Joakim Noah blames negativity for Bulls’ 10-10 home record

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The Suns went into Chicago on Saturday playing their fourth game in five nights, and having won just once in the team’s previous 12 games.

That didn’t stop them from putting a hurt on the Bulls, a team that many believe to be in the upper echelon in the East, and capable of competing with the likes of the Heat and the Knicks come playoff time.

That won’t happen, however, if Chicago can’t figure out its issues while playing at home, where the team is now just 10-10 on the season. And Joakim Noah feels that nothing will change until the Bulls learn to be more positive when things aren’t going their way.

From Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago:

“We’re 10-10 at home. That’s not very good, that’s very average,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said.

“I think it’s OK to be wrapped up in big wins. I think you’re supposed to be happy after you win, but I think that when it’s the big game we come ready to play. I think we have to make a conscious effort as players and as coaches — everybody. I feel like we complain way too much. When things aren’t going our way we have to find a way to stick together more.

“It’s just too negative. We have to support one another when things aren’t going well because right now it’s just, when things aren’t going our way, it’s the end of the world. You have to move on to the next play and unite together because I don’t feel like we’re doing that right now.”

The Bulls have gotten off to a 20-15 start, which has them at sixth in the East but just four games behind the Heat for the conference’s top spot. They’ve beaten the Knicks three times this season, and have quality wins over Miami and Boston as well, all without Derrick Rose, who is expected back near the All-Star break.

But a loss like the one suffered at home to a reeling Suns team cancels out the positive feelings to a certain extent, and until Chicago figures out how to recapture its home court advantage, those who doubt whether or not the Bulls are for real will continue to have reason to do so.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.