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One bad stretch drops Pacers in loss to Thunder 107-99

Another winnable game slipped through the grasp of the Indiana Pacers due to a single stretch of scoreless offense, dropping them to nine straight losses on the road, splitting the season series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Similar to most of those road losses, the effort was there, but the inability to put together a full 48-minute game ended up costing them.

Tonight’s collapse came in the form of being on the wrong side of a 24-0 run, the longest such run in the NBA this season. It took just six and a half scoreless minutes to completely Wholesale nba jerseys
turn the game on its head, canceling out a solid first half in which the Pacers had built a double figure lead.

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The ability to get there makes this collapse all that more frustrating. The Pacers outscored Oklahoma City 27-16 in the second quarter, bouncing back from allowing a 6-0 run to close the first, building an eight point point lead with 2:45 remaining in the second. The Thunder scored the next four, casting feelings of déjà vu as the half neared, but Indiana pushed back, scoring the final five of the half to push ahead by nine.

Getting the game to double figures on a pair of Myles Turner jumpers appeared to be a good omen out of the break, but the failure to corral a Steven Adams offensive rebound put it back to single digits. The score stood frozen at 58-50 for two and a half minutes before another Adams offensive putback kickstarted the Thunder, allowing them to score on their next five possessions, including four from three point range.

Oklahoma City made it a double figure game when following a tough call on a strip by Wesley Matthews on Paul George, George drew another tough call on Matthews on an and one, completing a four point play after Matthews drew a technical foul, completing the 24-0 run.

As bad as the run was, the Pacers still didn’t play themselves out of the game. Tyreke Evans stopped the run, allowing Indiana to show some life on the offensive end, outscoring the Thunder 11-4 to close the third quarter. Still, the damage was done. Even in closing the quarter on a positive note, the Pacers wasted four scoring opportunities.

The inability to complete possessions in the second half ultimately kept the Pacers from ever capitalizing on a comeback opportunity even when Bojan Bogdanovic made it a five point game with eight minutes left. The Thunder responded, going back up by double figures with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter.

Indiana proceeded to do their job on the defensive end, holding the Thunder scoreless for almost three minutes. Through that entire stretch, the Pacers mustered up just four points, three of those immediately given back on a George circus shot and one, pushing the lead back out beyond 10.

The Pacers are ahead of the Bulls so far almost 2 years into the teams’ rebuilding efforts

It’s coincidental that Jimmy Butler arrives in Chicago on Wednesday for his first trip with the 76ers because his June 2017 trade signaled the start of the Bulls’ full rebuild.

On Tuesday, the Bulls faced a comparison point with the Pacers, who traded their franchise superstar, Paul George, just two weeks after the Bulls traded Butler.

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In fact, only two players — Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young — remain from the Pacers team that went 42-40 in the season before they traded George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. After the trade, they went 48-34 last season and took a 41-23 record into Wednesday’s matchup to rank third in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls went 41-41 in the season before they dealt Butler. Similar to the Pacers’ rebuild, only three players remain from that team — Cristiano Felicio, Robin Lopez and the injured Denzel Valentine.

Their 27-55 finish last season led to the draft pick of Wendell Carter Jr., another player the Bulls hope they hit on to try to advance the rebuild. They’ve also since traded for Otto Porter Jr.

Oladipo took the kind of jump, to third-team All-NBA, the Bulls are hoping to see from Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine.

Furthermore, the Pacers’ shrewd acquisitions of Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Tyreke Evans have helped them keep afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race despite Oladipo’s season-ending ruptured right quadriceps tendon and surgery. Sabonis missed his fourth straight game Tuesday because of a sprained left ankle.

When Oladipo returns, the Pacers hope to move from contender to championship challenger, although several players are headed for free agency and would need to be re-signed.

“This is I think one of the remarkable teams in our league right now,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “To be down Sabonis, who is almost unguardable, and to be down Oladipo and to play competitive basketball and be near the top of the East is unbelievable.”

Boylen heaped praise on Bogdanovic, calling him “as good a wing as there is in the league,” and said he’s not surprised where the Pacers are.

“This is a tough franchise. I worked here,” Boylen said of his assistant coaching stint under coach Frank Vogel. “They instill toughness in guys. It’s a tough city. It’s a good city. And they like good basketball. It’s Indiana. There is something to that. It’s not just fairy dust. This is a basketball place.”

With the multiple free agents they signed following their trade of George, the Pacers stayed competitive. They’ve added T.J. Leaf and Aaron Holiday through the draft.

The Bulls bottomed out following their trade of Butler and plan to build through draft picks and now around Porter.

Insider: Homecourt looms large for Pacers as season series with Celtics comes to a head

“It’s getting bigger, of course,” said Bojan Bogdanovic, who led the Pacers with 28 points in Wednesday’s 107-99 loss at the Oklahoma City Thunder. “We are playing pretty good basketball at home the last month. We are struggling playing away.”

The scoring droughts occurred even before losing Oladipo to a season-ending knee injury Jan. 23, but it has become more pronounced during nine consecutive cheap nba jerseys china
road losses for the Pacers. They haven’t won away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse since Feb. 23.
When the opponent makes adjustments at halftime, such as when the Denver Nuggets stopped switching 1-5 on defense, the Pacers haven’t countered the countermoves.

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By the time the Pacers shake that deer-in-the-headlights reaction, any lead they have evaporates. If it’s a competitive contest, it quickly turns one-sided.

The numbers don’t lie about their offensive slow down:

>> Before Oladipo’s injury, the Pacers actually scored better on the road at 110.4 points per game compared with 107.6 at home. They also shot better at 49.2 percent (vs. 46.8) and 38.4 percent from 3 (vs. 36.5). They were 14-9 and this includes the 11 games missed by Oladipo before the new year with knee soreness.

What the hell happened to the Chicago Bulls?

What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” said Chicago Bulls executive vice president John Paxson on 22 June 2017, the night of the NBA draft, after the team had just traded three-time All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. “We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster. We’re going to do it with young players we believe can play a system [head coach] Fred [Hoiberg] is comfortable with.”

In exchange for Butler, the Bulls acquired guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, as well as Lauri Markkanen, whom the Timberwolves had just selected with the No 7 overall pick. In a sense, the trade provided some much-needed closure to the Tom Thibodeau era, though the coach had moved on cheap nba jerseys
from the club a season earlier. At a point, just before Butler’s arrival in Chicago, the Bulls saw themselves on the verge of returning to the NBA finals for the first time since the 1990s with a team, loaded with potential and helmed by hometown talisman Derrick Rose, that would be undone by in-fighting and injuries. It was time to move on to bigger and better things. A new rebuild had begun.

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Eighteen months later, and the Bulls aren’t so much a team as they are a chaos vessel composed of men in their twenties who, at least in theory, are good basketball players.

Earlier this month, Chicago endured an embarrassing 133-77 loss at home to the Boston Celtics. The Bulls struggled on both sides of the ball, shooting an abysmal 38% from the field while allowing the Celtics to rain down 22 three-pointers. The losing margin of 56 points was the worst in the franchise’s 52-year history. Sadly for Bulls players and coaches – as well as basketball fans, generally – the game wasn’t an outlier. Through the season’s first 31 games, the team is an NBA-worst 7-24, with six of those losses decided by more than 25 points.

This was supposed to be year the team started to take shape. Instead, it’s on track to be the Bulls’ worst since the 1999-00 season, a team that happened to include the recently dismissed Hoiberg as a player. After winning just 27 games last season, which included play so bad that the league suspected they were trying to tank in hopes of landing a top draft pick, the team’s front office made a series of surprisingly aggressive off-season moves. In June, they used the seventh and 22nd picks in the draft to land Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr and Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison. The following month they signed Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40m deal and matched the four-year, $78m offer sheet LaVine signed with the Sacramento Kings.

March Madness guide: NCAA Tournament top teams, stars, matchups, Cinderellas and more

The NCAA Tournament somehow seems to be getting better every year, almost as if each bracket is extending from the previous one.

Last year was one of the maddest of Marches, starting with Maryland-Baltimore County becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a 1 — poor Virginia — to Loyola-Chicago’s taking Sister Jean all the way to the Final Four.

Surely it can’t get any better, right? Don’t bet against it.

To get you ready for what’s sure to be another memorable March — well, after the first two First Four games — we’ve got a rundown of some things to look for:

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Top teams
Duke. No. 1 overall seed is knocking down its 3s, everyone else could be playing for second.

Virginia. Still plays great D, has a guy named Guy who’s a star and redemption on its mind after last year’s early flameout.

North Carolina. Ol’ Roy has the type of team that could win another national title.

Gonzaga. The Zags may have more talent than the national title-game team of two years ago. They also have Killian Tillie back.

Michigan State. Sparty won the difficult Big Ten tournament and March is Izzo time.

Stars
Zion Williamson, Duke. More powerful than a locomotive, able to leap taller defenders with a single bound.

Markus Howard, Marquette. Like points? He’s got a lot of `em. Had 53 in one game this season, 40 in one half of another.

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga. Watched the 2017 national title game from the bench. Could be cutting down the nets this year.

The Bulls couldn’t hold onto the ball in Toronto

This game wasn’t fun to watch.

Against one of the best teams in the league in the Toronto Raptors, the Bulls were down down quickly and by halftime you could tell the final result. To make matters worse, after starting the game with no Zach LaVine or Otto Porter (and Kris Dunn also didn’t play), Lauri Markkanen left the game at halftime with an illness.

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There was a desperate run in the 2nd half where Chicago tried to make things interesting at and cut the deficit to ten, but the Raptors just kept making shots. With 4:28 left Serge Ibaka hit Wholesale nba jerseys
a jumper to make it 105-86 Toronto and it felt like the dagger. The final score looked respectable at 112-103 but this was a lopsided loss.

There are very few positives in this one. It was a balanced effort offensively as the Bulls had seven players score double digits. Wayne Selden and Shaq Harrison were the two leaders for the Bulls in terms of points with 20 and 15 respectively. From the field Chicago shot about average with a TS% of 54.3 and had 52 points in the paint. They struggled mightily from three-point land, however, shooting just 8 of 23 (34.8%).

One thing which stood out, and not in a good way, were the turnovers. The Bulls gave possession away 18 times and although Toronto had 15 of their own, Chicago allowed it to turn into points on the other end. The Raptors scored 25 points off the Bulls mistakes and it played a part in the 24-12 advantage in fast break points.

Rockets’ Chris Paul feels ‘great’ after back-to-back

Rockets guard Chris Paul had not played both games of a back-to-back since returning from his strained hamstring Jan. 27, sitting out the second game in as many nights Feb. 2.

He had played the second game in as many nights Dec. 20, cheap nba jerseys from china
the game he was hurt against the Heat. But after completing another back-to-back against the Heat on Thursday, he said he felt “great.”

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“Great. It felt cool. I felt great,” Paul said after Thursday’s game. “We could play tomorrow if they want to.”

Paul struggled through much of Thursday’s game, but finished strong, hitting four free throws and the win-clinching jump shot down the stretch.

“It was key for us,” Rockets guard James Harden said of Paul’s finish. “That was the winning part of the game. I put the ball in his hands, he made some foul shots and big-time foul shots, That’s what we need. He was confident. He came up clutch for us. Big-time shots.”

This is the Jimmy Butler the Sixers need to make deep playoff push

A little rest and a taste of spring did a lot for Jimmy Butler.

Butler had 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists while playing with the type of assertiveness coach Brett Brown says the 76ers need from him in Philadelphia’s 123-114 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

Joel Embiid added 21 points and 17 rebounds and made some big plays on both ends of the court late in the fourth quarter for the 76ers, who won their third in a row to pull even with idle Indiana for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia holds the tiebreaker with the Pacers and is trying to maintain hold of home court in a first-round playoff series, something Brown said he coveted before the contest. Fifth-seeded Boston is two games behind the 76ers and Pacers.

In order to secure home court and go deep in the playoffs, Brown knows he’ll need Butler to play the way he did against the Kings.

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“He was our bell ringer,” Brown said. “We will not be as good as we can be without him playing the way he played tonight.”

Butler rested in Philadelphia’s last game, cheap nhl jerseys
a 106-99 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday. And he felt even more refreshed by Friday’s weather in Philly, which reached 75 degrees.

“That’s all it takes,” Butler said. “Rest and good weather. It makes my knees not ache.”

And it’s only going to warm up as the postseason draws near, a great sign for 76ers fans.

“The snow is gone,” Butler said. “We’re good. We’re ready to rock.”

Tobias Harris and JJ Redick each added 19 points and Ben Simmons contributed 18 for the 76ers.

Harrison Barnes and De’Aaron Fox had 16 points apiece for Sacramento, which lost its third in a row and seventh in the last nine to further hurt its playoff push. The Kings, who last made the postseason in 2006, entered ninth in the West, five games behind the Clippers.

“We’re playing hard, we’re playing the right way, we’re playing together,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “The wins are going to come.”

LeBron James ‘Activated’ in Lakers’ Comeback Win Over Rockets

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers described last weekend’s N.B.A. All-Star break as an opportunity for a much-needed reset, with the hope that they could ultimately make a playoff push after spending a few days apart. None of it sounded very convincing.

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But when the team reconvened for practice on Wednesday morning, LeBron James said his level of intensity had been “activated,” as if he were a superhero cheap nba jerseys who had flipped a switch. He does not usually activate himself this early in the season, he said, but the Lakers need all of him now — in large part because they had lost so much ground when he was sidelined for about a month with a groin injury.

“We would have loved to have had success when I was out, but we didn’t, so this is where we are right now,” James said.

And when asked how he would elevate the play of his younger teammates, he put it simply: “We don’t have a choice.”

Predicting the 2024 NBA All-Star Class

The NBA is in tremendous shape. If you need proof of that, we’ll suggest two places to look.

For starters, soak up every second of All-Star Weekend 2019. This is a superstars’ league, after all, so you would be remiss not to see its largest contingent of star power.

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But you’ll also want to glance in our crystal ball for a glimpse cheap nba jerseys china
into the All-Star future—specifically, the 2024 midseason classic.

That’s a ton of time in basketball years. Flash back to the 2014 All-Star Game, for instance, and you’ll find the likes of Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard and Joe Johnson. You’ll see a decent number of present stars, too—LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and James Harden all had starting spots—but the changes are significant.

By weighing past production with future potential, we’ll attempt to predict how the aging process will predict our latest batch of ballers. Youngsters, for instance, could get a lift for additional experience, while older players who depend on athleticism might take a serious hit.

For simplicity’s sake, our player pool is only as deep as the current NBA’s. In other words, if you find yourself wondering why Zion Williamson didn’t make the cut, you have your answer.

Got it? Good. Let’s go time-traveling.