Feisty Bulls refuse to go quietly, but Heat comeback closes out series

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You knew the Bulls were not just going concede the series to the Heat.

Well, maybe you didn’t think that when Miami raced out to a 22-4 lead to open Game 5 Wednesday, but these Bulls quit as often as a T-1000 Terminator. All playoffs they have had reasons to give up because of injuries, but they didn’t. They could have rolled over Wednesday down 18 early, but they wouldn’t. Chicago went on a 49-25 run, took the lead back in the middle of the second quarter and didn’t surrendered it until the middle of the fourth.

However talent and the athletic Heat defense won out. Miami held Chicago to 14 points on 33.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, got some big plays from the hobbled Dwyane Wade and reserve guard Norris Cole, then held on for a dramatic 94-91 win.

The Heat take the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Pacers/Knicks series. The Pacers are up 3-1 and if they close it out Thursday night they will tip off against Miami Monday night. If the Knicks push the series to six (or seven) games the Eastern Conference finals tip off next Wednesday (Miami has home court against both teams).

LeBron James led the Heat with 23 points, but he shot just 5-of-14 on the night as Jimmy Butler played him tough. Which is a good nod to Butler, LeBron will probably be happy to see him go. Of course, that is Paul George waiting in the wings to guard LeBron next series and he is playing even better than Butler lately.

Miami came out with a real energy to open the game and their offense just flowed — they were moving the ball, spacing the floor, the tempo was up and guys were knocking down looks. Udonis Haslem was at the heart of that of that going 4-of-4 shooting for 8 points.

But that is when the Bulls turned on an energy they lacked in Game 4 in front of their own fans, while the Heat seemed to relax. Carlos Boozer was literally in the middle the turnaround, scoring inside rather than settling and he had 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Nate Robinson had 14 and hit a couple deep threes, and Butler had 10 and gave the Bulls the lead with a three in the second.

Meanwhile the Heat were just average because their role players did not step up — Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Shane Battier combined for 6 points on 13 shots and were 0-7 from three. Actually, it wasn’t just the role players, LeBron was scoreless in the second as well.

LeBron asserted himself in the third with nine points, but the Bulls kept making shots and it was 77-69 Chicago after three. The Heat were going to need better defense.

And they got it.

Chicago missed contested shots (and some open ones) while Miami’s cold shooters warmed up. Shane Battier hit a big three.

Then Norris Cole happened — he has played well enough this series to make Erik Spoelstra rethink starting Mario Chalmers. Cole hit a jumper to give the Heat the lead.

Then Cole drove the lane for a dunk that brought the AmericanAirlines Arena to life.

Dwyane Wade then started making plays — a couple of runners in the lane and an impressive putback dunk. It must have been the shoes: Wade was 4-of-10 in the first three quarters and looked off but changed shoes before the start of the fourth and went 3-for-3 shooting.

Still the Bulls had their chances — down three with time for one last shot both Robinson and Butler had looks at three to tie but their shots missed.

Eventually, talent won out. In this game and in this series.

But the Bulls pushed he Heat and their effort and style may have laid out a blueprint for the Pacers to follow in the Eastern Conference finals (the Knicks, if they make it, play a very different style).

NBA players react to Kyrie Irving to Mavericks trade news

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.