Cavs ride huge LeBron James performance to crucial win, take 3-2 series lead over Bulls

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Through the first four games of the Bulls-Cavs series, LeBron James has been the first to admit that he needed to be more efficient. He hit a miracle buzzer-beater to win Game 4, but he scored his 25 points in that game on 30 shots.

Game 5 was a different story. James was a monster on Tuesday, doing a little bit of everything on the way to 38 points on 14-of-24 shooting, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks and — most crucially — no turnovers.

After early foul trouble from Jimmy Butler, James scored 16 points in the second quarter, taking advantage of the defensive matchups of Tony Snell and Kirk Hinrich. It’s hard to beat the Cavs when LeBron is playing like this.

In another encouraging development for Cleveland, Kyrie Irving appears to have a pulse again. After foot problems held him to 2-of-10 shooting in Game 4, he moved much better in Game 5. He finished with 25 points on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting and had five assists, after taking heat in the previous two games for putting up zeroes in that column.

The Bulls jumped out to an 8-0 start at the beginning of the game but couldn’t keep up the momentum, trailing by one at the end of the first quarter and finishing the night shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 28 percent from three-point range.

The Bulls, who have been without Pau Gasol for the last two games, weren’t able to find efficient offense from anyone outside of Jimmy Butler, who finished with 29 points and 9 rebounds. Derrick Rose cooled off after a hot start, shooting 5-for-7 from the field in the first quarter but making just two more shots the rest of the night and finishing 7-for-24.

Despite being outplayed at both ends, though, the Bulls were still very much in this game at the end. They trailed by two with under a minute to go, but a missed three-pointer by Butler cost them an opportunity to take the lead. They were only able to score two points the rest of the night, and from there, they were forced to play the foul game.

Now, the Bulls’ season is on the ropes heading back to Chicago on Thursday for Game 6. It’s do or die for them, and maybe for Tom Thibodeau’s time in Chicago.

Report: Bulls signing Luke Kornet for guaranteed $4.5M over two years

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Just three 7-footers have averaged 3.5 3-pointers per game and made 35% of them each of the last two seasons:

The Bulls will now have most of them.

Markkanen is Chicago’s top young player. Kornet will join him with the Bulls next season.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’m a little surprised Kornet got more than his minimum ($3,383,360 over two years). But it’s worth taking a flier on him.

In addition to his outside shooting, Kornet has shown good timing as a shot-blocker in two seasons with the Knicks. The 24-year-old must get stronger and improve as a rebounder to play major minutes.

But the Bulls won’t have to press him into action. They also have Thaddeus Young, Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford and Cristiano Felicio as bigs.

Pistons claim Christian Wood off waivers

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The Bucks waived Christian Wood late last season to ensure avoiding the luxury tax. The Pelicans claimed him. Wood had played well in limited minutes with the 76ers, Hornets and Bucks and in the NBA’s minor league since going undrafted in 2015.

New Orleans gave him his biggest opportunity yet. In 24 minutes per game over eight games, he averaged 17 points and eight rebounds.

But the Pelicans filled their roster for next season and waived Wood.

Detroit will take advantage.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons announced today that the team has claimed forward/center Christian Wood off waivers.

Wood’s $1,645,357 minimum salary is unguaranteed until the regular season. So, Detroit could still waive him before the season. But it seems he’ll at least go to training camp and get a shot at a regular-season roster spot.

The Pelicans also could’ve kept him through the preseason then waived him before the regular season. They seemingly did him a favor of allowing him to get somewhere he has a realistic chance of sticking.

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond will start in the frontcourt for the Pistons. Markieff Morris and Thon Maker appear to be first in line is backups.

But don’t be surprised if Wood earns playing time. At minimum, the 23-year-old should provide nice depth at both power forward and center.

The Pistons have also now acquired four members of last year’s Bucks – Tony Snell, Thon Maker, Tim Frazier and now Wood.

Knicks: Reggie Bullock has spine injury

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Reggie Bullock had his agreed-upon salary cut by more than half with the Knicks. He’ll reportedly miss at least a month of the regular season.

All because of a mysterious health issue.

The Knicks have finally disclosed what’s happening.

Knicks release:

Reggie Bullock underwent successful surgery today at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York for a cervical disc herniation. The team will plan to provide an update on his rehab and progress around the start of training camp.

Bullock is a good shooter from the wing. New York could use him. Many teams could use him.

But Bullock must get healthy first.

At this point, we probably shouldn’t expect much from him any time soon. The best indication: how eagerly his agent praised the Knicks for their handling of this situation. Again, Bullock settled for less than half his initially agreed-upon salary.

Report: Suns signing Cheick Diallo to two-year contract

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The Suns went old in the draft, picking 23-year-old Cameron Johnson at No. 11.

Phoenix will go younger in free agency with 22-year-old Cheick Diallo.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Barring another move, the Suns have only the minimum available. Diallo will get $1,678,854 next season and $1,824,003 the following season.

The No. 33 pick in the 2016 draft, Diallo worked his way into the low end of the rotation during his three years with the Pelicans. He’s a hustle big, committed rebounder and athletic player. But at 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, he’s not strong enough to bang with most centers. His skill level is low for power forward.

Phoenix will stick him behind Deandre Ayton, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky in the frontcourt. Diallo might receive situation minutes, but he must develop further to hold staying power.