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Rajon Rondo, Doug McDermott pace Bulls to rout Pacers 118-101 of Indy

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CHICAGO (AP) — With nine new players, including three starters, the Chicago Bulls seemed likely to struggle with cohesion early in the season.

However, one of those newcomers – Rajon Rondo – has been credited by his teammates with fueling Chicago’s fast start.

Doug McDermott had 23 points, Jimmy Butler added 16 on 6-of-9 shooting and Rondo had 13 assists to lead the Bulls to a 118-101 rout of the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night, Chicago’s second straight victory to open the season.

McDermott scored 11 points in the fourth quarter as coach Fred Hoiberg gave his veteran starters – Butler, Rondo and Dwyane Wade, who had 14 points – the rest of the night off after the third quarter.

Rondo, who has 22 assists in the two games, likely could have racked up a much higher number if he wasn’t limited to 25 minutes.

“He pushes the ball up the floor and he gets it out, so he makes you run to get in front of him,” Wade said.

Playing with Rondo means you have to be alert at all times.

“I always tell those guys to understand that, `If you don’t think I see you, I probably see you, so be ready for the pass,”‘ Rondo said.

“Who doesn’t want the ball? Everybody wants the ball and everybody wants to score.”

Taj Gibson had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Robin Lopez added 12 points for the Bulls.

Paul George and Myles Turner had 20 points apiece to lead the Pacers (1-2), who were coming off a loss at Brooklyn on Friday.

“The message is loud and clear: we need to get to work,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said.

“We have a talented team,” George said, “but it’s going to take us a couple games to get our chemistry. We’ll get through our battle wounds early.”

The Bulls had a 24-20 lead at the end of the first quarter before breaking things open with a dominant second. They scored 38 points on 14-for-18 (77.8 percent) shooting in the quarter to race out to a 62-41 halftime lead.

Indiana seemingly sleep-walked on defense throughout much of the second quarter – especially in transition where the Bulls had a 19-0 edge in fast-break points. McDermott had seven points in seven minutes, and five players scored at least five points. Rondo added six assists.

Chicago maintained its intensity in the third quarter and stretched the lead to 92-67 entering the fourth.

The Bulls lead by as many as 29 points in the final quarter (102-73) before Indiana made a futile run in garbage time to trim the deficit to 112-101 with two minutes to play.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Aaron Brooks (sore right knee) and Rodney Stuckey (right hamstring) sat out with injuries. Stuckey is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.

Bulls: Wade said he’s feeling fine but sat out Friday’s practice after playing 32 minutes in the opener on Thursday. The 13-year veteran said he will take regular days off to stay healthy and fresh. “Certain days (are) better to be mental days than physical days,” he said.

BENCH WOES

Through three games, the Pacers have been outscored by a total of 33 points in the second quarter. That’s mainly an indictment of the reserves.

“Our bench’s got to get some chemistry.” McMillan said. “We need to get that (second) team some time on the floor, and they just haven’t had it.”

CUBS FEVER

With the Bulls idle Friday night, Wade attended Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

“I noticed that everybody in my family that was at the game, everybody had on Cubs gear – and I know everybody’s not a Cubs fan,” he said. “But it’s just about being a part of the moment. It’s a historic thing for the city of Chicago and a lot of people just want to say they’ve been to a World Series.”

 

Watch John Henson’s buzzer beating tip-in to lift Bucks past Nets

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Tied 108-108 with 11.6 seconds left, Jason Kidd put the ball and the Bucks’ fate in the hands of Jabari Parker in an isolation set. He made the smart move — and what the announcers wanted — and attacked the basket.

Brooklyn’s Justin Hamilton slid over to help and got a piece of the shot, but he had to leave John Henson to do so and nobody helped the helper — Henson tipped in the game-winner at the buzzer.

Rashad Vaughn had 22 points while Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 11 boards to lead the Bucks. Bojan Bogdanovic had 26 for the Nets.

Watch LeBron James dunk on Nikola Vucevic

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You don’t have to think LeBron James is a top-five player of all-time. You don’t have to believe he has the body of a 19-year-old.

But we can all agree on this — if you’re between him and the hoop when he drives the rim, it rarely ends well for you.

Nikola Vucevic of the Magic is the latest in a long, long line of examples.

In first week of season, Spurs rest Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

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It’s never too early for Gregg Popovich to think rest — even if it is the team’s home opener.

It’s the first week of the season, but the Spurs have three games in four nights, and Popovich is going to make sure his guys get their rest whether it’s October or March. Whether it’s the Spurs home opener or not.

Detest on this if you want, but whether you buy the analytics or just use the eye test, players perform better when rested, and they are less likely to suffer injuries. It’s that simple.

Popovich is more aggressive with the rest than most, but he also has some older players that he knows he is going to need come April and May. So he starts the rest early.

Doc Rivers says LeBron James is a top five player all-time. “There’s no doubt.”

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With plenty of years left to go, LeBron James has stacked up an insane resume: three-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, gone to six-straight finals, four-time regular season MVP, 12-time All-NBA, and the list goes on and on.

LeBron is also the first star of the social media era, which has led to a discussion of his legacy and place in the pantheon of the game since he was 23, long before anyone had any idea where he would land on that spectrum.

Doc Rivers has been coaching in the NBA through most of the LeBron era, and he has a thought where LeBron ranks — top five all-time. Above you can see the video, but written out here is what he told Dan Patrick on his radio show (which you can watch on the NBC Sports Network).

“Yes he is…

“Statistically speaking, and visually since I was the coach of the Celtics and we had a 3-2 lead and I watched him score 45, he is in the top five. There’s no doubt. LeBron has a different game. We’re so used to seeing skill looking graceful. We’re not used to seeing skill look so powerful. I think that rubs people wrong. But LeBron, statistically, championship wise, he’s one of the top-five players to ever play the game.”

LeBron’s third title — breaking the 52-year title drought in Cleveland — did more for his legacy in the mind of a lot of fans than his first titles did. And Patrick’s point on how we tend to see the heroes of our generation through rose-colored glasses is a valid one. Michael Jordan was seen as someone who couldn’t win the big game for years after he continually got thrashed by Detroit in the East, but we don’t think of him that way now. Players evolve, legacies evolve.

For me, it’s too early to rank where LeBron ends up, but without a doubt he goes down high on the list of all-time greats. No player had more physical skills, few took better advantage of them than LeBron has.