Chicago Bulls' Deng goes to the basket against the Miami Heat during second half of their NBA basketball game in Chicago

Deng, defense allow Bulls to defeat 76ers, keep season alive


Derrick Rose is out for the rest of the playoffs. Joakim Noah, who was a game-time decision, ended up not playing a minute. And it didn’t matter from the Chicago Bulls, who staved off elimination in Game 5 of their series with the Philadelphia 76ers thanks to a great performance from Luol Deng and some absolutely suffocating defense.

The Bulls won Game 5 by doing what got them the best record in the Eastern Conference — playing some absolutely ridiculous defense. As good as Joakim Noah is defensively, the Bulls are one of the deepest defensive teams the league has ever seen, and Omer Asik and Taj Gibson did a great job filling in for Noah on the defensive end of the floor. And while nobody is even thinking that the Bulls don’t miss Derrick Rose desperately, C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer are two of the best backcourt defensive players in the league.

On Tuesday, the Bulls’ defense played up to its full potential, and the results for Philadelphia were brutal. The team shot 32% from the floor, made 2 of its 11 3-point tries, and had a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Andre Iguodala shot 4-19 from the floor, Jrue Holliday shot 5-17, and Elton Brand had a grand total of 5 points. To put things bluntly, the 76ers couldn’t find the basket with a map against Tom Thibodeau’s defense.

The Bulls didn’t light the scoreboard on fire without Rose and Noah, but Luol Deng’s great performance (he scored 24 points on 10-19 shooting from the field and 4-5 shooting from beyond the 3-point line) and a solid 19-point game from Carlos Boozer was more than enough for the Bulls on a night where their defense played such lights-out basketball.

The Bulls still have a long road ahead of them if they want to make it out of the first round, let alone any further, but they showed how they just might be able to pull it off on Tuesday night. If the Bulls can keep using their unrivaled combination of defense and depth this effectively, their season just might not be over quite yet.

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

Kevin Love
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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

Greg Smith
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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.