Bulls win 3OT thriller thanks to Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed. Up 3-1 on Nets.

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The Nets had this. Deron Williams was his old self and Brooklyn up 14 in the fourth quarter against a Chicago team with no good offense. This series was going to be even and a best of three.

Then Nate Robinson happened — a 23-point fourth quarter explosion in the fourth quarter led a dramatic 14-0 run (10 by Robinson) and shockingly we were headed to overtime. Then we had Joe Johnson sending it to double OT. Then Robinson fouled out as we were headed to triple overtime. Then Reggie Evans fouled out. And Joakim Noah. And Taj Gibson.

But some Bulls player always steps up and this time it was Nazr Mohammed with the dagger in the third overtime. Knocking down shots and outworking Andray Blatche.

After the smoke cleared from a battle of attrition, the Bulls won 142-134. The win gives them a stranglehold 3-1 lead in the first round series. The teams head back to Brooklyn for a Game 5 Monday where there will still be a lot of tired legs.

Brooklyn showed plenty of fight — C.J. Watson and Nate Robinson had to be separated at one point — and plenty of desperation in a must-win game, it’s just that the Bulls had more.

It was a strangely offensive-minded game for a series that saw plenty of grinding so far. Chicago in particular figured out how to put up points on what over the course of the season 58.5 percent shooting. Kirk Hinrich had 13 (he finished with 18) to lead four Bulls in double figures for the first half.

Brooklyn came on in the third quarter behind Deron Williams, who had is best game of the playoffs. He was much more aggressive off the pick-and-roll plus the Nets did a nice job of having Gerald Wallace or someone else bring the ball up then get it to a big man (usually Brook Lopez) out high and have Williams rub off him for a handoff screen, that way the defense couldn’t just load up on Williams. He finished the game with 32 points (11-of-25 shooting) and he had 10 assists.

D-Will sparked a 10-2 run in third quarter as the Nets took the lead 70-68 lead, getting buckets from Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace as part of that stretch. It seemed like it was going to be the Nets night when Brook Lopez dropped a 28-foot three to beat the clock at the end of the third quarter, putting the Nets up 84-76.

With four minutes to go, the Nets had a lead of 13.

But then came Nate Robinson’s run in the fourth. Advanced stats guys will tell you there really is no such thing as a hot hand, but Robinson is the exception to that rule. To a lot of rules. He gets hot and everything starts to fall. The Nets adjust their defense and suddenly the Bulls are making two quick passes and Carlos Boozer is getting a layup.

Robinson had 23 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter — one point shy of Michael Jordan’s Bulls’ record for points in a playoff quarter — but really words don’t do it justice.

Through the overtimes both teams kept making plays. It was playoff basketball at its best — Joe Johnson stepped up with a runner down the lane to send the game to a second OT and had a key three in that period, and Brook Lopez knocked down key free throws. Lopez finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds.

When Nate Robinson fouled out on an offensive foul late in the second OT you thought the Bulls magic might run out in the third.

Taj Gibson and then Luol Deng hit key jumpers in the third OT. Then when Gibson fouled out the improbable happened — Nazr Mohammed made a jump hook in the lane to put the Bulls up five with :32 seconds left. It felt like a dagger. Lopez made a bucket then Boozer answered with a free throw (he finished with 21 points) and when he missed the second Mohammed grabbed the rebound and put it in over Blatche. That was the dagger.

And it may have been the dagger for the Nets season. Hard to see them coming back from this loss to win three straight and the series.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.