Bulls

Do Bulls have Knicks' number?

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Do Bulls have Knicks' number?

NEW YORK -- Sometimes in the world of sports, one team just has anothers number and while it remains to be seen if thats the case, the Knicks cant chalk up their 110-106 loss to simply having an off night or missing the star power of Carmelo Anthony, as they could have attributed their previous loss at the United Center earlier this month. While Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau can nitpick all he wants about the furious, ultimately failed comeback by the home team that made a blowout defeat appear to be a close game, beating the top team in the East and frustrating them to the extent that their head coach, leading scorer and defensive anchor were all ejected in the eyes of folks who dont see the Derrick Rose-less squad on a regular basis, this is now a legitimate team.

Well, you get a 25-point lead on the road against a team like this, youre doing a lot of good things. Im disappointed with our poise and discipline in the fourth quarter, starting with me, fourth-quarter technical. So, we gave up 45 points and thats not good. Its not the way we want to close the game, the perfectionist coach evaluated. The problem is, youve got to do it for 48. When youre playing a team that shoots the three the way they shoot the three, if you let your guard down at all, they can make up ground very quickly on you and there were a lot of touch fouls, the free throws, the clock stopped, theyre scoring. We did a lot of things to put them back in position to have a shot, so thats something we have to clean up.

Theyre really good and they keep a lot of pressure on you at all times. So, they missed some shots early that they normally make. We made some. We got off to a good start offensively and that sort of set the tone. I thought our defense and our rebounding was very good in the first half. The third quarter, I thought we were really good and you have to play against them. A 10-point lead, 15-point lead, youre not safe against this team, he continued. That was the nature of the game, so theyre down people and theyre scrambling, but the thing that always gives them a chance is their ability to shoot the three. So, they have you spread out pretty good and if you make a mistake, now youre giving them the three and if youre hugging the line too much, then Feltons penetrating to the hole. Forty-five points is an awful lot of points in a quarter, so Im very concerned about that, but the important thing is I think youve got to find different ways to win. I was pleased with that. This is a hard building to play in. We came in and did what we had to, to get a win, which is what we want.

Thibodeau can say what he wants, but at least defensively with the exception of that bizarre final stanza, in which the Knicks valiantly fought back without Anthony and sixth-man extraordinaire J.R. Smith, who scored 55 of the teams 74 points when they were both disqualified for various reasons, not to mention Tyson Chandler, who was ejected after getting tangled up with Bulls counterpart Joakim Noah he seems to have his former employer figured out. By taking away the deep ball, the weapon that has taken the Knicks to the top of the East, theyve now beaten their historic rivals with and without Anthony in the lineup.

Things were definitely escalating, but I dont think theyre used to being down that much, too. If they were up 20 points, I dont think they would have been that frustrated. Well be playing this team a lot and theyre a very good team, they play very hard and Im just happy we won right now, Noah said. It doesnt say anything. It just says: Bulls, W. Knickerbockers, L.

We feel like we still have our best basketball ahead of us and thats exciting. We feel like we can still get a lot better and to come out, and get a win like this in the Garden, to me, you dont know what it means to me. Im playing in front of my family and my friends. I just felt really blessed to be able to play, he continued, before responding, Nah, not really, when asked if the rivalry between the two big-market teams is beginning to resemble the Bulls-Knicks battles of his adolescence.

Teammate Taj Gibson, another New Yorker, replied otherwise when posed with the same question: It is like the old Bulls-Knicks rivalry. Ever since I got here, I feel like that. Every time we play here, its down to the wire, its always close games and I was just pissed because I couldnt really get into the game and experience what I normally experience, but it was a great game. We defended well, this was a big win for us, especially coming into a tough environment. This crowd understands basketball from every single aspect of the game and this is the Mecca, this is basketball, this is where Im from, so Im just happy we could get the win.

The 29-point, 13-rebound effort of Luol Deng was almost overshadowed by the sideshow of all of the technical fouls, ejections, the Noah-Chandler fracas and even his own left-shoulder injury, but it cant be ignored. Matched up with Anthony, considered one of the elite players at their shared position, Deng came up with a huge performance on both ends.

It was tough. It felt like it was the longest game ever, and there were a lot of distractions. I'm just happy we kept the lead. I know we had a big lead and let it slip, but at the end of the day we won. And that's really what matters, he told CSNChicago.com on the Madison Square Garden floor immediately after the game. I was excited. Melo's such a tough matchup. I see a lot of great players, and I love it. Some days they get the best of me, and some days I do well. I'm happy we got a team that can compete with all these teams, and it gives us a chance to go out there and compete with the best.

Later, in the visitors locker room, he added: We knew we had to come in here and be ready. Theyre a tough team, theyre playing the best in the East right now. Theyve got Melo, whos been playing really well and theyre really confident at home, and we just really had to stay focused the whole game, even when the game got out of hand. When they came back, we did a good enough job to keep the lead.

At the end of the day, thats all that matters. Mentally, this game reinforced to the Bulls what theyre capable of and for the Knicks, whose fans even got caught up in the drama, as spectators were ejected from the arena, at the minimum, they know which team theyd like to avoid in the first round of the playoffs.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.