Tag Archives: Kevin Love

BULLet Points: Bulls deliver completely empty signature victory

The Bulls technically aren’t eliminated until they lose another game or Indiana wins one, so Saturday night’s matchup with LeBron James and the Cavaliers still mattered. As is often the case, the Bulls brought their A-game for LeBron and co., pulling out an impressive 105-102 victory. Of course, it’s far too little, too late, so plenty of Bulls fans are just annoyed by this type of performance. Let’s take a look at how they did it.

  • The Spring of Cristiano Felicio continues. Felicio was 7/7 with 16 points, five rebounds, and two blocks in 23 minutes. He provided a real defensive presence and was perfect from the field, slamming down several dunks. Fred Hoiberg rightfully rode Cristiano down the stretch, as he played nearly the entire fourth quarter. The Bulls were +12 in Felicio’s minutes and -9 in Pau Gasol‘s.
  • The Bulls’ success with Felicio in the game is classic addition by subtraction. Pau puts up gaudy rebounding and block numbers that largely amount to empty calories. His slowness getting back and moving defensively sink the unit. His offensive production is overvalued as his post-ups slow down the flow and he takes a high percentage of long mid-range shots. Felicio does all the little things defensively and stays out of the way for the most part on the other end. The Bulls will be a better team without Pau in the starting lineup.
  • Good news! The Bulls have the rights to Cristiano Felicio next season for under $900,000, making the 23-year-old Brazilian a legitimate find. The Bulls will also have matching rights after next year, so Felicio will be on the team for a long time if things go well. A fun silver lining to a season that’s been anything but.
  • Bobby Portis and Felicio made up the frontcourt for almost the entirety of the fourth quarter comeback. The Cavs led 82-79 after three, but the Bulls stormed ahead to a double-digit lead before a late flurry from LeBron James made things interesting.
  • Ultimately, the James-Kevin Love frontcourt didn’t get the job done, as Tyronn Lue elected to go small for that stretch. Tristan Thompson never came in throughout the Bulls’ onslaught, and I wonder if that would’ve stopped the bleeding.
  • Both LeBron and Love were phenomenal, though. James finished with 33 points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes. He nearly willed the Cavs all the way back at the end, drilling multiple three-pointers at critical times. He was 4/5 from distance on the night, a far cry from his 30.2% clip on the season. Kevin Love notched 20 points and 13 boards.
  • Jimmy Butler turned it up late to secure victory. He finished with 21 points, six boards, and three steals. Derrick Rose had a tough night, adding only 10 points while posting a -20 in 32 minutes.
  • Nikola Mirotic tallied 13 points and six rebounds in only 17 minutes. He’s really started to look like a valuable player since coming back from his appendicitis. He’s shot 43.7% on threes since the All-Star break and is up to 38.2% overall.
  • J.R. Smith was lights out, scoring 24 points with seven three pointers. He’s quietly been one of the most prolific three point shooters in NBA history, and some nights he’s just going to roast you from deep. The Bulls are lucky J.R.’s hot shooting didn’t sink them.
  • Mike Dunleavy still looks like a corpse, which is unfortunate.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to New Orleans tomorrow night.
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BULLet Points: Balanced Bulls attack spoils Tyronn Lue’s head coaching debut

After dropping two in a row, including an ugly loss Friday night in Boston, the Bulls went into Cleveland as big underdogs. With Tyronn Lue taking over for recently fired head coach David Blatt, the Cavs were expected to reassert their dominance in a comfortable double-digit victory over the Bulls. Instead, Chicago pulled out an impressive 96-83 win on ABC primetime.

  • Derrick Rose continued to play in all-out attack mode. While he didn’t convert as efficiently as he has been lately, Rose got himself plenty of good looks that helped open the floor for the rest of the team. He finished 5/21 with 12 points, but he played much better than his stats.
  • Jimmy Butler had another solid performance, notching his customary 20 points and adding nine rebounds. He’s been a beast on the glass lately, always finding ways to contribute outside just scoring. Butler also did a great job on LeBron James, who struggled mightily when guarded by Jimmy but excelled otherwise. James finished with 26-13-9, but he shot poorly and padded his stats when it was too late to count.
  • Pau Gasol was the Bulls MVP in this one. He posted 25 points on 11/16 shooting along with 10 rebounds and six assists. Even more importantly, Gasol showed more effort boxing out, playing help defense, and executing offensively. He’s still going to miss a few rotations and throw away a few lazy passes each game, but the Bulls can be a lot better when Gasol holds himself to a higher standard.
  • For the first time in a couple weeks, Nikola Mirotic showed some confidence. He drilled three three pointers and added 17 big points in 25 minutes. The Bulls need Mirotic to play like this more consistently; he’s too talented to bury in the rotation. Niko’s ability to drill long-range shots, draw fouls anywhere on the floor, and make plays with the ball in his hand is highly rare for a big man.
  • Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were complete nonfactors in this game, though Irving is still working his way back from knee surgery. Love only grabbed five rebounds and was ineffective offensively outside the post. It’ll be interesting to see how Tyronn Lue works Love into the offense more, likely with touches at the elbow. It will be a process, but the Cavs also don’t have a ton of time to make sweeping changes.
  • Coming up: the Bulls take on a hobbled Miami Heat team tonight.

Free Agency Bonanza Podcast with Jake Weiner & Jeff Berest

(D)Roses and Thorns contributors Jake Weiner and Jeff Berest connected to talk about the 76ers recent moves and a whole lot about all the free agency news. Including Danny Green, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, Brandon Knight, Wes Matthews, Tyson Chandler, LaMarcus Aldridge and much more. And of course, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr. may have come up.

How Love’s Injury Impacts The Bulls

How Kevin Love’s injury impacts the Eastern Conference:

It is yet another tough day to be a Cleveland sports fan. The current state of affairs as it relates to NBA playoffs has experienced a monumental shift now that we are armed with the knowledge that Kevin Love will most likely be out for the rest of his first ever playoff run in addition to J.R. Smith being suspended for the Cavs next two playoff games. We have seen injuries plague many teams around the NBA this season, notably the Thunder, but this one may be the most devastating of them all, potentially snatching away a title from LeBron and his red hot Cavaliers team. There has been much more open dialogue about other teams remaining in the playoffs, and we will observe how these changes to the Cavs roster affects these teams, notably the Chicago Bulls.

Biggest beneficiary in the East: Chicago Bulls

This one seems almost too obvious of a choice to anyone who has been following the NBA recently. Chicago has now transcended into the most offensively talented team in their conference and their path to the NBA finals has certainly become a little clearer than it was just a few days ago. This is somewhat of a surprising notion for a Bulls team that has struggled to take care of the ball in addition to struggling in putting away a young, inexperienced, and less talented Bucks team. This is not to say that all the praise in the world should not go to Jason Kidd and his team for their ability to continually make life difficult for the Bulls offensively, which has helped Milwaukee quietly climb back into the series after a very impressive road win and fighting off elimination twice in a row. It has mainly been due to the Bulls inability to handle the Bucks defensive length and wingspan which has proven to be very effective in terms of contesting shots and creating turnovers. All things considered, the Bulls have been playing terrible recently by their standards, but I think 10 out of 10 people will tell you they will move on from their first round matchup, myself included. How poorly Chicago has been taking care of the ball is a major cause for concern and certainly won’t fly against their next potential playoff foe in the Cavs, who will be looking to get more easy transition buckets now that the offensive resources at their disposal have been significantly depleted. I am running under the assumption that the Bulls won’t drop two straight against the Bucks, including a final game at home, and that they quickly return to a closer version of their normal standard of play.

That being said, it is hard to argue that the Bulls don’t have a legitimate shot at dethroning the King in the playoffs if they advance to the next round. Throw in the fact that the Cavs are without another huge perimeter threat in J.R. Smith for their next two games and we can really see how daunting of a burden winning will be for LeBron and Uncle Drew. If the Cavs face the Bulls in the next round they are going to be in huge trouble, no question. If I’m Thibs I attack the main Cavs weakness, which is their newfound lack of three point shooting. I would take a page out of Jason Kidd’s playbook and counter Irving defensively with someone who is bigger and has a longer wingspan to contest outside shots (Jimmy Butler). Not only does it decrease Irving’s chances of getting hot from long range as he has demonstrated very proficiently thus far in the playoffs, but it also forces him to drive into a very defensively sound group of Chicago bigs that in all likelihood will force him to give the ball up to other teammates, a gamble that I am sure the Bulls would love to take. I think that the Bulls plan offensively is rather simple as well: play keep away from LeBron. The Bulls are in a favorable position offensively because of the multitude of scorers that they have. The Cavs will have a tough time containing all the scoring threats that the Bulls have. Whether it’s making a determined effort to get the ball to Gasol down low, feeding Butler or Mirotic as they run off ball screens, or spacing the floor to create driving lanes for Rose to get to the basket; there are many offensive variations that Coach Thibodeau can run depending on how LeBron is positioned defensively. Being able to properly react to different defensive schemes thrown at them can be a huge advantage for the Bulls. This definitely won’t be a cakewalk for them since their first two games are on the road and the Cavs still have the best player in the world who may decide to bear the whole team burden on himself, but there are definitely tactical individual matchups to be exploited successfully both offensively and defensively.
With the Hawks coming back to Earth after their incredible regular season and an up and down Wizards team still standing in the East, the Bulls can see a glimpse of a coveted NBA Finals appearance if they can clear the Cavaliers hurdle. That potential matchup will be close if these two teams face off against each other because we always seem to underestimate LeBron’s ability to bring the best out of anyone he plays with, but the Bulls know that if they revert to their consistent style of play they have shown this season, then they have a very realistic shot of making a deep run. However, in the short term they need to address their turnover issues and move the ball better to utilize all the offensive potential that they have on their roster so they can begin to trend towards the right direction. That being said, I would be much more optimistic about what the future holds based on the recent developments if I were a Bulls fan. It will be fascinating to watch.

Midseason Love/Hate, Part 1

We are closing in on the NBA All-Star break and so far this has been a pretty thrilling regular season, especially if you’re only watching the Western Conference. There have already been so many great moments this year. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and we’ve seen Clippers owner Steve Ballmer dance to Fergie courtside during a game. So I thought I’d put together a completely biased and objective list of the things I love and hate about each team this year with some refined commentary.

Atlanta Hawks

Love: DeMarre Carroll as “the other guy” in the Hawks starting five

The Hawks are the biggest surprise of this season and have been flat out amazing, evidenced by their 19 game win streak. 4/5 of their starters (Teague, Korver, Millsap, Horford) are receiving the bulk of the credit, albeit very well deserved. But their fifth option DeMarre Carroll is the type of glue guy every team needs; he’s scrappy as hell, plays tough defense, and can hit a few timely three pointers. Many of his teammates will be up in New York for the upcoming All-Star game, but without DeMarre the Hawks certainly wouldn’t have the best record in the East.

Hate: People rebranding the Hawks as “Spurs-East”

Yes, Mike Budenholzer used to coach for Gregg Popovich. And yes, the Hawks do play a team oriented style of basketball that echoes former Spurs teams. But that’s not a good enough reason to marginalize what the Hawks have done this season by essentially saying they’re only good because they are mimicking the Spurs. If it was that easy every team would hire Gregg Popovich assistants. A-Town down!

Boston Celtics

Love: Brad Stevens trying to win despite his revolving door of a roster

Coach Stevens is doing his best despite Danny Ainge cleaning house; he has managed to get his team to keep playing hard and is occasionally stealing some games from contending opponents. Instead of just playing young guys who can gain valuable experience, he’s decided to implant Brandon Bass in the starting lineup and is now playing Tayshaun Prince 20 plus minutes a night off the bench. These lineups suggest one of two things; either he’s extremely competitive and hates losing, or he desperately wants to go back to coaching college ball.

Hate: Danny Ainge trading Rajon Rondo to the Mavs for some magic beans

I’m not mad at Danny for taking a first round pick and Brandan Wright (who was traded for two second round picks) in exchange for Rondo. But what the hell was he waiting for? Good GM’s don’t wait until their greatest asset is at its lowest possible value and then pull the trigger. He couldn’t have possibly seen the Celtics as a playoff contender entering this season, and if he did he gave up on that idea pretty early. Also if I’m a Western Conference team and I see the Mavs got Rondo for basically nothing, I’m genuinely going to be pretty peeved at Danny Ainge for affecting the West playoff race. It’s like when a guy at the bottom of your fantasy league trades one of their best players because they are giving up on the season. Danny Ainge is that guy, and we all hate those guys.

Brooklyn Nets

Love: Nets having a white player from Duke participate in the Slam Dunk Contest

That is a phrase I never thought I would say.

Hate: Watching the sad end to Kevin Garnett

It’s a shame KG has to go out like this. He’s one of the best at his position of all-time and to play on this pitiful Nets team is kind of tainting his statuesque career. Kevin Garnett has played so long I honestly can’t even remember his golden years in Minnesota when he was dominant every time he took the floor. The end to KG has similar overtones to Hakeem Olajuwon ending his career in Toronto, and as Mays Gilliam says “that ain’t right!”

Charlotte Hornets

Love: the honeycomb print on the home floor

Honestly, it’s pretty stupid and seems like something a DII college team might do. But for some reason I like that they embraced returning as the Hornets to its fullest extent. When is Time Warner Cable Arena hosting “Baron Davis Night” or “Larry Johnson Night” this year?

Hate: Panic! We’re running out of Lance Stephenson memes

The Lance “blowing air” meme has been pretty strong, one of the greats if you ask me. But it’s kind of a played idea at this point. Lance is going down in flames as a Hornet and he’s not even starting anymore. Lance for the love of god don’t leave us hanging like this, please come up with some new material. In case you didn’t see, he is taking fan suggestions for his next on court antics. Forward all submissions to ConeyIslandKilla6969@hotmail.com.

Chicago Bulls

Love: Renaissance of Pau Gasol

Pau has been a revelation this year and has really turned the Bulls into a true title contender; if they can stay healthy. It’s rare you see a player like Pau who ages, switches teams, and then seemingly gets better. I also think he’s in some silent game of chicken with his younger brother Marc and doesn’t yet want to relinquish the title of “The Best Gasol”. Pau has given the Bulls something that has been lacking in years past, a reliable post presence who the offense can play through in the halfcourt. With Pau commanding double teams it opens up the offense even more for Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. The one downside however is his defensive skill. It’s hard to overlook his lack of defense, but the offense he brings should override the fact that he is a horrific defender.

Hate: Doug McDermott’s trade value

I know Dougie McBucket’s injury has prohibited us from making a solid conclusion about what type of player he’s going to become, but as of now that draft night trade has a bad stench to it. I believe his ceiling as a player is as a good scoring threat off the bench, I’m not sure that warranted trading the 16th (Jusuf Nurkic!) and 19th (Gary Harris) overall picks for him. Due to injury this season the Bulls are forced to play guys like Tony Snell, Kirk Hinrich, and E’twaun Moore major minutes. The team could use an injection talent off the bench not named Nikola Mirotic. Trading for McDermott only gave away the potential to add another young player to the roster.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Love: LeBron as player/GM

The fact that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and actual GM David Griffin consult LeBron on all transactions is kind of ridiculous, regardless of the fact that LeBron is the best player on the planet. I feel like he’s always threatening to just opt of out his contract this year, and so David Griffin has to ship off every draft pick he has for the next decade in order to make LeBron happy. Of course trading two first rounders for Timofey Mozgov went down because LeBron doesn’t really care how the Cavs end up in five years. GM LeBron might actually be best for the Cavs anyway, at least he didn’t draft Anthony Bennett. Anything he does from here on out is an upgrade from the previous GM.

Hate: David Blatt not using Kevin Love correctly

Attention David Blatt! Kevin Love is more than a three point shooter! Stop sticking him in the corner and do some actual coaching. I hope trading future star Andrew Wiggins for a glorified three point shooter was not the initial plan when they acquired Love.

Dallas Mavericks

Love: Dirk Nowitzki is still basically unguardable

Dirk is the first of his kind, he’s the “Model-T” of European big men who can shoot from deep and who also have post skills. He has made the Mavs relevant for almost two decades, including this season, and I rarely show affection to anything German so this declaration has some weight to it. Even after all the additions of Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons, and Tyson Chandler, if the Mavericks make any noise in the playoffs it will undoubtedly be because of Dirk and that silky smooth jumper.

Hate: decline of the old rambunctious Mark Cuban

Mark, please yell at a ref or accost the league in some way and get fined. We want the old Cubes! Make it rain in the commissioner’s office and let Adam Silver know that those hundred dollar bills are just “fun coupons” and you won’t ever stop being you.

Denver Nuggets

Love: Jusuf Nurkic smack talk

When you’re a rookie and you’re smack talking and jawing at Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins, and Marc Gasol without any level respect for those guys who are more accomplished than you’ll likely ever be; that takes some guts and deserves a tip of the cap. Even though it’s stupid and unwarranted, I love him for that. I’m making odds on who the first guy to throw a punch at Jusuf in response is. Highest odds are DeMarcus Cousins (revenge) 2-1, JaVale McGee (accidentally) 9-2, and if you’re looking for longer odds Ron Artest (psychopath) 5000-1.

Hate: Ty Lawson’s inability to use Uber

Really Ty? Two DUI’s? C’mon dawg you make millions of dollars a year, shell out a couple bucks for an Uber or call Danilo Gallinari to come pick you up, he’s probably available. Professional athletes receiving DUI’s has almost become a regularity; how teams are not more proactive about this is outrageous. I realize the large majority of this problem is the personal responsibility of the athlete, but teams need to babysit these guys or have harsher penalties. Unfortunately it’s probably going to take someone’s untimely death before the problem is finally addressed further. Sorry that I had to be a little morose to prove a point.

Detroit Pistons

Love: Stan Van Gundy’s balls for waiving Josh Smith

It definitely must have been a tough sell for SVG to march into the owner’s office and say “Hey, so I want to cut Josh even though we still owe him $26 million. You cool with that?” If this move didn’t work and the Pistons ended up worse, I’m not sure how Stan Van would’ve survived. This is the ultimate case of addition by subtraction. I can’t even recall a similar situation where the release of one player created such an upturn in wins. Maybe when Brad Pitt traded Carlos Pena in “Moneyball”?

Hate: Brandon Jenning’s Achilles tendon for crapping out on him

As if sports in Detroit couldn’t get worse. We’re still relatively fresh off the NFL refs screwing over the Lions. The Pistons uptick and winning ways were a silver lining to that horrific Lions loss. Jennings going down for the season is really unfortunate because the Pistons were once again becoming a great team to watch. Brandon Jennings’ game was flourishing without Josh Smith on the floor dominating the ball, and he was directly contributing to the poor man’s “twin towers” Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond wreaking havoc on opponents. At this point, it’s hard not to feel bad for the city of Detroit.

Golden State Warriors

Love: Klay Thompson in 24/7 heat check mode

The kid is straight fire. Every time he launches a three and it doesn’t go in I think my eyes are playing a trick on me. Also he scored 37 points in one freakin’ quarter. I’ve played rec league basketball for over 15 years and I’ve yet to eclipse 30 points in an entire game. Just for fun, here are a couple names of players drafted over Klay Thompson: Derrick Williams, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Jimmer Fredette. Those guys could go 4 vs. 1 with Klay and they’d lose.

Hate: Andrew Bogut’s health

The Warriors are a really exciting team to root for, but I’m afraid without a healthy Andrew Bogut they won’t have a shot at the title. It’s entirely possible they can win without him, but it will be a hell of a lot easier with him in the on the hardwood. They need his defensive presence against dominant frontcourt teams like the Grizzlies; his defense will need to hold teams close during the few games that Steph and Klay go cold.