NBA Playoffs: Bulls look like beasts of the East in Game 1

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It was a line buried in PBT’s Game 1 preview but it ended up telling you all you needed to know — both of these teams can defend so it was about who got the easy buckets.

For Chicago, that meant offensive rebounds — and they went out grabbed 19 of them, a full 41.7 percent of their shots led to a second chance. For Miami, it mean creating turnovers and converting those to fast-break points — and eight of Miami’s first 19 points came on fast breaks. Chicago had eight first half turnovers.

But the Bulls had just one turnover in the second half, they forced the Heat to play in the half court and as the game wore on the Heat fell more and more into the isolation ball the Bulls defense wants you to play. The result was Chicago pulling away in the third quarter and a 103-82 crushing of the Heat in Game 1.

The Bulls played their usually spectacular defense, holding the Heat to 98.8 points per 100 possessions. They pressured Dwyane Wade (18 points on 17 shots) and LeBron James (15 points on 15 shots) into tough choices and long shots all night long.

The only Heat player who had a good night was Chris Bosh — 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting.

And he provides the model for what the Bulls want to do going forward — he was working off the ball behind the defense more than Wade and LeBron, who were more in their traditional roles as they guys with the ball in their hands. In the second half James kept ending up in isolation with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, a matchup he could not (or at least did not) exploit.

Against the Celtics there were points LeBron was working on the weak side and on the baseline, the Heat need to go back to that. They struggled against the pressure and forced their way into the teeth of the defense.

Meanwhile, in the second half the Bulls really started to exploit the Heat’s pick-and-roll defense. As expected they trapped to get the ball out of Rose’s hands — and they did it every time, Pretty soon the Bulls were doing a good job moving the ball around to open cutters and guys on the weakside.

Next game the Heat need to mix up their coverages. Rose had his 28 points on 22 shots. He’s going to do that anyway, but the Heat need to not let Luol Deng have 21 points on 15 shots. The Heat need to defend the arc better so the Bulls don’t hit 10-of-21 from three. Miami needs to defensive rebound much better.

They need to do all these things because the Bulls have established themselves as the team to beat in this series so far. They looked dominant.

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Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.