Mike Dunleavy, Trevor Ariza

Mike Dunleavy scores 35 points to save Bulls from 3-0 deficit

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Mike Dunleavy scored 35 points, made 8-of-10 3-pointers and repeatedly drew defenders while slashing to the rim.

But his most-gratifying moment might have been cleanly catching an inbound pass with 0.3 seconds remaining.

Dunleavy took one hard dribble, set the ball on the court and ran to a line of high-fiving teammates after ensuring the Bulls escaped Game 3 with a 100-97 win over the Wizards on Friday.

The Bulls led Game 1 by five points with fewer than 10 minutes left and blew it. They led Game 2 by 10 points with fewer than seven minutes left and blew it. They led Game 3 by seven points with fewer than 10 minutes remaining and blew it.

Finally, Jimmy Butler put the Bulls up three with a 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining. And then they tried their darnedest to blow that, too.

They let Trevor Ariza get off a 3-point attempt, but he missed it. Mike Dunleavy floated an inbound pass John Wall stole. Butler fouled Wall who sped away from the pack and then made both free throws. Butler lost the ensuing entry pass out of bounds, though he was bailed out by a foul call and made both free throws. Joakim Noah fouled out while intentionally fouling Bradley Beal before the Wizards shooting guards could attempt a game-tying 3-pointer. Beal split from the line, and Garrett Temple fouled D.J. Augustin before the inbound, giving Chicago one free throw and the ball. Augustin made it and then two more to put the Bulls up five with four seconds remaining, a nearly completely secure lead. Then, Tony Snell fouled John Wall on a 3-pointer about 65 feet from the basket. Wall made all three free throws, though he probably should have missed the third. Washington fouled Taj Gibson with three seconds remaining, and he only split at the line, missing the second. The Bulls let Trevor Ariza grab the rebound, and before the Wizards could attempt a desperation heave to tie the game, Ariza threw the ball away with 0.3 seconds remaining. Finally, Chicago inbounded to Dunleavy.

Whew.

That’s a lot of action in the length of the shot clock and far too much drama for a team that already trailed 2-0 in the series following two home losses. In the end, though, Chicago got exactly what it needed – a victory. No team trailing 3-0 has ever come back to win a series.

On a micro level, the Bulls got what they needed, too.

They needed Joakim Noah to contain Nene, and he did with Butler’s help. They needed D.J. Augustin and Gibson to keep scoring off the bench, and they did with 13 points each. And they needed a starter to rise to the occasion offensively, and Dunleavy most definitely did.

His 35 points more than doubled his previous career playoff high (17 for the Bucks in a loss to the Heat last year). Only LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin have scored so much in a playoff game this year. Dunleavy came only one point shy of his career high, a mark he’s hit five times but never since 2008.

He scored 10 in the first quarter, 6 in the second, 13 in the third and 6 in the fourth – providing effective counters as the host Wizards smelled blood in the water early and continued to thrive in spurts throughout the game.

Wall especially thrived in Washington’s first home playoff game in six years. He was so hot early, even a missed 360-degree layup qualified as a highlight, and he finished with 23 points, seven assists and four steals.

Beal led the Wizards with 25 points, and Ariza (16 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) and Marcin Gortat (13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks) both turned in solid outings.

But Washington’s fifth starter – the one who keyed both wins in Chicago – let the team down. Not only did Nene struggle most of the game, finishing 5-of-15 with five turnovers and no free throws, he lost his cool when he finally got going. After making consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter, Nene picked a needless fight with Butler and then even more needlessly escalated it. The Wizards big man was ejected, and he might face further NBA discipline.

Trying to win with a struggling Nene is tough enough – Washington was outscored by 10 points in the 29 minutes he played – and trying to win with him in the locker room is even tougher. But as a parting shot, Nene’s outburst apparently inspired Butler, who was 0-for-7 on 3-pointers to that point in the series.

On the possession following Nene’s ejection, Butler made a 3, and then he hit another to put Chicago up for good with 24 seconds remained.

It wasn’t easy for the Bulls after that, as Washington kept grasping at straws until, finally, none remained. The young Wizards continue to play loose and spirited basketball, and with a 2-1 series lead, they remain in control.

But as Chicago found, with Dunleavy rolling, it was a little easier – and tonight, just easy enough.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.