Belinelli, Deng lead Bulls over Cavaliers 95-85


Belinelli, Deng lead Bulls over Cavaliers 95-85

CLEVELAND (AP) Marco Belinelli scored a season-high 23 points, Luol Deng added 22 and the Chicago Bulls took control early on to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 95-85 on Wednesday night.

Belinelli, starting his second straight game in place of injured shooting guard Richard Hamilton, helped the Bulls bounce back from a four-point home loss to Indiana on Tuesday.

Chicago went ahead for good less than two minutes in and shot 66.7 percent in the first quarter.

The Cavaliers have lost 13 of 15 and are 2-7 since point guard Kyrie Irving broke his left index finger last month. Anderson Varejao recorded his 10th straight double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds - his 10th straight game with at least 15 boards.

Donald Sloan scored a season-high 14 points to lead Cleveland.

All five Chicago starters reached double figures. Joakim Noah had 13 points and 15 rebounds, Kirk Hinrich scored 11, and Carlos Boozer had 10 points and 12 boards.

Belinelli scored only six points in 24 minutes Tuesday but was 7-for-15 from the field against the Cavs, who have dropped 10 consecutive games against Chicago.

Both teams were shorthanded in the backcourt. The Bulls again played without Hamilton, who sustained a left plantar fascia tear in Saturday's game against Philadelphia. He missed Tuesday night's game and could be sidelined for two weeks.

Chicago, which moved one game over .500, has played the entire season without point guard Derrick Rose, who underwent reconstructive surgery on his left knee during last season's playoffs.

Cleveland played without Irving and Dion Waiters, its two leading scorers. Waiters missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle.

Cleveland was plagued by a slow start for the second straight game. The Cavaliers led 4-3, but it didn't take long for the Bulls to seize control. Chicago led 19-8 with just over four minutes to play in the quarter. The Bulls were 12 of 18 from the field in the period and led 27-11 going into the second quarter.

Cleveland trailed 30-17 after one quarter in Tuesday's loss to Detroit. The Bulls built a 45-27 lead, but the Cavaliers scored the last eight points of the quarter to trail by 10 at halftime. Cleveland cut the lead to five but trailed 72-63 going into the fourth quarter. The Bulls maintained a double-figure lead for most of the final period.

Noah was hit with a technical for arguing a foul call against teammate Taj Gibson in the fourth quarter. Cleveland guard Jeremy Pargo was also given a technical for throwing the ball off Belinelli's face later in the quarter. Belinelli fouled Pargo going to the basket, after which Pargo tossed the ball behind him, hitting the Chicago player.

NOTES: The Bulls haven't lost a regular-season game to the Cavaliers since March 19, 2010. Cleveland beat Chicago in the first round of the playoffs that season ... Chicago, in a stretch of four games in five nights, plays at Detroit on Friday. ... Cleveland travels to Minnesota on Friday.

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.