Kurt Helin

John Wall dishes out career-high 20 assists in win over Bulls (VIDEO)

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Does John Wall deserve some end-of-the-ballot MVP votes? He’s the best player and driving force on a team that will win 50 games (give or take) and finish in the top three in the East. He’s averaging 18.7 points and 9.7 assists per game. There are four obvious MVP candidates (Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James) but five spots on the ballot, and in a recent media poll Wall came in sixth in the voting.

Wall made his case Friday night dropping 20 assists on the Chicago Bulls, plus playing strong defense in a Wizards win. He was questionable for the game because of a sprained left foot, but played through it and had a monster night.

Check out all his assists.

Jimmy Butler on Bulls’ loss: “I hate this word, soft… but that’s exactly what we were”

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The Chicago Bulls have lost seven of their last eight and are now two games out of the playoffs in the East. It’s hard to see them making up that ground and getting an invite to the dance, particularly with Dwyane Wade being out for the season.

The latest loss came at the hands of the Wizards Friday night, where the Bulls were terrible in the first half, then battled back in the second to make the game interesting before falling 112-107. The fact they had to battle back at all had Jimmy Butler frustrated after the game. Via Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

“I hate this word, `soft.’ I hate it, but that’s exactly what we were,” Butler said of his team’s start. “They beat us to every 50-50 ball, worked our tail in transition, we turned the ball over. Those things that we’ve talked about all year long replayed in that first half.”

Butler wasn’t done, via Nick Friedell at ESPN:

“What’s crazy is we’ve done that all year long,” Butler said. “I figured that we’d get tired of it, but I don’t know, I guess we like playing that way. I don’t know the answer to it. I really don’t. I can’t tell you [what it is]. It’s like a broken record. Y’all are going to ask me the same questions, I’m going to give you the same [answers]. We’ve done it all year long. Not getting back in transition, turning the ball over, not rebounding. All of that stuff. Eventually you would think that it would change, but what, we’re 70, I don’t know, 60-something games in, and it’s still there.”

The Bulls have a flawed roster that lacks shooting, and the team’s leaders appear not to respect the coach. Their effort has been inconsistent all season. Not the recipe for putting together a late run to the playoffs.

Butler should be frustrated, but he also needs to take some of the responsibility for what this Chicago season has become. He’s not blameless.

It’s going to be an interesting off-season in Chicago. The GarPax front office still has the backing of ownership, so it appears to be staying put, but with that will Wade return? Is coach Fred Hoiberg brought back? Are the Bulls going to show some kind of a plan to build around Butler, or trade him? What is the vision in Chicago? Bulls fans should hope they get answers this summer, but they shouldn’t bet the mortgage money on that happening.

 

Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell, Greg Monroe all ejected after brouhaha following foul

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The Milwaukee Bucks visit to Staples Center got surprisingly chippy for a game where one of the teams is actively working to hold on to its top three pick (which is the kind way of saying “tanking”).

It came to a head late in the third quarter. After a steal, the Lakers were on a 4-on-1 break when Malcolm Brogdon went for the hard foul on Nick Young to prevent the bucket. Young did not appreciate it and shoved Brogdon — then Greg Monroe comes flying in as the third man in to protect Brogdon and goes after Young. Then D'Angelo Russell comes in hard at Monroe, and there is some pushing that never moves beyond this.

In the end, Young got a technical, his second of the night so he was ejected. Monroe and Russell each got double technicals for jumping in, and they were ejected. They will also get healthy fines from the league for this.

The Bucks held on to get the 107-103 win, helping them feel a little more secure in the chase for a playoff spot in the East. And the Lakers got the loss, making them feel a little more secure in keeping their top-three protected pick.

Big fourth quarter lifts Raptors past Pistons 87-75

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Serge Ibaka had 17 points and eight rebounds and the Toronto Raptors used a fourth-quarter surge to beat the Detroit Pistons 87-75 on Friday night.

Toronto outscored Detroit 27-9 in the final period to take control of a game that appeared to be slipping away. The Pistons missed their final 10 shots of the game.

DeMar DeRozan added 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Toronto, which won for the second time in five games.

Reggie Jackson had 20 points for Detroit, which lost its third in a row. Andre Drummond had 22 points, but only had eight before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half, posting matching 34.1 shooting percentages. Corey Joseph hit a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left in the half to give Toronto a 40-38 lead.

Jackson led the Pistons with 11 points, while Drummond had 15 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll had 10 points for the Raptors.

Toronto jumped out to a 53-46 lead early in the third, but the Pistons rallied to go ahead 59-58 on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s 3-pointer. Jon Leuer‘s tip in at the buzzer gave Detroit a 66-60 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Pistons moved the lead to 72-63 in the opening minutes of the fourth, but Toronto went on a 22-2 run to take an 85-74 lead with 1:38 to play.

TIP INS

Raptors: Came in with a 6-9 record in the second game of a back-to-back. They are 33-20 in all other games.

Pistons: Drummond scored his 5,000th career point on a lob from Ish Smith in the third quarter. It was also the 34th time he had 20 rebounds in a game, including seven this season.

OH, CANADIANS

As has become customary for Raptors games at the Palace, the crowd was cheering louder for Toronto than Detroit. Heavy snow in Auburn Hills kept fans of both teams at home, but Raptors jerseys dominated the small crowd.

 

Solomon Hill’s 30 lead Pelicans past Rockets despite 41, triple-double from James Harden

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Solomon Hill scored a career-high 30 points and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame the absence of All-Star DeMarcus Cousins in a 128-112 upset over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

Anthony Davis had 24 points and 15 rebounds for New Orleans, which has won three of four. Jrue Holiday added 19 points despite early foul trouble.

James Harden had 41 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, but that was not enough to prevent Houston’s first loss in four games. Lou Williams added 14 points and Montrezl Harrell 13.

Cousins was sidelined by left knee and rib soreness. New Orleans is now 2-0 without Cousins and 3-7 when he’s played since trading for him Feb. 19.

Pelicans rookie guard Wayne Selden scored 11 points in his third career NBA game.

Although Cousins has been productive both scoring and rebounding since his trade to New Orleans, the Pelicans’ offensive sets appeared more fluid and balanced without him.

New Orleans shot better than 53.3 percent (49 of 92) and led by 23 points early in the fourth quarter.

The Rockets briefly pulled within 11 when Harden’s 11th assist set up Patrick Beverly’s transition layup with 5:27 remaining. But after a Pelicans timeout, Hill hit a 3 to set his personal single-game high. Then E'Twaun Moore set up Davis’ fast-break dunk to quickly push New Orleans’ lead back to 16, and the Rockets never got within single digits down the stretch.

Hill had 14 of his points in the opening period, hitting four of his first five 3-point attempts. He finished 8-of-13 shooting, hitting six of nine shots from 3-point range. Point guard Tim Frazier saw extended early minutes because of Holiday committing two early fouls and responded with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the opening 24 minutes, helping New Orleans build a lead as large as 21 points in the first half.

Houston, meanwhile, shot relatively poorly early, hitting only 36.6 percent of its shots in the first half and finishing at 41.6 percent (37 of 89) for the game, including 13 of 40 from deep.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Eric Gordon had 12 points, but only six through three quarters. … Ryan Anderson missed six of nine shots and finished with eight points. … Houston had won each of the previous two meetings by 22 or more points. … Beverly and Anderson both were assessed technical fouls. Beverly disputed a foul called on him when he appeared to block Frazier’s driving shot. Anderson appeared frustrated when he went to the floor trying to guard Davis’ made layup. From his back, Anderson flipped the dead ball vigorously to official Ken Mauer, drawing his technical.

Pelicans: Coach Alvin Gentry said Cousins was day-to-day and would be re-evaluated on Saturday. Gentry added that while neither of Cousins injuries appears serious, it made sense to hold him out while he was dealing with two injuries at once. … The Pelicans went with their 24th different starting lineup this season, with Selden starting. Still, they have been much better off, injury-wise, than a season ago, when they used 42 starting lineups. … Rookie forward Cheick Diallo was recalled from the Greensboro Swarm of the NBA Development League but did not play.