Preview: Bulls want to bring defense, muck; Heat try to break free

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If we can be sure of one thing it is this: Game 3 Friday night in Chicago is not going to look like Game 2. At least the Bulls hope not.

In that game Miami blew Chicago out by 37. Back home Friday night don’t expect the Bulls will not make the same mistakes — they are not going to lose their cool, they will slow the game down, and they will play the gritty and tough game they are known for.

That doesn’t mean they are going to win. But it won’t be a 37-point game either.

In Game 2 the Heat came out and matched the Bulls intensity, played more aggressive defense and the result was Chicago shot just 35 percent and had 19 turnovers on the night. That allowed Miami to get out and run (Miami led 20-2 in fast break points), get some buckets before the Bulls defense got set, get more points in the paint (58-18 Miami) and start to pull away. And once the Heat pulled away the Bulls just fell apart.

In Game 3, Chicago needs to get back to grinding. They have to slow the pace down, make the Heat take the ball out of the basket, set their defense and not let the Heat shooters get comfortable.

What will be interesting is to see how the referees call the game — after what was seen as a physical Game 2 (is it really more physical than Memphis/Oklahoma City?) the league assigned Joey Crawford to this game. A referee who hands out technicals like candy at Halloween. It’s sign they want to crack down.

Which would be just fine with the Heat. The tighter the game is called, the more free flowing it is, the more they get to use their skills.

The Bulls skill players are still pretty banged up — no Derrick Rose, no Luol Deng, no Kirk Hinrich (not that Hinrich’s a skill guy). The Bulls are going to need points out of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah inside, they are going to need the good Nate Robinson to show up.

Expect Miami to go with a heavy dose of LeBron James. As they should, he’s pretty good. Dwayne Wade hasn’t looked 100 percent but could always have a big game back in Chicago, and eventually Chris Bosh will have a big game. The key for the Heat, as it was in Game 2, is when guys like Norris Cole (or any role players) start to step up and contribute.

Also, expect to see a lot more Shane Battier — the Heat are +47 in two games when he is on the court.

The Bulls know the formula to win, the problem is they are not the better team and it’s going to be hard to execute. But at home, where role players are more likely to step up, they have a puncher’s chance.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”