Bulls beat Heat, show why nobody wants to face them in playoffs

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One day doesn’t change that the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are destined to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.

What Sunday showed is why on the path to that show do neither of those teams wants to see the Chicago Bulls.

Sunday at home against the Miami Chicago was relentless, physical, they defended well, they take away the easy buckets so you have to work for every point. They take a lot out of whomever they face.

That’s what happened to Miami on Sunday in Chicago. The Heat pulled ahead by 12 early in the fourth quarter but the Bulls battled back, made enough shots down the stretch and forced the game to overtime, where they dominated and beat Miami 95-88.

Joakim Noah continued his run of play that inspires MVP chants with 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks. A couple weeks back he was frustrated with his team’s collapse late in Miami, so this time he put the Bulls offense on his back when they need points — he finds a way to get buckets. Not pretty buckets, but buckets. More importantly, on defense he can and did switch picks on to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and can lock them up. D.J. Augustin came off the bench to provide a 22-point spark for the Bulls. Jimmy Buttler had 16 points and 11 boards (plus a key strip of LeBron late). That was enough offense to get the job done.

However, as always the Bulls won with defense. LeBron James shot 8-of-23, struggling with his jumper going left all game — he can’t blame the sleeves this time — plus he never got to the free throw once. Dwyane Wade carried the Heat offense for long stretches and scored 25 points on 16 shots, and Chris Bosh chipped in 15. However, as a team the Heat shot just 40.5 percent and were 7-of-20 from three.

The Heat played strong defense as well, with Chicago shooting just 42.2 percent on the game. However when they needed it they were able to generate offense, something the Heat struggled to do.

Chicago came out playing good defense from the start and held the Heat to 41.2 percent shooting in the first half. It was close through the second quarter and the Bulls led until Miami went on 15-0 run late in second half. That run happened when Bulls missed and the Heat pushed in transition and converted. Chicago went 0-of-10 shooting with a 24-second violation in the mix during a scoreless five minute stretch and Miami converted the misses into transition buckets — Bosh got one on a great pass from Chalmers, then LeBron James had one also.

Heat lead 43-37 at half.

Miami stretched that lead out a little in the third quarter and early in the fourth got it up to a dozen.

But the Bulls never quit. Ever. They are the Terminator of basketball teams, and they wore down the Heat and caught them.

This matchup has been a feisty, physical rivalry for a few years now, the Bulls just play the Heat tough. In a seven game series Chicago would lack the scoring to keep up as Miami adjusted, but Chicago would wear them down. The Bulls would wear down Indiana as well.

Chicago, even without Derrick Rose, is the third best team in the East. They are the team to avoid in the East.

Report: John Wall’s extension includes player option

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The Wizards had John Wall under contract for the next two seasons then signed him to a super-max extension that locks him in for an additional four three years.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised the Wizards gave Wall a player option considering their leverage.

Wall’s extension projects to pay him $169 million over four years – $30 million more than another team’s projected max offer over the same span. Even if Wall wanted to stay in Washington, this was the only offseason he could’ve ensured receiving the super-max rate. Had he rejected the extension now, he would have been eligible for the super max only by making an All-NBA team either of the next two years – far from guaranteed.

Still, the Wizards gave Wall everything – the highest-possible salary, max raises, a player option and a trade kicker.* There’s value in pleasing the franchise player. Wall will be the team’s third-highest-paid player for the next two years (behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal), which might have bothered Wall if not for the super-max extension about to kick in. This deal makes locker-room harmony more likely.

But it also allows Wall to hit free agency in 2022 rather than 2023. Maybe that won’t matter. Wall’s salary option-year salary projects to be $47 million when he’s 32-years-old. I doubt Wall opts out then, though it’s certainly possible.

Effectively, if Wall is worth that much in 2022, he’ll be a free agent. If he’s not worth that much, Washington committed to pay him.

*The trade kicker is unlikely to to matter unless the salary cap unexpectedly increases significantly. It can’t lift Wall’s salary above 35% of the salary cap in the season he’s traded, and he’ll likely be at or above that mark throughout the extension anyway.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.