Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Four

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


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.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.