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.

 

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.

Donald Sterling’s wife petitioning NBA to overturn his lifetime ban

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Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling settled his lawsuit against the NBA and his wife. Reconciled with Shelley Sterling, Donald sounds – in a recent interview with James Rainey of NBC News – ready to move on.

Rainey:

But his wife, Shelly Sterling, also 83, said in a separate interview that she has not let go of at least one formal blot that remains on Sterling’s record: the lifetime ban from the NBA that was imposed on the long-time Clippers owner after his racist remarks against African-Americans attending games.

Shelly Sterling said she personally approached Silver and also had her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, talk to the league office about lifting the lifetime ban, which prevents Donald Sterling from attending NBA games. Her intention is not to allow her husband to do business with the league, but to clear his record, in consideration of the 33 years he spent as an owner.

“”I couldn’t understand the severity of the ban. It just seemed a little bit out of line,” Shelly Sterling said. “I have talked to [the NBA] several times and I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t [lift the ban]. Maybe it takes a little bit more time.”

The NBA won’t lift the ban for the same reason it implemented the ban: Associating with Sterling was costing the league money.

Time has cooled the resentment toward Sterling, but overturning the ban would return the venom – and much of it would be directed toward the league. There’s no good reason to open that box.

Besides, Sterling – with his lengthy record of racism and sexism – doesn’t deserve clemency. People like him deserve far more comeuppance than they’ve gotten.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.