Kurt Helin

Nikola Mirotic scores 28 as Bulls edge Rockets 103-100

Leave a comment

HOUSTON (AP) — The Chicago Bulls overcame injuries and a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Houston Rockets and improve their chances of sneaking into the playoffs.

Nikola Mirotic scored 28 points and Jimmy Butler added 21 to lead the Bulls to a 103-100 road win Thursday night.

In a pivotal game for two teams fighting for the final playoff spots in their respective conferences, the Bulls were fueled by a strong fourth quarter in which they outscored the Rockets 32-20. Chicago entered the fourth facing a nine-point deficit, but was able to overcome it thanks to hot shooting from Mirotic.

“It was a pretty gutty effort by our guys,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I hope this is something we can build off of.”

The Bulls won their second consecutive game following a four-game skid. After Thursday’s win, Chicago trails Indiana by one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, thanks to a Pacers loss to Orlando on Thursday night.

Chicago holds the tiebreaker over Indiana.

Trevor Ariza attempted a tying 3 at the buzzer, but it rimmed out and Chicago held on.

Data curated by PointAfter

Houston fell to 37-39, dropping a half-game behind Utah and Dallas, who are tied for the seventh and eighth seeds in the West.

“Our problem has been maintaining what works,” Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “This was a team on the ropes. They put in their second-unit guys and they gave them a huge spark.”

Chicago’s bench outscored Houston’s 67-31.

James Harden led Houston with 24 points and eight assists, Patrick Beverley had a career-high 22 points, and Michael Beasley added 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

“It’s very frustrating, especially in games where we should win,” Harden said of Houston’s continued inconsistency. “We’ve got to figure it out.”

Bobby Portis started at power forward for Chicago in place of Taj Gibson, who was sidelined by a broken rib with no clear timetable for a return. Additionally, Derrick Rose (hyperextended left elbow) was limited to 12 minutes and did not play in the second half.

“I made the decision for him that it wasn’t worth it,” Hoiberg said. “He was out there playing with one arm.”

Doug McDermott handled the bulk of the minutes in Rose’s absence, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

The Bulls kept pace with the Rockets in the first half, thanks in large part to 21 first-half points from Mirotic. After scoring a team season-high 15 points in the second quarter of Tuesday’s win over Indiana, Mirotic dropped 14 second-quarter points on Houston, hitting four of five 3s.

“He’s shooting with no conscience,” Rose said of Mirotic. “He was huge for us.”

Houston had a chance to take a lead into halftime, but a 30-foot attempt from Harden clanked off the front of the rim, and the score was tied at 52 at the break.

Pau Gasol had 12 points and 10 rebounds to become the 11th player in NBA history to have 500 career double-doubles.

“It’s pretty amazing when I think about it, and it’s really special to me,” Gasol said. “I’m just humbled and thankful that I’ve been able to play at this level for so long.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: Gibson will be reevaluated Friday, Hoiberg said. Gibson, who tried to play through the injury Tuesday for 10 minutes in Indiana, insisted he will return this season. … Rose (elbow) wore a thick sleeve and made several trips to the locker room for treatment.

Rockets: Houston fell to 23-35 when allowing 100 or more points. … Houston missed 16 of 25 3-point attempts, including five of seven misses from Harden. … Houston dominated Chicago in the paint, outscoring the Bulls 48-30 from close range. … Clint Capela had eight points and five rebounds off the bench.

ROSE’S ELBOW

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said the discomfort in his elbow included limited flexibility and a sharp pinch when the arm is extended. He said he has undergone X-rays, which were negative, but said there’s a chance an MRI might be the next step beyond his continued treatment. Rose was limited to less than 12 minutes on Thursday night and was unable to play in the second half.

“I tried to give it my all while I was out there, but it’s really sore,” Rose said. “I need to get treatment and try to get back on the court as soon as possible.”

HARDEN’S MARCH

Harden finished March with 457 points, 152 assists and 102 rebounds. Per game, he averaged 28.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists. According to statistics from the Rockets provided by the Elias Sports Bureau, Harden is the first player to record at least 450 points, 150 assists and 100 rebounds in a single month since Oscar Robertson did it in December of 1967.

90’s THROWBACK THURSDAY

The Rockets hosted a 90’s Throwback Thursday night, which featured a halftime performance from hip-hop group Tag Team, performing their 1993 hit, “Whoomp! (There It Is).” Additionally, Houston’s starting lineup was announced by Tim Kitzrow, who rose to prominence in the 90’s with his voice contributions to the video game, NBA Jam.

 

Andrew Bogut hopes to sign extension this summer to stay with Warriors

1 Comment

Andrew Bogut fills a role on the Warriors — their defense is 6.1 points per 100 possessions better this season with him on the court than off it. He may not play in their closeout, small-ball “death lineup” when Draymond Green goes to the five spot, but he bangs with the big bodies of other teams through much of the game, plays smart and anticipatory defense, is a top-flight protector of the paint, and he keeps the ball moving on offense as a gifted passer.

Are the Warriors going to keep him at age 32 when his contract is up in 2017?

He hopes so. Bogut understands how lucky he is and knows he may not have a say in how the business end plays out, but he’d like to sign an extension to stick around with the Warriors a few more years, he gold Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

More convinced than ever he is in an ideal situation, and willing to back up the belief by passing up the possibility of millions of dollars in additional salary, Andrew Bogut is hoping to sign an extension with the Warriors this summer rather than wait another year to become a free agent….

“Yeah, I do,” he said of hoping to get a deal done this summer. “But we’ll see what happens. We all hear the rumors of other guys coming through here, so if that kind of stuff happens they’ll be some shedding of some contracts so who knows what can happen. But you’d be silly to try and leave what’s going on right now…. We’ll have a few of us that will have opportunities. Obviously I’m contracted for next year, but at the same time if he they offer me an extension I’ll definitely listen.”

Those rumors are that Kevin Durant could be coming to Golden State, and there is a little heat to them (although that is far, far from a sure thing). If the Warriors need to max out Durant then Bogut getting traded somewhere is very much on the table (Golden State will be looking to clear salary cap space). He certainly would not get an extension.

If that’s not happening, the Warriors may consider an extension, the same way the Nuggets did with Danilo Gallinari this past summer. They lock up a quality player at a fair price, which is both good if they need to keep him and good if they are looking for guys to put in a trade down the line.

It’s easy to understand why Bogut wants to stay — the former No. 1 overall pick already made more than $100 million in the league, now he’s in a spot where he’s having fun and is winning.

An extension something the Warriors might consider, and Bogut would likely jump at so long as he doesn’t get lowballed. But the Warriors will be hunting bigger game before they get to Bogut.

Warriors embrace chase of wins record more than playoff rest

8 Comments

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — If anyone still doubted whether the Golden State Warriors were truly going to push for a record 73 wins instead of saving energy for the playoffs, that thought should now be put to rest for good.

Playing on the back end of a back-to-back on the road against a hungry team fighting for the playoffs, Stephen Curry played his most minutes since before Christmas, Draymond Green crashed hard to the floor in overtime and the Warriors (68-7) conceded nothing in a 103-96 win at Utah on Wednesday night that left them five wins away from breaking Chicago’s record of 72 wins with seven games left to play.

“It is something we want to do,” Green said. “We’ve spoken on this. It is no secret.”

After spending much of the season deflecting talk of breaking the mark set by the Bulls in 1995-96, the Warriors are now embracing it.

Never was that more apparent than in Utah, when Curry played more than 42 minutes for his most playing time since a double-overtime win in Boston on Dec. 11, Green played nearly 43 minutes and Klay Thompson played nearly 39. The combined 124 minutes for Golden State’s three biggest stars were their most in any game this season.

Coach Steve Kerr, a member on the Bulls team that set the record, was a latecomer to the cause. After stressing the importance of rest for much of the season, he recently changed his tune and said if the players wanted the record, he’d play them as long as they were healthy.

“Our team wants it,” Kerr said. “They’ve made it pretty clear, so what we’re doing is listening to them and trusting them that if they’re injured, they’re going to let us know. And if that’s the case, we’ll give them a rest. And if they feel like they’re perfectly capable of getting out there and playing and that’s what they want to do, then that’s what we’ll do.”

What once was a hypothetical question about whether the record was in reach has become reality in recent weeks as the players have sensed how close 73 wins really are.

“We realize we can make history and that helps because it keeps you focused every game,” Thompson said. “You don’t want to lose and get this far and not go for it. We have a young youthful team and a great mix of vets that know how to pace themselves. We put a lot on the young guys’ shoulders and go out there and perform every night and that’s great. We are 26 and younger so we can do it right now and give our vets a rest.”

For much of the season, the Warriors were fighting for their top regular-season goal of earning home-court advantage in the playoffs more than a record. With San Antonio nipping close behind, the Warriors could afford few slipups to remain the top seed.

But with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich resting many of his key players of late, the Warriors have a five-game lead with seven games to play, all but assuring them of home-court advantage. Kerr has not given his top players the same type of time off that his former coach Popovich has done with the Spurs.

“It doesn’t matter, to me, how he plays it,” Kerr said. “His team is a little older than ours, too. We are very aware of our guys and how they feel and if there is a chance to rest Shaun Livingston, Bogues (Andrew Bogut), Andre (Iguodala), then we would do that. … We have a core group of young guys that if I asked them to skip a game they wouldn’t be really thrilled with me right now.”

Making the decision slightly easier for Kerr is the fact that even with the increased intensity of the playoffs, the drawn-out postseason schedule will give the team plenty of rest.

In the 62 days between the end of last season and when the Warriors won the championship, they played just 21 games. Even if they get tested more and have longer series, the playoffs have no back-to-backs and often have multiple days off between games.

In contrast, Golden State has played 23 games in the past 41 days since the All-Star break with six sets of back-to-backs.

“If the playoffs were compressed, I probably would be more apt to rest guys,” Kerr said. “The fact is, once the first round gets under way, it’s like days of rest.”

With the regular season ending in less than two weeks, that time is coming up soon.

AP Sports Writers Kareem Copeland and Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

LeBron James passes Dominique Wilkins for 12th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list

5 Comments

LeBron James has rocketed up the NBA’s all-time scoring list this season, passing the likes of John Havlicek, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan… and now you can add Dominique Wilkins to the list.

LeBron is now 12th on the all-time list. Oscar Robertson is next and LeBron should move past him before the season ends, he entered tonight just 45 points back of The Big O.

It’s official: DeMarcus Cousins suspended for Friday’s game after 16th technical

1 Comment

With six seconds left in a comfortable Kings win Wednesday night, DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t done expressing his displeasure to the referees — after a foul call Cousins and Rajon Rondo gave the official some lengthy mocking applause for finally making the right call.  They both got a technical for it.

Did it deserve one? Not on its own, but if this built up throughout the game and the players had been to cut it out, then Cousins crossed the line.

Kings fans can argue that all they want, the point is moot — that is Cousins’ 16th technical of the season and with that he is suspended one game, the league announced Thursday. Cousins will sit out Friday when the Kings host the Heat.

That was an expensive technical for Cousins, as our own Dan Feldman pointed out it costs the All-Star center $149,108 – $5,000 for the technical and $144,108 for the docked game pay. Ouch.