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.
The Kings trade with the Pelicans has made DeMarcus Cousins the NBA’s most–discussed player lately.
But Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers isn’t sure he can address Cousins by his nickname.
J.A. Adande of ESPN:
Cool story, Glenn.
CLEVELAND (AP) — Free agent guard Deron Williams has cleared waivers and told the Cleveland Cavaliers he intends to sign with them.
Williams, a five-time All-Star, was waived earlier this week by Dallas. He will give the defending NBA champions a playmaker they’ve needed all season and one LeBron James demanded.
Williams cannot sign with the Cavs until Monday. Cleveland hosts the Milwaukee Bucks that night. The Cavs will be the fourth team for Williams, who is averaging 13.1 points this season.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue can bring him off the bench and also play him with Cleveland’s starters to give James and Kyrie Irving rest before the playoffs.
Kyle Lowry participated in the 3-point contest. He played nearly 18 minutes in the All-Star game.
But when the Raptors played the Celtics in their first game after the break, Lowry never saw the court.
He was sidelined with a right wrist injury suffered in Toronto’s final game before the break.
Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet:
He can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened and didn’t even feel it during the game, but when Lowry woke up the next morning he knew something was up.
“Honestly, I thought I’d slept on it wrong — I thought it would go away,” Lowry said. “It was a little sore, but I paid no attention to it.”
Unconcerned at the time, Lowry didn’t tell anyone but his wife about the wrist pain, and took off for New Orleans where he participated in both the NBA’s three-point contest and all-star game this past weekend. He received some treatment in between his all-star appearances and iced his wrist on and off, but he still saw little cause for alarm.
“I thought over the break it would rest up and heal up,” Lowry said. “But it constantly stayed bothering me.”
“That’s a blow — that’s a huge blow for us,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Friday evening after announcing the injury. “I don’t know how long he’s going to be out. But, no, it’s not a one-day thing.”
This is bad — bad for the Raptors and bad for Lowry’s reputation.
Lowry might have wanted to show his toughness by not running to the doctor for every bump or bruise. But this will also raise questions about whether he prioritized the shine of All-Star Weekend over the grind of Toronto’s season. Lowry is not a trained medical professional, so it’s understandable he misdiagnosed his injury. But he makes his living using his body, and his employer provides trained medical professionals to handle these types of things. Lowry’s bet that his wrist would heal over the break clearly backfired.
And now the Raptors pay the price. They traded for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to make a push, but that’ll be much tougher without the the team’s best player. Toronto beat Boston without Lowry, but the Raptors are still fourth in the Eastern Conference. Passing the Wizards for third is paramount to avoiding a second-round matchup with the Cavaliers and getting a clearer path back to the conference finals.
Every game matters now for Toronto, and wherever blame falls, Casey nailed the outcome: Lowry’s injury is a huge blow.
The Lakers wouldn’t trade Brandon Ingram for DeMarcus Cousins, because they believe in Ingram (or because they couldn’t get on the same page about a deal, but let’s go with a belief in Ingram).
The Thunder traded for Taj Gibson because he provided, among other things, stellar rim protection.
One of those worked better than the other on this play.