Kurt Helin

Pau Gasol, DeAndre Jordan
Associated Press

Gasol scores 24, Bulls beat Clippers 83-80 to stop skid


CHICAGO (AP) — This time, the Chicago Bulls dug in.

They let a big lead slip away in the second half, but made just enough plays down the stretch to win a game they needed in a big way.

Pau Gasol scored 24 points and the Bulls beat the Los Angeles Clippers 83-80 on Thursday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

“We have an opportunity here to do something special,” Gasol said. “I would hate if we would throw it away ourselves.”

The Bulls caught a big break midway through the third quarter when Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin was ejected for a hard foul against Taj Gibson, and they came away with the win after blowing a 16-point lead.

Derrick Rose banked in a floater with 45 seconds left to make it 83-77 before Los Angeles’ Wesley Johnson buried a 3-pointer. The Clippers then rebounded a miss by Chicago’s Jimmy Butler with 6 seconds left, but Chris Paul‘s tying 3-point attempt hit the rim just before the buzzer.

Gasol hit a career-high three 3-pointers.

Rose came on strong down the stretch, scoring nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. He also played the second half without the protective mask he has been wearing after fracturing his left orbital on the first day of practice.

Butler, coming off a career-high 36 points against Boston the previous night, scored 14 and had a season-high eight assists. Gibson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Griffin had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Los Angeles. Paul scored 12, while DeAndre Jordan added 10 points and 14 rebounds. The Clippers hit eight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and were 10 of 22 for the game, but they came up short after winning three straight and six of seven.

The Bulls were leading by 14 when Griffin knocked Gibson to the floor with a blow to the face as he head-faked and went up for a shot inside with 5:59 left in the third.

Griffin helped Gibson to his feet. But after a review, the officials called a flagrant foul 2, meaning an automatic ejection for Griffin.

“I wasn’t trying to hit him in the face,” Griffin said. “There was no intent to hurt, or intent to even really hit him. I was going to try to hit the ball and he pump faked me.”

Gibson, who called Griffin a “great guy” and said it’s “no big thing,” made both foul shots to make it a 16-point game. But the Clippers came roaring back. The lead was down to 10 going into the fourth, and the Clippers tied it at 66-all on Josh Smith‘s 3-pointer with 7:19 remaining.

But the Bulls, outscored a combined 102-70 in the final quarter the previous three games, made the big plays Thursday.

Butler hit a jumper and took a charge from Lance Stephenson. Gibson threw down a thunderous put-back dunk off a missed 3 by Aaron Brooks and Rose nailed a 3 from the top to make it 73-66 with 5:15 left.

“I want to play like this every night,” Rose said. “We have to play with this consistency. We have to play with this urge and energy every night.”


NBA: ‘Premature’ to consider if Walton could coach All-Stars

Luke Walton
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Steve Kerr wouldn’t be eligible to coach in the All-Star Game. The NBA hasn’t determined if Luke Walton would.

League spokesman Tim Frank says it’s “premature” to address whether the interim coach of the undefeated Golden State Warriors could lead the Western Conference if Kerr hasn’t returned following back surgery.

The coaches whose teams have the best record in each conference following play on Jan. 31 earn spots in Toronto for the Feb. 14 game. But coaches aren’t allowed the honor in consecutive years, a rule that dates to Pat Riley’s dominance with the Lakers in the 1980s, so Kerr is disqualified.

But Walton, who won Western Conference coach of the month for October/November and is eligible to win Coach of the Year even though the Warriors’ 23-0 record is all credited to Kerr, hasn’t been ruled out yet.

Frank says: “At this point, it is unclear when coach Kerr will return to the sidelines. We are more than two months away from All-Star, so it feels premature to address that situation.”

Adam Silver says he, other owners didn’t influence Sixers on Colangelo

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To hear some people around the league tell it, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — on behalf of other frustrated owners — twisted arms to get Philadelphia owner Josh Harris to bring in Jerry Colangelo and change the course of what has been a slow rebuild.

Adam Silver denied he was carrying a big stick in this case.

Speaking softly on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Silver said his role — and that of other NBA owners — was minimal.

“The only role I played was making an introduction to Jerry for Josh Harris,” Silver said.” But I would say this was something that was initiated entirely by Josh Harris and he’s the principle owner and the governor of the Philadelphia 76ers. Contrary to what I read in some of the reports this was not arm-twisting from the league office telling the 76ers they had to change course. This was not other owners calling me and saying, ‘You’ve got to force the 76ers to do something.’

“This was an awareness by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who is his co-owner, and other owners who are part of their group, that they needed to make a course correction here, that they are relatively new at this business and I think it was a recognition from them that, while they weren’t blowing up their strategy entirely, that there is more to owning a franchise than what is represented in the win and loss columns. And that in terms of their obligation to the community, in terms of their own personal reputations, that they felt the need to be more personally involved and to do more for the team and for the city. And when they got to that point that’s when Josh Harris said to me, ‘Let’s talk about what my options are.’ And one of the names on that list of people who could potentially help them was Jerry Colangelo. And he’s someone who I think I literally met the first week I started at the NBA 23 years ago when he was the then owner of the Phoenix Suns. He’s a former Chairman of the Board of the NBA. He’s someone I’ve worked with extensively in his role at USA Basketball, and is someone who has been an advisor to me many times over the years.

“All I did was then say, ‘You two should get together and let’s see if there’s an opportunity to work together.’ So I just want to make sure it’s not lost that this was the 76ers deciding that they needed to make a change.”

Obviously, if Harris didn’t want this to happen, it wouldn’t have. But for him and his co-owners to radically change course mid-season means that something changed, and while Jahlil Okafor‘s transgressions off the court certainly played a role, to think that there was no pressure from the outside is naive. Harris heard from someone.

Adam Silver learned one thing well from David Stern — soft pedal your role in everything.

Blake Griffin ejected for flagrant foul to Taj Gibson’s head (VIDEO)


Intent doesn’t matter on flagrant fouls. Blake Griffin didn’t intend to hit Taj Gibson upside the head, you could tell from his reaction. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is was the foul “unnecessary and excessive” in the eyes of the officials.

It was, the league is very protective on blows to the head. So Blake Griffin was ejected for a flagrant two foul. He could face a fine from the league for this (a suspension is unlikely).

Without Griffin the Clippers couldn’t pull together enough offense to mount a comeback, and they fell to the Bulls, 83-80.

LeBron James doesn’t want to see minutes reduction for rest

LeBron James
Associated Press
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In his last five games played, LeBron James is averaging 39.2 minutes a contest. On the season that is 37.1 minutes a night, which is a minute more than a year ago — and he he needed time off to get his body right during that campaign.

Last week, David Blatt gave LeBron the night off against the Heat, and with Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert expected to return to the rotation in the coming days, there has been talk of keeping LeBron’s minutes in check so he is fresh come the playoffs.

None of that talk is coming from LeBron. Here is what he said about a minutes reduction to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“I’m not a 31-, 32-minute guy. That’s just not, that ain’t me,” James said after practice on Thursday…

“I’m playing at a high level,” James said. “I’m shooting the ball extremely well and I’m not hurting my team when I’m on the floor. If I’m hurting my team, then I should be sitting down. But I feel good.

The problem isn’t just the minutes LeBron is logging, it’s the load he carries while on the court. LeBron’s usage rate of 32.8 percent of his team’s possessions when he is on the floor is  fifth highest in the NBA among regular rotation players. Everything on offense runs through LeBron, plus he often has tough defensive assignments. He plays hard minutes.

Those minutes should come down with the return of Irving. LeBron, as much as anyone, knows they are just seven miles into the marathon and there is a long, long way to go — then the season that matters starts. Rest is going to matter.