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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.

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

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That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.