Brooklyn Nets' Williams, Lopez and Wallace tap hands as Chicago Bulls' Robinson walks off the court in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball playoff game in New York

Nets win Game 5 over Bulls with unbelievably good offense

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On Saturday, the Pacers posted an offensive rating of 70.2 in their Game 3 loss to the Hawks.

Tonight, the Nets bested that offensive rating – on possessions they missed a shot.

Let me repeat that. Every time the Nets began a possession by missing a shot, their offense performed better than Indiana’s did overall in its last game.

Brooklyn’s offense was incredible tonight. The Nets made 50 percent of their shots, rebounded 40 percent of their misses and scored on nearly 60 percent of their second-chance opportunities.

The Nets scored 134 points, 111 of them in regulation, in Game 4. Their offense was better tonight.

Rather, their was at least more effective tonight.

No Kirk Hinrich? Sounds great to Deron Williams.

Less Joakim Noah? Brook Lopez will take that.

Brooklyn’s two biggest stars stepped up, but that was certainly in part due to the Bulls’ best defenders of those two stepping down. I doubt the Nets will care about those details, though.

In Game 4, they led by 14 points with three minutes left in regulation and lost. Tonight, they by seven points with three minutes left and surged further ahead with a game-ending 12-0 run for a season-saving 110-91 victory.

The Nets still trail Chicago, 3-2, in the series, and it will take even more mental toughness to complete the comeback – but, by Brooklyn’s standards in that department, tonight was an overwhelming success thanks to all those offensive rebounds (18 in total).

Like the Nets envisioned when they signed them to those big contracts, Williams and Lopez led them to the crucial win.

Of course, Williams couldn’t match his point-a-minute pace with Hinrich out over a larger sample, but Williams still found plenty of success in Hinrich’s absence. The Nets’ point guard had 23 points and 10 assists and captained an offense that scored 124.8 points per 100 possessions.

But Lopez actually reached the point-a-minute clip with Noah out, scoring seven in seven as, for the first time this series, Noah played fewer minutes than his previous game (28 tonight). Lopez finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and three putbacks, including a nasty dunk on a missed C.J. Watson free throw.

Chicago’s offense, on the other hand, was fine despite struggling early, when the Bulls forced too many long 2s as they got used to playing without Hinrich. But they eventually settled in. Nate Robinson had 20 points and eight assists. Jimmy Butler scored 18 points. Carlos Boozer had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Marco Belinelli shot 4-for-5.

But the Nets’ role players stepped up, too. Andray Blatche scored 13 points, C.J. Watson added 11 points. Even the mentally shaken Gerald Wallace had 12 points, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

Given the Bulls’ injuries, Williams and Lopez excelling tonight made plenty of sense. There wasn’t a strong reason for Wallace to have such a good game other than, when the Nets play well, Wallace plays well. He’s turned into quite the frontrunner.

Late in the game, Wallace made a 3-pointer, stole a pass on Chicago’s next possession and drove for a dunk.

Yes, the Nets were playing well, alright.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.