Bad shooting night for Bulls dooms them in game Game 4. And series.

62 Comments

To steal an old Chick Hearn phrase, the Bulls couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean.

With their season hanging in the balance, Chicago hit just 25.7 percent of their shots Monday night. Just a hair better than one in four shots went in. It wasn’t great Miami defense (although it was good), it was just the Bulls missing shots. Even good ones. Nate Robinson was 0-12, Carlos Boozer was 3-of-14, and Jimmy Butler  wasn’t a factor. Chicago scored just 65 points all night long and 9 total in the third quarter.

All that does not explain just how ugly it was.

The Heat did not look dominant but they looked business-like and won Game 4 88-65. The Heat now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1, with Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday. Yes, technically the Bulls could force a Game 6 and extend their season, but do you really want to bet on that after this performance?

It’s over.

This game just felt different from the three that preceded it. A series that had been about hostility and hard fouls was suddenly quiet. For Chicago, too quiet. Chicago opened the game 1-of-12 shooting and combined with the early start time meant the crowd never seemed to show up and get into it. Neither did the Bulls.

Miami on the other hand went on an early 11-0 run that seemed to continue all night. Miami was patient on offense and waiting for the right shot, which is why Chris Bosh was 6-of-7 for 12 points at the half. At the break the Heat were up 44–33 and you wondered how the lead was only 11 when Miami shot 25 percent better at the time. The series felt over

It was just a cold night shooting for the Bulls, but coach Tom Thibodeau had no other options, no hot hand to turn to. He tried Rip Hamilton, that did not work. With no Derrick Rose, no Luol Deng the Bulls live and die by the Nate now, and that doesn’t always go well.

Meanwhile LeBron James had 27 points on 20 shots. The Heat were efficient all night.

For Miami, the only thing to concern yourself about is Dwayne Wade’s knee. Wade has been battling a bruised right knee when midway through the third quarter he bumped knees with Jimmy Butler incidentally. Wade went to the bench and it didn’t look good. He didn’t move well all night.  But he eventually came back and hit 3-of-5 shots in the second half. The question is will he sit out Game 5 at home to rest his knee again, or will he play.

Might as well sit. This series looks and feels all but over. You know the Bulls will fight, but that has not been enough for three games now.

Magic Johnson: “The only player that we… would probably not move is Brandon Ingram”

Leave a comment

The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had flashes, but he largely struggled through his rookie season. He averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from the floor, he had a true shooting percentage of 47.4 and a PER of 8.5, and he finished with the fifth worst “value over replacement player” number in the NBA. Watch him play, and he looked better than those numbers — he did better with the “eye test” — showing some tenacity, and his offense improved toward the end of the season. Still, his rookie season tempered expectations somewhat.

Except amongst the Lakers’ front office.

They have been high on him all the way through, higher than D'Angelo Russell, and that’s what Lakers president Magic Johnson said on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.

“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles. “I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”

First off, no this doesn’t mean if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball No. 2 (as expected) they will look to trade Russell. Expect them to see if those two can play together. It means the Lakers think just one of the guys on the roster is a potential key piece of a contender. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and on down the line may fit into the rotation, but they are not seen as cornerstone pieces that can’t be moved.

Is Ingram really a cornerstone? The jury is still out, but does anyone feel as confident he will be a star as they did a season ago when he was drafted?

Ingram certainly needs to get stronger, something the team and he have worked on (and will focus on this summer). He also was young coming into the league, and with his style of game it was going to take him a little time to find how he fit in the NBA. He wasn’t going to come in and just overwhelm opponents with athleticism, it was going to be a process for him. Like nearly every rookie, his shooting needs to be more consistent.

The questions are how high is his ceiling, and can the Lakers develop him?

This summer and into next season those will come into focus more, but the early returns don’t have some of us as optimistic as Magic.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

Rob Foldy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.

Mike Brown thinks it’s “cute” Tyronn Lue thinks Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors

Getty Images
4 Comments

Celtics’ coach Brad Steven is already one of the best in the NBA. His out of time out plays are brilliant, and his Boston team’s flow of ball and player movement is among the best in the league.

It’s those things that were giving the Cavaliers trouble in the first half of Game 4 Tuesday, and ultimately prompted this comment from Tyronn Lue.

“We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.”

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Mike Brown about that.

You can certainly make the case that the Celtics have a wider variety in their offense, and that with Isaiah Thomas out the rather balanced, anyone can score nature of the Celtics is challenging to defend for a team with inconsistent help defense like the Cavaliers.

But Boston is running these sets with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk. Golden State will use ball and player movement to create space for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Which is to say, Golden State is tougher to defend because the space they need to make you pay is much smaller. And even if you do everything right the Warriors may just score anyway.

I get what Lue was trying to say, but don’t give the Warriors more motivation.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

AP Photo/John Raoux
2 Comments

The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat valuable.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.