Does Bulls’ sweep of Heat this season matter now?

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The Bulls and Heat met three times in the regular season. Three times the Bulls won, a couple of close games and one pretty comfortably. Derrick Rose had big games, Chris Bosh struggled.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that matters much now.

For one, the most recent of those games was in March and the Heat are a very different team right now. The amazing Tom Haberstroh explains at ESPN.

When you look at the Heat’s most used lineups against the Bulls this season, something immediately jumps out at you: None of them will play in this series…

Who was the center in the Heat’s most frequent five? Erick Dampier, a guy who hasn’t seen the court in over a month.… The next most used lineup against the Bulls features Mike Miller, who has been all but squeezed out of the Heat’s rotation. If Miller plays in this series, it will be only in cameos due to his battered thumbs that render his hands barely functional. The third most used lineup? Carlos Arroyo was in it.

The playoffs are all about matchups. The Heat will lean heavily on Mario Chalmers — their best defensive point guard — and Joel Anthony this series. They will dare the Bulls to make them pay for going small. (If Erik Spoelstra leans heavily on Mike Bibby against Rose, well, that’s not going to really happen for long.)

It should also be noted that LeBron James didn’t play in the first game and Bosh got injured and missed part of that first game. In another, Bosh went 1-for-18. while the Bulls may make him struggle, don’t expect that level of futility again.

One thing Bulls fans do want to try and take away from the regular season — Rose gave the Heat trouble. He averaged 29 points on 43 percent shooting — not the most efficient numbers ever, but the Heat are a good defensive team. When Rose was on the court against the Heat this season, the Bulls played better on offense than most teams did against Miami in terms of points per possession (just slightly, about 2 points per 100 possessions, but that’s still something).

This Bulls vs. Heat series is going to be fantastic. But don’t expect it to look a lot like the regular season.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates and family for helping him reach this point.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win.

The last player from Europe to win the MVP award was Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.