It’s early, but the Bulls’, Grizzlies’ defenses not exactly impressive

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Last season the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies make playoff runs (Chicago to the second round, Memphis to the conference finals) based on defense. Both teams had enough offense to get the job done even if it wasn’t pretty (and it often wasn’t), but these were teams built around suffocating defense. That was their identity.

Which has made the start of this season odd in Chicago and Memphis.

You can’t draw sweeping conclusions from just three games, but it’s worth noting that so far the Chicago Bulls have been pedestrian while the Grizzlies have just been outright bad on the defensive end.

Chicago is allowing 100.7 points per 100 possessions so far, which is 15th in the NBA. Middle of the pack. Average. Not very Tom Thibodeau like.

That’s better than the Grizzlies, who are giving up 108.2, 29th in the NBA.

Memphis underwent a coaching change last summer — Dave Joerger was in, replacing Lionel Hollins for whom he had been the lead assistant. The hope with the move was someone who worked better with management, would keep the same defensive system in place while finding a way to add a little fluidity to the grit-and-grind offense that makes Memphis a team other teams hate to play against.

The offense is different, there is more movement, but with the focus on that end of the court the defense seems to have suffered. Check out this Zach Randolph quote from the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“This ain’t us,” Griz forward Zach Randolph said. “I don’t know if we’re focusing on the offense or not, but we’re a defensive team and that’s what we’ve got to hang our hats on. And another thing is we’ve got to come out faster.”

Opponents are shooting 46.5 percent against Memphis, the seventh highest percentage allowed so far, but the real killer is teams are shooting 41.7 percent from three. The Grizzlies with that big front line led by Marc Gasol are still doing a solid job protecting the paint, but look at where the damage comes on their opponents’ shot chart.

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As for Chicago, the Bulls are getting beat more in transition and just on lack of focus issues — when the Sixers were storming back to beat the Bulls Saturday Jimmy Butler twice but burned on backdoor cuts. That’s not typical of the Bulls defense, which is known for its multiple efforts. Here is what coach Thibodeau said to the Chicago Tribune after Saturday’s loss.

“You have to get back as a team,” Thibodeau said. “You have to get set as a team. You have to communicate and respond to that communication. You have to finish your defense. It requires multiple efforts. If you don’t do that, you’re in trouble in this league.”

The good news if you’re a Bulls fans is that the 100.7 per 100 possessions allowed so far is not far off last season’s mark of 100.3, which was fifth best in the NBA. To start this season some teams are off to a hot defensive start, many of those squads will come back to earth while the Bulls can improve.

It just seems there are lot of things that need to get turned around in Chicago right now, and we didn’t expect the defense to be one of them.

Watch best of Wendell Carter Jr. at Summer League

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I will own my mistake: Coming into the NBA Draft I was not high on Wendell Carter Jr., particularly how well he would defend at the NBA level.

I missed on that one — he has impressed me and everyone else in Las Vegas at Summer League. While nobody should ever read too much into Summer League perormances, he has shown potential on both ends of the court. Check out his highlights above

His offensive game is everything that was advertised — versatile and polished. He has nailed turnarounds in the post, can score with either hand, has a jump shot with real range, and he is a smart and willing passer. Defensively he has been physical, works hard and uses his athleticism to be dispruptive.

We will see how he fares against NBA-level competition (and how he pairs with Jabari Parker and the rest of the Bulls frontcourt), but the work ethic and tools are there. The Bulls may have something in Carter Jr.

Stephen Curry nailing putts, doing shimmy at American Century Championship

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If there’s one thing Stephen Curry loves as much as draining a 28-foot three over the outstretched arms of a defender, it’s golf. Curry is a golf fanatic.

Which is why he never misses — and always has fun at — the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. And when he makes a putt, he will do a little shimmy, as you can see above.

Curry is currently tied for 19th in the tournament. The highest NBA player on the leaderboard is retired sharpshooter Ray Allen at seventh, and on top of the leaderboard heading into the final day is San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.

You can watch the final round live on NBC at 3 ET Sunday.

Here’s Curry and his father Dell talking a little golf and family.

And here is Curry talking a little golf before the tournament.

NBA Summer League down to elite 8 in tournament format

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NBA Summer League has its elite eight.

The quarterfinals were set by the end of play Saturday, and include a few surprises.

Philadelphia and Toronto, the two lowest seeds in the 30-team tournament, both pulled out close games Saturday to stay alive. Toronto, the No. 29 seed that was winless in the preliminary round, has put together two straight wins in the tournament and will face 12th-seeded Cleveland and rookie Collin Sexton, who like Lonzo Ball last year is a highly touted point guard trying to win a summer title.

No. 27 Memphis is next up for Philadelphia. Detroit, the No. 25 seed, is also still alive.

The top-seeded Lakers and No. 2 Portland had byes into the quarterfinals. No other single-digit seeds remain in the field.

Saturday’s results:

76ERS 91, BUCKS 89

Furkan Korkmaz scored eight of his 19 points in the final 40 seconds, including the go-ahead points on a three-point play with 3.6 seconds left for the No. 30 seed 76ers (2-3).

Jonah Bolden added 13 points and eight rebounds and Isaiah Miles scored 12 points for Philadelphia.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Bucks (2-3). Sterling Brown added 15 points, Trae Bell Haynes scored 13 and Tim Quarterman 12.

The 76ers will play the Grizzlies in the quarterfinals.

CAVALIERS 92, ROCKETS 87

Collin Sexton shook off a 5-for-17 night to score 17 points for the Cavaliers (4-1). The No. 8 pick in the draft had scored 25 in the first round of the tournament.

Scoochie Smith also scored 17, Jamel Artis had 13 and Billy Preston 12 for Cleveland.

Danuel House finished with 30 points for the fifth-seeded Rockets (4-1) in their first loss of the summer.

RAPTORS 87, HORNETS 84, OT

Rawle Alkins made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in overtime and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors (2-3). Rookie Malachi Richardson added 14 points.

Dwayne Bacon had 28 points and rookie Miles Bridges added 18 points and 11 rebounds despite shooting just 5 for 20 from the field for the Hornets (3-2).

CELTICS 74, HEAT 72

Pierria Henry scored 15 points and Guerschon Yabusele had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Celtics (4-1).

They advanced to meet second-seeded Portland.

Boston turned to its defense again, limiting Miami to fewer than 20 points in all but the fourth quarter, when the Heat scored 22.

Derrick Walton Jr. finished with 15 points for the Heat (2-3), but missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the No. 6 seed to the quarterfinals.

PISTONS 72, BULLS 66

Henry Ellenson scored 21 points and No. 25-seeded Detroit (3-2) advanced to a quarterfinal matchup against the top-seeded Lakers.

Antonio Blakeney scored 24 points for the Bulls (2-3). Rookie Chandler Hutchison had 11 points for the No. 24 seeds.

Rookie lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed 16 rebounds but shot just 1 for 8 for six points.

GRIZZLIES 92, JAZZ 86

Second-round pick Jevon Carter had 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals for Memphis (3-2). Markel Crawford scored 19 points, hitting 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and first-round pick Jaren Jackson Jr. had nine points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for the No. 27 seed Grizzlies. Kobi Simmons added 13 points.

Georges Niang led 22nd-seeded Utah (2-3) with 18 points and nine rebounds, Trey Lewis was 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. Naz Mitrou-Long scored 14.

Jackson made a layup and then Crawford and Carter hit back-to-back 3s to spark an 11-2 run that gave Memphis a 91-81 lead with 24 seconds left.

The Grizzlies will play No. 30 seed Philadelphia in the quarterfinals.

 

Sixers’ Furkan Korkmaz comes up huge in clutch for Summer League win

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Furkan Korkmaz played a total of 80 minutes for the Sixers since the 2016 first-round pick joined the NBA.

But in Summer League he came up huge in the clutch for Philadelphia n Saturday.

Korkmaz had a series of crucial late plays and finished with a team-high 19 points on the Sixers win. That includes the and-1 game winning drive — check it out above in a highlight package.