Bulls’ defense not reliant on Joakim Noah

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When Joakim Noah played, the Bulls defended like the NBA’s second-best team.

When Noah didn’t play… the Bulls defended like the NBA’s second-best team.

Noah, when accepting Defensive Player of the Year yesterday, was eager to share credit.

“This award is a team award,” Noah said, echoing many previous winners.

More than ever, it was true.

Since 2008 – as far back as NBA.com’s on/off data goes – no Defensive Player of the Year’s team allowed fewer points per possession without the winner on the court than the Bulls this season. Chicago’s defensive rating was a stout 98.0 with Noah on the bench (and 97.7 with him on the floor).

Here are the defensive ratings of the last seven Defensive Player of the Year’s teams with the winner on the court (red) and off the court (black):

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Unsurprisingly, each team defended better with its Defensive Player of the Year. But the Bulls’ defense held up impressively well without him.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Noah shouldn’t be punished for playing for a good defensive coach and with good defensive teammates. He’s still worthy of the award.

But team success definitely factors into voting. Only one player outside a top-13 defensive team received votes (Anthony Davis on the 25th-ranked Pelicans), and only two top-10 teams had no players with votes (sixth-ranked Bobcats and ninth-ranked Raptors).

If Noah were the same defender but didn’t have a coach like Tom Thibodeau and teammates like Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, maybe the Bulls center wouldn’t have won the award. That’s not exactly fair, but as much as Noah deserves credit for an excellent defensive season, the Bulls deserve credit for positioning him to thrive.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.