Bulls put up a fight before Heat eventually cruise to victory

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Chicago’s performance in Miami on Sunday was yet another in a long series of them that makes you believe that no team would look forward to playing the Bulls in a seven-game series.

The Heat eventually cruised to a 105-93 victory, exacting some minor measure of revenge on the Bulls for beating Miami in Chicago back on March 27, which put an end to the Heat’s historic 27-game winning streak. But it wasn’t as easy as expected.

Miami had rested its stars off and on for the past week or so, but went with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in this one. The Heat wanted to make sure to get this win over the Bulls, while not having too much rest for any of its star players before they open the playoffs at home against the Bucks next weekend.

The Heat tried to put this one away early, and looked like they might do so after a big dunk from James down the middle of the lane pushed the Miami lead to 15 points with just over five minutes remaining in the first half.

But the trait of this Bulls team that makes them so tough is the way they keep playing at maximum intensity, no matter the score. It also doesn’t hurt to have someone like Nate Robinson coming off the bench, who can occasionally catch fire.

Robinson sparked a spirited comeback that helped the Bulls cut the lead to just two before halftime. He scored 10 points in the final 3:34 of the second quarter, and pushed the tempo to get his teammates easy and open looks in transition.

Miami had its lead back to double digits just over midway through the third, and it hovered there for essentially the rest of the game. You never got the feeling Chicago was going to be able to make enough of a run to close the gap in the second half, once the Heat clamped down and tightened their rotations defensively.

At the same time, it never felt like Miami would blow this one open, either.

James said before the game that he was looking forward to the physical play of the Bulls, but the referees didn’t share that same sentiment. There were 57 fouls called over the course of the game, distributed fairly evenly with the Bulls picking up 30 to the Heat’s 27. But Chicago got the short end of the whistles early, and had 14 personal fouls called on them in the game’s first 18 minutes.

Miami won as expected, and Chicago competed as expected. There wasn’t anything new to be learned from this contest so late in the season, but the Bulls did seem to confirm the fears of the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs — that they’ll be an extremely tough out, no matter the matchup.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.