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Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez lead Bulls to 121-108 win over 76ers

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CHICAGO (AP) Jimmy Butler scored 28 points and Robin Lopez added a season-high 21 points and had 10 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 121-108 on Sunday night.

After a week of tension, the Bulls bounced back from consecutive home defeats to Atlanta and Miami despite blowing a 20-point lead.

Ersan Ilyasova scored a season-high 31 points for Philadelphia, and Robert Covington added 21 points and a season-high 12 rebounds. The 76ers have lost 12 straight to the Bulls.

The 76ers played without Joel Embiid, who stayed in Philadelphia as he rested with a left knee contusion. Embiid is day-to-day.

Butler and Dwyane Wade returned to the starting lineup after being benched as starters in Friday’s blowout loss to the Heat. Wade and Butler were critical of teammates after they blew a late double-digit lead in a loss to the Hawks on Wednesday. Rajon Rondo responded to his teammates’ criticism on an Instagram post on Thursday, taking multiple shots at the team leadership. Wade, Butler, and Rondo all were fined by the Bulls.

After a team meeting, Butler and the Bulls had one of their worst performances of the season against Miami. Butler struggled off the bench, scoring just three points on 1-of-13 shooting. Against the 76ers, Butler was more aggressive, getting to the free throw line and setting up his teammates. He had seven assists and eight rebounds.

The Bulls closed out the first quarter with a 13-0 run. Rondo made a pass that traveled three-quarters of the court to Nikola Mirotic to put the Bulls up 37-23 at the end of the quarter. They extended their lead to 20 early in the second quarter.

The 76ers got the lead down to six at one point in the second quarter, and came back from the 20-point deficit in the third. T.J. McConnell had back-to-baskets to tie it at 79. Butler answered for the Bulls, making a jumper and then, on the defensive side, stole a pass and finished with a dunk to give the Bulls a 92-83 lead late in the third quarter.

The Bulls bench outscored the 76ers bench 49-15.

TIP-INS

76ers: Despite the recent success, coach Brett Brown wouldn’t kid himself about where it was in the rebuild process. “We are a long ways, in my eyes, away from doing what I want to do, what we want to do as an organization,” Brown said. “To be one of the elite teams annually in the NBA takes a lot. So that question to me is a very distant type of feeling.” At 17-29, the 76ers are in position to reach the 20-win mark for the first time in four seasons. … C Jahlil Okafor did not play despite suiting up. He has a sore right knee and has played only 31 minutes in the last four games. It was his eighth DNP of the season due to a coaching decision.

Bulls: F Taj Gibson missed the game after taking a cortisone shot to ease pain in his left ankle. … G Denzel Valentine was back with the Bulls after a one-game stint with D-League affiliate Windy City Bulls. The first-round pick scored 24 points and had eight assists and seven rebounds for the Windy City. In limited minutes, Valentine is averaging 3.3 points per game for the Bulls.

UP NEXT

76ers: Return to Philadelphia on Monday to host Sacramento.

Bulls: Head to Oklahoma City on Wednesday to begin a six-game road trip. The Bulls don’t return home until Feb. 14.

Lakers hire Kardashian trainer Gunnar Peterson

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers’ new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.