Bulls beat the Knicks for the third time this season

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The Knicks have shown that they’ve had no trouble dealing with the Miami Heat this season, the defending champions who sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

As for defense-first teams like the Bulls and the Celtics however, that’s where New York tends to struggle.

Playing Chicago for the third time this season and for the second time in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden, the Knicks were essentially dead on arrival.

Whether it’s in their heads at this point that they can’t generate offense against the Bulls or whether it was just an off night, Chicago rolled from the very start, and withstood a 41-point fourth quarter from New York on the way to a 108-101 victory, their third straight over the Knicks this season.

The Bulls, not exactly known for their scoring ability ranking just 23rd in the league in offensive efficiency, built a 21-point halftime lead on the strength of better than 57 percent shooting, while holding the Knicks under 30 percent from the field through the first two quarters.

Carmelo Anthony was back from a one-game suspension, but was largely frustrated while finishing with 39 points on 14-of-32 shooting. Luol Deng for the Bulls, meanwhile, piled up points for the second straight game against the Knicks, and finished with 33 points on 13-of-18 shooting.

Anthony isn’t the one to blame for this loss, however — it was a collective effort from the entire Knicks team to fall behind so quickly to a Bulls squad that has simply had its number this season.

Jason Kidd started and played 20 minutes, but missed all six of his shot attempts and not only didn’t manage to score, but didn’t hand out a single assist. The Knicks miss Raymond Felton creating at the point guard position, and their depth was tested without Marcus Camby, who will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a foot injury.

Chicago manages to roll along on the strength of its defense, while the Knicks seem to suffer at any hint of a bit of a speed bump. New York has real reasons to be concerned with its playoff chances as the season progresses, while the Bulls can take comfort in the fact that they have enough to beat the top teams in the conference right now, even as they await the return of their MVP point guard, Derrick Rose.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.