Horford, Millsap lead Hawks past Bulls 120-105

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ATLANTA (AP) Al Horford thinks the Atlanta Hawks are finally showing how good they can be.

“Moving the ball, hustling on defense and trying to do it consistently – as a team I feel like we have some lapses in those areas,” Horford said. “When we’re able to be more consistent on the defensive end, we’re just a totally different team.”

Horford scored a season-high 33 points and had 10 rebounds, Paul Millsap added 18 points and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Chicago Bulls 120-105 on Saturday night.

Jimmy Butler scored 14 of his 27 points in the third quarter and Nikola Mirotic had 24 points for Chicago, but the Bulls ended a six-game win streak.

Mike Scott had 14 points and Dennis Schroder and Kyle Korver each scored 13 to help the Hawks lead throughout. Atlanta has won two straight after dropping three of four.

“We kind of get it going and then we lose a couple, that type of thing,” Horford said. “I think we need to just focus on the next game. We can’t look too far ahead. I feel like when we start having success then maybe we do that a little bit and then we get in trouble and lose a couple in a row.”

For the first time since beating Oklahoma City on Nov. 30, Atlanta finally got a signature win entering a three-day break.

The Hawks improved to 23-15 and are tied for the second-most victories in the Eastern Conference, but they haven’t been able to play consistently at the high level that pushed them to a No. 1 seed last season.

At least for one night, they did.

Atlanta led by 19 points in the second quarter on Scott’s 3-pointer and stayed up by 13 early in the third on Kent Bazemore‘s free throws.

“We got up and down, guys were running the floor, we rolled to the basket, got easy lobs and things like that,” Jeff Teague said after finishing with 12 points and six assists. “That’s how we have to play for us to be a good team.”

Thanks in part to Butler’s prolific third quarter, the Bulls went on a 22-11 run to pull within two on a pair of free throws by Derrick Rose at the 3:38 mark of the period, but the Hawks went back up by 17 on Schroder’s jumper with 9:20 left and the game essentially decided.

“For whatever reason, right now we’re coming out with more energy in the third quarter than we are in the first,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “That’s got to change. We’re giving up 30 regularly now in the first quarter. We have to find a way to stop that.”

Chicago dropped to 22-13.

TIP-INS

Bulls: F Joakim Noah didn’t make the trip, missing his ninth straight game with a left shoulder sprain, but the team hopes to get him back by Monday. “We’ll get him doing some live stuff tomorrow,” Hoiberg said. “Hopefully he’ll get through a full practice.” … The Bulls dropped to 6-8 on the road.

Hawks: Horford added six assists and four blocked shots. … F Thabo Sefolosha couldn’t play after falling during a win Thursday at Philadelphia and hurting his right wrist. Coach Mike Budenholzer described the injury as “a little bit of a problem” and hopes he won’t miss much time. … The Hawks improved to 13-7 at home.

DISCREPANCY AT THE LINE

Atlanta was called for 22 fouls. The Bulls were whistled just 10 times before Mirotic fouled Millsap on a three-point play to make 111-96 with 4:35 to go. Chicago outscored the Hawks 26-12 at the free-throw line.

 

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.