Associated Press

Robert Covington is in Karl-Anthony Towns’ ear and Minnesota’s defense is better

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Minnesota is 5-2 since they traded away Jimmy Butler, and the main reason is the defense is better. Much better. Over those seven games, the Timberwolves are allowing 100.9 points per 100 possessions, the third-best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

(For comparison, Philadelphia, the team that got Butler, has allowed 113.2 per 100 in those same seven games, but they are 5-2 because Butler has hit some big shots.)

What changed? It’s not just one thing, as Dane Moore breaks down well at Zone Coverage (with a lot of video evidence), but the key thing is Robert Covington — who came West in the trade along with Dario Saric — has been playing lockdown defense, flying all over that end of the court, and is in Karl-Anthony Towns‘ ear about defense.

Covington, who clearly has a budding bromance with Towns, says that it is now Towns’ job to be the head of the snake with him. He says he needs Towns to “be the guy communicating with him.” And he believes that will happen with time because he is going to hold his friend and teammate accountable.

“You have to tell ’em,” Covington said in the locker room after the Wolves Saturday night win. “You can’t sugar coat things. That’s one thing we had back in Philly and the same thing I’m bringing here. Tell guys if they f****** up that they f****** up.”

Every team needs a defensive leader who communicates. Ideally that is a big on the back line directing traffic, but it doesn’t have to be. Covington has taken on that role.

Minnesota is among the teams that generally drops its bigs against pick-and-rolls to protect the rim (they are not alone, the Bucks, Lakers, Jazz, and others do this as a primary defense). That works well, at least until they face a team with a center who can stretch the floor (Nikola Jokic in Denver, Nikola Vucevic in Orlando, Marc Gasol in Memphis) and then they can get burned. However, even in those situations you can see the improved communication on the Timberwolves defense and the steps they are making.

They also added depth. Dario Saric is not an elite defender but he’s better than Anthony Tolliver and Saric is getting those minutes now.

Minnesota is just playing freer and unburdened since the trade. The questions now are can they sustain a very good defense (there will be some regression, but how much), and can they climb out of that deep early-season hole and make the postseason.

Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron

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Are. You. Kidding. Me.

You are not going to see a better layup these playoffs than this one by Denver’s Jamal Murray, going around LeBron James near the end of the first half of Game 4.

Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.

Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.

Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell “sad, angry, disgusted” with Breonna Taylor decision

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NBA players — like large swaths of the United States — are shaking their heads at the decision not to prosecute the police sho shot Breonna Taylor in her home. That includes LeBron James, who said the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Now former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell has spoken out on the issue.

View this post on Instagram

We’re Sorry Breonna😔🤦🏾‍♂️

A post shared by Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) on

The hate and racism in too many of the responses to that Instagram post highlight the injustice and additional hurdles Black people in America have to clear every day.

Louisville has faced a night of protests and backlash to the decision by the grand jury, which included the two police officers getting shot (they both survived).

 

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109 (Miami leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0