Associated Press

Paul George brings back fun for Pacers in 111-101 win over Bulls

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George took out his frustrations on the Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers finally had some fun Friday.

It’s about time.

George scored 32 points including 11 during a closing flurry to help the Pacers snap a four-game losing streak with a 111-101 victory.

“We have a great time in the locker room,” George said. “I was questioning my team to show that on the court.”

They did one day after the three-time All-Star acknowledged publicly he hasn’t had much fun this season.

So less than two hours before tipoff, coach Nate McMillan offered a solution – keep the focus on basketball.

George & Co. made it work all night.

They started fast, making their first seven shots, closed it out by scoring nine of the last 11 points and in between mostly kept the Bulls an arm’s length away.

George was 10 of 20 from the field and was 9 of 9 from the free-throw line. And there was plenty of help to go around.

Myles Turner scored 15 points despite getting into foul trouble, and Jeff Teague had seven points and a career-high 17 assists.

“We had a little more energy, just talking to each other and smacking each other on the back,” Teague said. “We’ve got to continue to play like we did tonight.”

Jimmy Butler scored 25 points and Dwyane Wade added 20, but the Bulls never quite figured it out after facing an early 20-8 deficit.

They didn’t closer than three until Michael Carter-Williams‘ three-point play finally tied the score at 95 with 6:03 to go. After tying it again at 97, George answered with three free throws and a layup to give Indiana a 102-99 lead that it never relinquished.

“We didn’t get stops early or late,” Butler said. “Our play at the very end was frustrating because we came all the way back. Credit Paul George, he’s a heck of a player and can definitely finish.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: Despite having seven turnovers in the first quarter, Chicago trailed 28-22. … Wade left the game with 7:28 to go after appearing to hurt his left wrist after taking an awkward tumble. He returned with 4:07 to go. Even before the game, coach Fred Hoiberg wouldn’t commit to using Wade on Saturday. … Chicago was 6 of 23 on 3-pointers.

Pacers: Scored a season-high 62 first-half points to take 62-50 lead. … The home team has won all four games in this season’s series and this was the last scheduled meeting of the season. … Turner has scored 10 or more points in 13 straight games and now has 22 consecutive games with at least one block. … Glenn Robinson III had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

SITTING RONDO

Bulls guard Rajon Rondo had a miserable night. He picked up two fouls in the first seven minutes and his third late in the first half.

His poor first half, which including more fouls than assists (two) or made shots (zero) combined, earned him a spot on the bench to start the second half. Michael Carter-Williams started in Rondo’s place and scored nine of his 12 points in the final two quarters.

“Nothing surprises me in this league,” Rondo said. “I’m a veteran, I’m a professional. I will always prepare well with the expectation to play and contribute.”

THE HOT SEAT?

Before the game, Hoiberg was asked about a report from earlier this week suggesting his job may be in jeopardy.

The second-year coach tried to shrug off speculation by noting all he really wanted to do was put together a game plan that would help the Bulls play more consistently – and win some games.

 

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.