How this story usually goes: the veteran team looks polished if disinterested at times, but when it’s over they finish it off like a contender; the younger team looks overwhelmed early, overcomes its early struggles to make a game of it but falls short.
This was the opposite of that.
The Chicago Bulls pulled away early and looked dominant, never trailed and looked like the contenders when it mattered, while the Celtics mounted a spirited comeback but ultimately fell short. The Bulls won 88-79.
That’s kind of where we are with teams.
The Bulls are a good defensive team, but you need to combine that with an ice-cold Celtics squad to get a start like this — Boston started this game 5-of-27 shooting. They were down 52-33 Bulls at the half, where Chicago shot 54 percent, Boston just 33 percent. It looked like a blowout.
But Boston would not go quietly into that good night. Rajon Rondo — make no mistake, this is his team now — had six points and five assists in the quarter, and finished with 18 and 11. More importantly the Celtics picked up their defensive intensity.
With 10 minutes left it was 67-66 Chicago and it looked like we were in for a close finish. But that’s when the best player on the floor — Derrick Rose — asserted himself. He had 12 points in the fourth quarter and 25 overall. The Bulls got some easy buckets in transition. Luol Deng looked good all night and finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Boston had no good answer for all that, Paul Pierce was 3-for-12 shooting for the game.
This is kind of where we are with these sides right now — the Bulls are clearly title contenders that know how to put teams away. The Celtics have that in them, but there are questions left about the depth of their talent level.
The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.
First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.
The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.
The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.
Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.
David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).
Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.
This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style. Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.
Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.
Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.
Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.
The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.
What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.
While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.
Kawhi Leonard just won again.
He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.
Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.
Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.
Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.
Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.