when he’s going to returnTony Parker — who is playing — says his quad tendon injury was far worse, and the Spurs organization is springing leaks like the Titanic.

What does all that mean? I get into it in this latest PBT Extra.

Short term, Leonard’s return or non-return will have a serious impact on the Western Conference playoffs.

Long term, after the Spurs offer Leonard the designated player max extension this summer (as is expected), everything will get back to normal.

The time Chauncey Billups tried to trick teams into believing he’d be a bad teammate

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In 2011, the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups. Unlike traditional waivers, amnesty waivers didn’t require claiming teams to pay Billups’ full salary. They could bid a partial amount – New York on the hook for the rest – and the highest bid would get Billups.

So, it was practically a forgone conclusion someone would claim Billups. The only questions were which team and for how much?

But Billups didn’t want to go to the highest bidder. He wanted to become a free agent and choose his destination – even though his contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him on a different course.

So, Billups – a consummate professional throughout his career – threatened to become a problem. Adrian Wojnarowski at the time:

Wojnarowski now:

I remember talking to Chauncey on a Saturday morning one day. He was very determined that no team would put a waiver claim in on him, because he was headed to Miami. He was going to go play with the Heat. He had his bags packed. But he needed a team not to claim him. And he and I were just talking about this. I read this quote back to him recently, and we were laughing.

He went on this two-, three-minute rant about that basically, “I’m just going to be a complete asshole wherever I go if you claim me.” And so, he went on this rant. And he read that, and he kept going. And finally he stopped. I don’t even remember if I asked him a question. He just started when I called him. And at the end, there was like this pause. And he goes, “Do you think anyone is going to buy it?”

The Clippers submitted the highest bid for Billups, and he quickly got on board. Even though they traded for Chris Paul at point guard shortly after, Billups of course was a model teammate and veteran leader. Late in his career, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to contribute much on the court. But the Clippers still valued his presence. He even re-signed with them the following summer.

This was such a readable bluff – which says plenty about Billups’ character.