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LeBron James continues domination of Bulls in Game 2s

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LeBron James continues domination of Bulls in Game 2s

LeBron James wasn't happy with his efficiency in Game 1, as the four-time league MVP shot 9-for-22 in the Cavaliers' 99-92 home loss to the Bulls.

So directing an offense without the services of Kevin Love and JR Smith, James took it upon himself to be more assertive, attacking the rim at will and finishing with - as he wanted - much more efficiency.

The end result was 33 points, and while he needed 29 shots to get there, 11 of his made field goals came in the paint. James was just 2-for-8 outside of the paint, but 11-for-19 inside it.

It was a dominating performance from the league's best player, and another Game 2 in which he dissected the Bulls defense following a quiet Game 1.

[MORE: Bulls 'smashed' by Cavaliers in Game 2]

In four career Game 1s against the Bulls in the playoffs, James has been quiet. His teams are just 1-3, and he's averaged 20.5 points on 42.4 percent shooting from the field and 5.5 free throw attempts per game.

But he's responded quite well in Game 2s - as he did Wednesday night. In four Game 2s against the Bulls, James has now averaged 30.3 points on 56.5 percent shooting and 7.5 free throw attempts per game. He's attempted 85 shots in those four games, more than the 73 he's attempted in Game 1s.

It's a stark contrast, where one of the game's smartest player has felt out a series in Game 1 before figuring out his direction on how to attack the opponent and the series. 2015 has been no different, as the Cavaliers were forced to adjust on the fly without Kevin Love (shoulder) and J.R. Smith (suspension). James played primarily inside at power forward in Game 1, though David Blatt moved Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup - and subsequently pushed James to the perimeter - where he was far more effective attacking the basket and even working in the post on Jimmy Butler.

[MORE: Butler expected to be named Most Improved Player]

So how has James fared in Game 3s against the Bulls? He's 3-0 in such situations, averaging 28.6 points on 46 percent shooting. The most important statistic may be that James have averaged 11 trips to the free throw line in those games. It's not necessarily an indicator of what may happen Friday night, but it keeps in line the notion that James becomes more aggressive and assertive as series go on. That was the case Wednesday, and it helped the Cavaliers even things up heading back to Chicago.

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

2020 NBA Draft Lottery going virtual, breaking Chicago's two-year host run

It’s felt pre-ordained for months now. Now, it appears it’s decided.

No, the Bulls didn’t draw the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (yet). But The Athletic’s Shams Charania did report Monday afternoon that the lottery scheduled for Aug. 20 will take place virtually. All 14 teams ‘in attendance’ will be allowed to ‘send’ remote representatives. The event will presumably be televised, but details haven’t emerged on that front yet.

It’s a logical gameplan given the COVID-19 pandemic’s ongoing nature, and the acclaim received by virtual draft showcases broadcast by the WNBA and NFL while live sports in the United States were effectively paused.

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The news also sends a few ripples in Bulls world. For one, who will rep the team, in this, its third consecutive lottery appearance? Michael Reinsdorf and Horace Grant manned the post in 2018 and 2019, respectively. But for this year? Benny the Bull would be sure to bring the energy. On the heels of the summer of “The Last Dance,” perhaps a dynasty-era contributor could get the call. Or maybe a newly-minted front office face instead? Time will tell.

And, as our K.C. Johnson pointed out on Twitter, this development also marks the end of a two-year streak of Chicago hosting the lottery in 2018 and 2019. The city has long housed the combine.

Here’s what Adam Silver told NBC Sports Chicago in February when asked his impressions of Chicago as a host-city for the lottery:

We have been very pleased in Chicago. Our community comes together in Chicago for our predraft camp and combine. It made perfect sense to also conduct the draft lottery there. And that was something that Mayor Emanuel never stopped reminding me of. Things can potentially change over time. We are enjoying being in Chicago. Because of the geographic location, it’s more convenient for our teams to be in a more central location. And Chicago, for the same reasons that makes it a fantastic All-Star host, has all the accommodations you need for our teams when they come together for our combine. My anticipation is we’ll be in Chicago for a while. And the city has been terrific to work with.

Silver made that comment before All-Star weekend in Chicago, but all of the above virtues translated. Though Bulls representation was limited, no one would deny Chicago played a splendid host for the festivities.

The Bulls enter this year’s lottery locked into the seventh-best odds (7.5%) at nabbing the No. 1 pick, and a 32% chance of vaulting into the top four. 

Slots No. 1 through No. 8 in the lottery standings are set with the teams excluded from the NBA’s restart. Slots No. 9 through 14 will populate at the end of the play-in round, when postseason seeding is officially set. Teams that started the restart as a top-eight seed in either conference can fall into the lottery if they miss the playoffs, but the ultimate order of the lottery odds will be decided by pre-hiatus record (meaning, for example, that if the current standings hold and the Phoenix Suns finish with a better record than the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings, but miss the postseason, the Suns would own better lottery odds than the Pels and Kings by virtues of each team’s pre-hiatus record).

All of which is to say, clear your calendars for next Thursday. After that, rumor and speculation are sure to swirl until the draft itself, which, as of right now, is reportedly scheduled for Oct. 16. The status of the combine remains up in the air, though ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported July 23 that the league is polling teams on which players should be invited to the combine if one takes place.

For the Bulls, helmed by a new front office regime and facing a moment of reckoning in the current rebuild, this year’s draft process is an especially crucial one.

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Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

NBC Sports Chicago is counting down the top 10 Bulls at each position in franchise history.

We've hit the point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and power forwards. And last, but certainly not least, the men in the middle. The centers.

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Defensive anchors, multi-skilled hubs and blue-collar tenacity abound in these rankings. And plenty of hardware — both of the championship and individual variety.

We hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Without further adieu...

Bulls' Top 10 Centers in franchise history

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