Kurt Helin

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Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Another loss exposes Bulls’ dysfunction

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The funniest thing you’ll see today comes from that traditional home of great comedy, the Washington Post. Their version of if Star Wars was retold by Ken Burns in a documentary is classic. If you discovered it last night and missed NBA games because you were sharing it with friends, then don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a busy Monday around the NBA.

1) After an ugly loss to Brooklyn (where Joakim Noah was injured), the dysfunction in Chicago was put on public display. During the ProBasketballTalk Podcast Monday, our own Sean Highkin — who lives in Chicago and covers virtually every Bulls’ home game — expressed a theory: The Bulls front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson were so blinded by their personal hatred of Tom Thibodeau that they misjudged the serious flaws on this Chicago roster. They were convinced that bringing in a more laid back coach with a more modern offense would bring together a roster that they thought had underachieved. They didn’t get it — this core looks done. Derrick Rose isn’t the same, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol are on the downsides of their career, Mike Dunleavy is out for a while, Nikola Mirotic‘s shot remains an issue, and only Jimmy Butler is a guy that you can build around long-term.

Monday night the Nets went into Chicago and bullied the Bulls, and the visitors picked up the win 105-102. After the game, Both  Hoiberg and Butler admitted didn’t play tough and were a defensive mess. Gasol said that if this loss didn’t hurt them they might not be salvageable, and that Butler’s comments the day before about the coach were something that should have been handled in house, not through the media. The Bulls looked dysfunctional on and off the court. This isn’t on Hoiberg — this roster isn’t designed to fit his system at all. Thibodeau kept it together and drove it as far as it would go, but the roster’s flaws — that you’d go under the pick and clog the lane against everyone with the ball — are the reason this is a bottom-five offense, not the coach. The transition to being Butler’s team is a rough one. This team is no threat to Cleveland. This team looks like making the second round of the playoffs would be a best-case scenario. It’s going to be a cold winter at the United Center.

Add to all that, that the Bulls could be without Noah for a while after he felt a pop in his shoulder when trying to defend Andrea Bargnani. After the game the Bulls said it was a shoulder sprain, but it would be re-evaluated Tuesday. Noah could miss some time, further exposing this roster.

2) Too much Kevin Durant late means the Clippers drop another game they circled on the calendar.  The Clippers have played in some of the most thrilling games we’ve had this regular season — against the Warriors, the Spurs, and now the Thunder.

Los Angeles lost them all. It’s a concern. The Clippers are good but appear a step behind the elite in the West, at least it felt that way again after there was too much Russell Westbrook all night (33 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and too much Durant late and the Thunder picked up a win over the Clippers in L.A. Another game the Clippers circled on the calendar, led in the fourth quarter, and lost. Another one to make you question just how good Los Angeles really is. But credit where it is due, the Thunder needed their superstar and former MVP to earn it. First Durant hit the tough game-winning jumper. Then he helped off Wesley Matthews in the corner and blocked Chris Paul‘s attempt at a game winner.

3) Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder is going to need some dental work. During the Hawks’ win over the Trail Blazers Monday, Dennis Schroder went to the floor trying to get a loose ball and his face hit Meyers Leonard‘s knee. In this video you can see his tooth come flying out. Schroder did return to the game.

4) Utah’s Alec Burks had the dunk of the night, and it wasn’t close. This is monster.

5) John Wall had 19 assists in Wizards’ win, but ankle bothering him so much he may sit out. Usually when a guy sets a career high in assists he’s feeling good, Wall certainly played well in the Wizards 113-99 win over the Kings. Wall dished out 19 dimes. But after the game said his ankle is so sore  he may need to sit out, reports J. Michael at CSNWashington.com.

“All my trainers know what it is. All I know it’s a real, real bad sprain,” Wall, who had an MRI on Thursday after the Wizards returned from a four-game road swing, told CSNmidatlantic.com before Monday’s game when he set a career high with 19 assists vs. the Sacramento Kings. “I’ve sprained it like five, six games in a row so it wasn’t getting no better.

“A high ankle sprain. I probably should take time off but when we start getting a couple guys back I’ll see how it feels and make a decision.”

The Wizards are 9.4 points per 100 possessions better when Wall is on the court, mostly because their defense is dramatically better. If he is gone for an extended period it hurts their chances of climbing back into the playoff picture in the East (the Wizards are currently the 12 seed, three games back of a playoff spot).

 

Kevin Durant hits game-winning jumper, has game-saving block vs. Clippers

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Kevin Durant is cold blooded.

The Thunder were down one with 10.9 seconds left And everyone in the building knew he was going to get the chance. That includes the Clippers’ Luc Mbah a Moute, who defended the play well, but Durant hit the hard shot because he is Kevin Durant.

The Clippers had six seconds to tie and got the ball in the hands of Chris Paul, who had been their hot hand all night. He drove right off a Blake Griffin pick and had options, but chose he 17-foot fade-away over Serge Ibaka. Which might have worked, but Durant timed help off Wesley Johnson in the corner and got the block on CP3 to save the 100-99 Thunder win.

Wall has 19 assists, Wizards beat Sacramento 113-99

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 21: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards looks on in the second half of the Wizards 113-99 win over the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center on December 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — John Wall had a career-high 19 assists and also scored 12 points, Marcin Gortat had 27 points, and 16 rebounds and the Washington Wizards beat the Sacramento Kings 113-99 on Monday night.

Wall was just 4-for-15 shooting but finished with assists on nearly half of Washington’s 42 baskets. He connected with Gortat several times on a night when injuries limited coach Randy Wittman to using only eight players.

Six of those Wizards finished in double figures, though, thanks often to Wall’s good passing.

Gortat set a new season high for points by halftime with 21 as the Wizards took a 63-59 lead at the break.

Garrett Temple added a career-high 23 points while Ramon Sessions (15 points) and Kris Humphries (15) also pitched in.

DeMarcus Cousins led Sacramento with 22 points while Rudy Gay added 16.

Washington led throughout much of the third quarter until the Kings finished with the period’s final eight points for an 84-84 tie. The Wizards then took command by scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter – even though Gortat was out.

This is the only time the Kings come to Washington this season. The Wizards head to Sacramento on March 30.

TIP-INS

Kings: Former Wizard Caron Butler entered late in the first quarter and received a big ovation from the crowd. … The Kings have not fared well in back-to-back games this season. They now are 2-12, including an 0-7 mark on the second night of games.

Wizards: The team announced at game time that Gary Neal (sore back) would join the list of injured players out. Washington had six players out due to injuries – including Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Alan Anderson and Nene also could not play. … Even though the Wizards trailed 35-34 after one, that was the most points they’d scored in the opening quarter this season (31 had been the mark before).

 

Joakim Noah leaves game with what Bulls call shoulder sprain

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In the third quarter of what was ultimately an ugly Bulls loss to the Nets Monday, Joakim Noah was playing his usual, physical defense when his arm got tangled with Andrea Bargnani‘s, leading to what looked like a painful injury.

After the game, the Bulls were playing the injury down, but if you watch Noah in the video above you’ll tend to think it’s more serious. Our own Sean Highkin was at the game and tweeted out this:

We’ll see how long he’ll be out, but losing him would be a blow — the Bulls don’t have another defensive minded big. Maybe it means more run for Pau Gasol and more small lineups (play Bobby Portis more, please), but this would hurt an already-struggling Bulls team if it’s serious.

Vucevic scores 26, Magic snap Knicks’ 4-game win streak

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 21:  Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic shoots against Robin Lopez #8 of the New York Knicks on December 21, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Nikola Vucevic tied his season high with 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds, leading the Orlando Magic to a 107-99 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night.

Vucevic had a pair of baskets and Evan Fournier added a 3-pointer and another basket in an 11-2 spurt after the Knicks had cut it to 93-92 with 3:25 left. Victor Oladipo finished that decisive run with a breakaway dunk that made it 104-94 with 1:07 to go.

Tobias Harris scored 20 points and Fournier had 16 for the Magic, who rebounded from Sunday’s loss to Atlanta to win for the fourth time in five games.

Lance Thomas was 9 for 9 and tied his career with 24 points for the Knicks, who had won four in a row and missed a chance to move above .500. Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points.

Starting guard Elfrid Payton didn’t play in the second half because of a sore left ankle, but Fournier handled the ball more and Oladipo and rookie Mario Hezonja finished in double figures off the bench as Orlando shot 51 percent from the field.

The game was close all the way, with the Knicks never leading but never trailing by more than eight until the Magic’s late run. New York was repeatedly within a basket of tying or taking the lead in the fourth, but Vucevic and the Magic kept coming up with timely plays.

TIP-INS

Magic: A night later, coach Scott Skiles was still hard on the Magic’s defensive effort in their 103-100 loss to Atlanta on Sunday. “I said laughable after the game, so I’m going to stick by that,” Skiles said. “It was.” … The Magic pledged $1.5 million Monday toward a new academic building for the University of Central Florida’s downtown Orlando campus.

Knicks: Reserve forward Kyle O'Quinn missed the game against his former team with a sprained right ankle. He was hurt Saturday against Chicago and coach Derek Fisher said he was better but still had some swelling. “Obviously with it being his former team, those are nights that guys circle on the calendar, so that tells you a lot about where he is today,” Fisher said.