If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while reading about the home Muhammad Ali grew up in…
The Chicago Bulls are not playing Thibodeau-level defense. For the past few years, through all the injuries and challenges, the Bulls at least played good defense. But not lately. Monday they let the Cavaliers — who has played better in their now three game winning streak — score 108 points, which translates into 116.1 points per 100 possessions. In their last five games the Bulls have allowed teams to score 113.6 per 100 — that’s 29th in the NBA in that stretch. The Bulls are not defending or rotating with energy, evidenced by the Cavaliers taking 49 of their 90 shot attempts in the paint. The Bulls have lost 6-of-8, Derrick Rose is more than irritated, and Tom Thibodeau is losing it in post-game press conferences saying “enough is enough.” The Bulls offense has not been pretty of late either, but Chicago has gotten away from its identity as a defensive power. If that doesn’t change, the dream of making the NBA Finals will fade faster than Thibodeau’s voice.
James Harden doesn’t care how good your defense is, he will score on it. At will. The Indiana Pacers are still a top 10 defense this season. James Harden doesn’t care. He scored 45 points on 12-of-18 shooting (he got to the free throw line 15 times). The beard can flat out score.
The Knicks can win a game. Break up the Knicks. Sure, it took playing a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis or Jrue Holiday playing on the second night of a road back-to-back, but so what. The Knicks got a win. Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and 9 boards but most importantly played selfless, smart basketball in the final minute. However, the star of the show was Langston Galloway. If you just said “Who is that?” the answer is the guy who put up 21 points and can do this.
The Dallas Mavericks can beat a good team. Coming into Monday Dallas was 1-8 against Western Conference playoff teams, while Memphis was 10-3 against that same group. So consider this your daily reminder that the Western Conference playoffs will be a bloodbath. Dallas took an early lead then, when it was tight late, they got great play out of Dirk Nowitzki and some key buckets from Rajon Rondo to get the win. Memphis was 3-of-22 from three and had just one bucket in the final four minutes as Dallas is playing better defense of late. Dallas was 10-of-25 from three and will be much more dangerous if they keep shooting and hitting from deep.
The Cleveland Cavaliers can play defense. This game was the best we have seen Cleveland play this season. Sure, LeBron James was doing LeBron James things, J.R. Smith was raining threes, and the return of Kevin Love brought better movement and passing to the Cavaliers offense, but that’s not the most impressive part of the game for them. No, the real story is the Cavaliers played good defense. The Bulls shot just 37.5 percent in this game and the Cavaliers contested 51 of the Bulls 80 shot attempts. Timofey Mozgov was strong in the paint, taking away easy looks. This was the best the Cavs have defended this season and if they keep this up they will get a lot closer to fulfilling their promise. But they have to start doing this consistently.