It’s more than likely that the Chicago Bulls prepared to play a very different version of the Wizards team they ultimately faced to open the playoffs on Sunday.
Washington big man Nene had missed 21 games due to a knee injury, and had just barely begun to make his way back into the rotation for four out of his team’s last five regular season contests.
But he got the start in Game 1 of the playoffs in Chicago, and the Bulls had no answer. Nene finished with a team-high 24 points, to go along with eight rebounds, three assists and a couple of steals in leading the Wizards to a 102-93 victory.
Chicago’s defense did the job in shutting down John Wall and Bradley Beal, who combined to shoot just 7-of-25 from the field while scoring 29 points. But they were killed inside, with Nene and Marcin Gortat combining for 39 points and 21 rebounds.
All season long, it’s been the defense that’s won games for the Bulls. Chicago ranked second in the league in defensive efficiency, and somehow managed to secure the four seed in the East with an offense that ranked among the league’s worst. The Bulls forced just 10 turnovers in this one, however, and allowed the Wizards to shoot better than 48 percent.
There isn’t any one player Chicago can turn to for help offensively, but what the team can’t have is someone like D.J. Augustin playing 32 minutes off then bench and finishing just 3-of-15 from the field. Combine that with a rough 4-of-12 shooting night for Mike Dunleavy, along with limited touches for Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, and it gives you Chicago’s undesirable result.
The infusion of Nene into the starting lineup could have been enough of a wild card to steal Game 1, but the Bulls now are aware of exactly what they’re up against. It’ll be up to Tom Thibodeau to make the necessary adjustments, but Washington’s chances improve immensely with Nene on the floor, and the Bulls will need to find consistent offense from somewhere in order to even the series in Game 2 on Tuesday.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is a wizard when it comes to shots you don’t think can ever reach the iron. Each time he does something like this, he surprises you even though you should be used to it by now.
But I’m not. The Utah Jazz aren’t. Heck, maybe even Steph isn’t used to it by now.
As Curry was driving down the left side of the floor on Thursday, Shelvin Mack got out of position and wound up trailing the Warriors star. With Curry rounding the pick, Mack reached and earned a foul.
Thinking quickly, Curry then hoisted up a rainbow of a shot that gently kissed the net on the way down.
Curry would go on to make the free throw for the 3-point play.
We’re 21 games into Minnesota Timberwolves C Karl-Anthony Towns‘ sophomore season and it already seems cliche to say that he has guard skills
But, like, he does have guard skills.
There was more evidence of that on Thursday night as the Timberwolves matched up with the Toronto Raptors in Canada.
With the ball near the top of the arc and with the Raptors defense collapsing on the Minnesota guards, Towns saw an opportunity to split the defense and run to the rim with the ball.
Toronto C Jonas Valanciunas slid over to meet Towns at the rim, but there wasn’t much anyone could do.
Pau Gasol spent two seasons at the United Center with the Chicago Bulls, so it made sense that when he returned as a member of the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday, he would know his way around. In fact, Gasol knows the bowels of Chicago’s home arena so well that he wound up walking toward the wrong locker room as a force of habit.
During the NBA on TNT’s coverage of the game, reporter Allie LaForce showed cameras following Gasol after he said hello to some folks in the tunnel.
Unfortunately, Gasol walked about 15 feet before realizing he was heading to the wrong side.
Maybe it was something of an indicator for the night, as the first few quarters of play between the Spurs and the Bulls were extremely sloppy.
Damian Lillard had the No. 1 hip-hop album on iTunes. Milwaukee Bucks fans still think he needed to get taken down a peg, so on Wednesday during a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Bucks, fans in Milwaukee had a message for Lillard.
Well, it was more of a cheer:
If you can’t quite make out what Bucks fans are saying, it was pretty simple: “Sound-Cloud rap-per!”
Lillard famously began his rapping career as an NBA player by releasing songs on SoundCloud — a mostly-free online audio hosting site — but he’s now graduated to a big release with professional production and guest spots by industry legends like Lil’ Wayne, Juvenile, and Jamie Foxx. His debut full-length album came out in October and is called “The Letter O”.
The Blazers superstar also started his own label in November.
Still, the Bucks arena experience is pretty great considering the coordinated t-shirts, the Bandwagon Cam, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.