Nikola Mirotic scores 28 as Bulls edge Rockets 103-100

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Chicago Bulls overcame injuries and a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Houston Rockets and improve their chances of sneaking into the playoffs.

Nikola Mirotic scored 28 points and Jimmy Butler added 21 to lead the Bulls to a 103-100 road win Thursday night.

In a pivotal game for two teams fighting for the final playoff spots in their respective conferences, the Bulls were fueled by a strong fourth quarter in which they outscored the Rockets 32-20. Chicago entered the fourth facing a nine-point deficit, but was able to overcome it thanks to hot shooting from Mirotic.

“It was a pretty gutty effort by our guys,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I hope this is something we can build off of.”

The Bulls won their second consecutive game following a four-game skid. After Thursday’s win, Chicago trails Indiana by one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, thanks to a Pacers loss to Orlando on Thursday night.

Chicago holds the tiebreaker over Indiana.

Trevor Ariza attempted a tying 3 at the buzzer, but it rimmed out and Chicago held on.

Data curated by PointAfter

Houston fell to 37-39, dropping a half-game behind Utah and Dallas, who are tied for the seventh and eighth seeds in the West.

“Our problem has been maintaining what works,” Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “This was a team on the ropes. They put in their second-unit guys and they gave them a huge spark.”

Chicago’s bench outscored Houston’s 67-31.

James Harden led Houston with 24 points and eight assists, Patrick Beverley had a career-high 22 points, and Michael Beasley added 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

“It’s very frustrating, especially in games where we should win,” Harden said of Houston’s continued inconsistency. “We’ve got to figure it out.”

Bobby Portis started at power forward for Chicago in place of Taj Gibson, who was sidelined by a broken rib with no clear timetable for a return. Additionally, Derrick Rose (hyperextended left elbow) was limited to 12 minutes and did not play in the second half.

“I made the decision for him that it wasn’t worth it,” Hoiberg said. “He was out there playing with one arm.”

Doug McDermott handled the bulk of the minutes in Rose’s absence, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

The Bulls kept pace with the Rockets in the first half, thanks in large part to 21 first-half points from Mirotic. After scoring a team season-high 15 points in the second quarter of Tuesday’s win over Indiana, Mirotic dropped 14 second-quarter points on Houston, hitting four of five 3s.

“He’s shooting with no conscience,” Rose said of Mirotic. “He was huge for us.”

Houston had a chance to take a lead into halftime, but a 30-foot attempt from Harden clanked off the front of the rim, and the score was tied at 52 at the break.

Pau Gasol had 12 points and 10 rebounds to become the 11th player in NBA history to have 500 career double-doubles.

“It’s pretty amazing when I think about it, and it’s really special to me,” Gasol said. “I’m just humbled and thankful that I’ve been able to play at this level for so long.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: Gibson will be reevaluated Friday, Hoiberg said. Gibson, who tried to play through the injury Tuesday for 10 minutes in Indiana, insisted he will return this season. … Rose (elbow) wore a thick sleeve and made several trips to the locker room for treatment.

Rockets: Houston fell to 23-35 when allowing 100 or more points. … Houston missed 16 of 25 3-point attempts, including five of seven misses from Harden. … Houston dominated Chicago in the paint, outscoring the Bulls 48-30 from close range. … Clint Capela had eight points and five rebounds off the bench.

ROSE’S ELBOW

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said the discomfort in his elbow included limited flexibility and a sharp pinch when the arm is extended. He said he has undergone X-rays, which were negative, but said there’s a chance an MRI might be the next step beyond his continued treatment. Rose was limited to less than 12 minutes on Thursday night and was unable to play in the second half.

“I tried to give it my all while I was out there, but it’s really sore,” Rose said. “I need to get treatment and try to get back on the court as soon as possible.”

HARDEN’S MARCH

Harden finished March with 457 points, 152 assists and 102 rebounds. Per game, he averaged 28.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists. According to statistics from the Rockets provided by the Elias Sports Bureau, Harden is the first player to record at least 450 points, 150 assists and 100 rebounds in a single month since Oscar Robertson did it in December of 1967.

90’s THROWBACK THURSDAY

The Rockets hosted a 90’s Throwback Thursday night, which featured a halftime performance from hip-hop group Tag Team, performing their 1993 hit, “Whoomp! (There It Is).” Additionally, Houston’s starting lineup was announced by Tim Kitzrow, who rose to prominence in the 90’s with his voice contributions to the video game, NBA Jam.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.

Reports: Suns push for Jarred Vanderbilt derailed Bojan Bogdanovic trade

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Utah traded Bojan Bogdanovic not to one of the contenders pushing for him — Phoenix, Miami, even the Lakers — but to rebuilding Detroit. It’s a move that caught the NBA off guard.

News has come out now that part of what hung up the Suns’ effort to land Bogdanovic was their push to make promising young forward Jarred Vanderbilt — who the Jazz got from the Timberwolves in the Rudy Gobert trade — as part of the deal. The well-connected John Gambardoro first had the report.

If the Suns had not pushed for Vanderbilt it doesn’t mean they would have landed Bogdanovic using a Jae Crowder-based package ( with another player, maybe Landry Shamet, and some picks). Reports have also suggested the draft package that was part of the Suns offer was not impressing the Jazz, so Utah moved on to a cost-cutting move rather than one where they took back more salary than they preferred.

The Pistons may decide to trade Bogdanovic again closer to the February deadline and maybe the Suns can get in the mix then. But for now, the Phoenix target is in the Motor City to start the season.

 

 

Knicks’ Leon Rose plays it safe with media, Mitchell trade: ‘We’re thrilled with where we are’

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Leon Rose continues to play it safe.

He’s played it safe with the New York media since he arrived — he doesn’t meet with them. Instead, he again turned this week to the MSG Network — owned by Knicks governor James Dolan — so he doesn’t have to face hard questions or defend decisions.

He also played it safe in the Donovan Mitchell trade talks, not going all-in to get the All-Star out of Utah. Mitchell is now in Cleveland and we will see over the course f the next 12-24 months if playing it safe was the right call. Here’s Rose’s explanation of the situation in that MSG interview (hat tip Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News).

“We went through that process and at the end of the day we made a decision to stay put. And we’re thrilled with where we are. Taking a look at the summer, we feel great about what transpired.”

As every GM does this time of year, Rose said he likes his team and its chances this season.

“One of our main goals has been to create internal stability. Signed RJ Barrett, first extension of a player since Charlie Ward. We retained Mitchell Robinson. He’s a player who has developed the last few years and we feel very fortunate that we were able to keep him. We got the No.1 point guard in free agency this summer in Jalen Brunson. So we feel really good about the summer.”

In the interview, Rose also defended Tom Thibodeau and his decisions as coach, despite rumors of him being on the hot seat. Rose said Thibs is not under pressure.

The Knicks should be better this season with Brunson, plus Barrett should take another step forward. New York’s problem is much of the East got better — Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington and others — and this roster likely still leaves the Knicks fighting to make the play-in.

Rose deserves credit for being patient, trying to build culture and foundation, and not just throwing Dolan’s money at an aging superstar. He hasn’t done anything stupid, which is a step forward in New York. But he also hasn’t done anything bold yet, he’s just played it safe.

At some point, Rose and the Knicks will have to push their chips in and make a bold, all-in move. But for now, they are playing it safe.