Bulls' Gibson walks off the court as the 76ers celebrate a basket during Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference quarter-final playoff in Chicago

Bulls vs. Sixers Game 3 likely sets tone for rest of series

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Does anybody really know what to expect for Game 3 between the Bulls and Sixers?

Would it surprise you to see the Bulls and their defense return to form, shut down the Sixers and scrape out an ugly, gritty win? Would it surprise you to see Lou Williams have one of those nights he can’t miss and drive the Sixers to a win? Outside of Spencer Hawes with the one-handed, high-flying ally-oop finish what would surprise you?

This much is likely — Game 3 will set the tone for the rest of this series.

Game 1 was a comfortable Bulls win capped by Derrick Rose’s crushing knee injury. Game 2 the Bulls seemed in shock, their normally stifling defense was a sieve, and the Sixers put up 109 points and won handily.

The Bulls were a strong 18-9 without Rose in the regular season, but that is different. For one, because they were playing knowing that someday Rose would come back to them, a luxury they no longer have. Also, the playoffs give teams a chance to really adjust and adapt to what a team can do, and Doug Collins is good at those adjustments.

But this is really a game about the Bulls, will they bounce back? This is a team that up until midway this season had gone 86 losses without losing two in a row. They need to grind this into a halfcourt game, not let the Sixers get points in transition (Philly was 8-12 shooting in transition in Game 2). They need to limit Jrue Holiday’s penetration, they need to be their usual force on the boards again.

Evan Turner and Holiday had huge games for the Sixers in Game 2, but both have run hot and cold all season. Holiday was getting into the lane and hit all of his three point attempts (3-3), can you expect that for a second game in a row? Even at home.

Lou Williams is the guy you can count on for consistent offense and the Sixers will need him in this game.

Do that and it could be a big Sixers win. Or, the Bulls could still grind out a win. It’s hard to say what the mental state of either team is right now.

But both know this game is huge for the rest of this series. It will be interesting.

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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.
Russell Westbrook
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.