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Dwight Howard breaks record held by Wilt Chamberlain

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Dwight Howard breaks record held by Wilt Chamberlain

From Comcast SportsNet
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- With Dwight Howard getting fouled in record-setting fashion, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy finally just sat back in his chair and stopped barking out orders. He walked into the huddle during a timeout early in the first half Thursday night, and his assistants started bombarding him with the usual play-calling suggestions. Van Gundy could only laugh. "I'm looking at them like, We're not going to run a play. He's going to foul him,'" Van Gundy said. "What are we going to bother with diagraming a play? Make the free throw, play some defense." That about summed up this historic night. Howard broke Wilt Chamberlain's nearly 50-year-old NBA record for most free throw attempts in a game, making 21 of 39 in the Orlando Magic's 117-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors hacked Howard intentionally throughout, sending the notoriously poor shooter to the line early and often. Chamberlain, who Howard idolized growing up and used to have a photo clipping of the center in his Orlando locker, shot 34 for the Philadelphia Warriors against St. Louis on Feb. 22, 1962. Howard finished with 45 points and 23 rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points to propel the Magic to their third straight victory. It also marked the first time a player had at least 40 points and 20 rebounds since Shaquille O'Neal -- another poor free throw shooter -- had 48 points and 20 rebounds against the Celtics on March 1, 2003, according to STATS LLC. "I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn't care if I missed 30," Howard said. "I was still going to go up there and shoot the next one with confidence." Monta Ellis had 30 points and 11 assists, and David Lee added 26 points and 12 rebounds for the short-handed Warriors, playing without injured starters Stephen Curry and Dorell Wright and backup center Kwame Brown. All that combined to take the Hack-a-Howard routine to a whole new level. Howard had never shot more than 24 free throws in a game -- which he had four times previously -- and fouled so early. Certainly, nothing compared to the Warriors' ways. Howard eclipsed his old mark with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter, getting hacked and held intentionally at the end of each quarter with mixed results. If nothing else, Golden State rookie coach Mark Jackson's strategy slowed down the pace and refused to let the Magic's potent shooters find their rhythm. Howard tied Chamberlain's record when Andris Biedrins fouled him -- and fouled out -- with 7:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, making 1 of 2 to give the Magic a 93-92 lead. Howard has shot just below 60 percent at the line for his career and entered the game at just 42 percent this season. "It's amazing that he made 21," Magic guard J.J. Redick joked. Golden State almost managed an upset behind the tactic. Klay Thompson put the Warriors ahead 107-106 on a 3-pointer with a little less than 3 minutes remaining, only to see Howard respond on the other end quickly. Howard floated a hook shot and then made a free throw to put the Magic back in front by two. After Ellis made a runner to even the score, Howard grabbed an offensive rebound on the next possession and finished strong at the rim while getting fouled by Lee -- who also fouled out on the play. Howard made the free throw to complete a three-point conversion. Von Wafer finally sealed Orlando's victory with a 3-point with 36.9 seconds to play that stretched the Magic's lead to six, blowing a kiss to the crowd afterward. Jackson could only shake his head. "I can understand people thinking, Why?' But don't get caught up in the free throws," Jackson said. "Think about when we didn't foul him. It was dunks, hooks, at the rim. He's a great player. And he's a bad free throw shooter. Giving ourselves the best chance possible, we tried to mess up their rhythm, take their 3-point shooters out of it, which we did. They made plays." The undersized Warriors sent double-teams and traps at Howard and frustrated the All-Star center with fouls from the start. Jeremy Tyler intentionally fouled Howard with 8.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter, a tactic some teams utilize late in games with the center's well-documented struggles at the stripe, but rarely seen so early. Howard made 1 of 2. After scoring the first nine points of the game, Golden State relied on the cushion for most of the first half. Nate Robinson's running layup pushed the Warriors ahead 44-3, relying on a surprisingly strong defensive effort. And fouls. "A suggestion from one of my assistants was that we do it to Biedrins when he was in the game," Van Gundy said, breaking into his usual sarcastic remarks. "We weren't in the penalty. That could have been fun. We could've just walked up and down for a few minutes and see who makes the first free throw. But we could've just saved everybody and said, Let's let them shoot it at the same basket.'" That might've only prolonged the game, which was 2 hours, 39 minutes. Three more times in the second quarter, Jackson called for his players to intentional hack Howard as soon as he crossed half court. Howard was 5 of 6 from the line during that stretch. Orlando closed the half with a flurry of free throws and layups, part of an 18-9 run that sliced Golden State's lead to only four at the break. Howard shot 9 for 18 from the line in the first half. "We took a chance and said that we want Dwight to beat us," Lee said. "And he beat us." NOTES: Magic G Jason Richardson left with 8:46 remaining in the third quarter with a sprained left knee, the team said. He is day to day. ... Magic F Quentin Richardson sat out with a sprained left ankle. He remained hopeful to return Monday when the Magic play at the New York Knicks. ... Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber watched the game from courtside seats.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.