Bulls

LeBron lauds Delly's, Thompson's efforts in Cavs' Game 6 win

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LeBron lauds Delly's, Thompson's efforts in Cavs' Game 6 win

When the playoffs began Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson had distinct roles. The two reserves were expected to come off the bench and provide energy on a second unit that had ranked dead last in points per game, while maintaining the output provided by the team’s star power in LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Ten games later, both found themselves sitting at the postgame podium on either side of the game’s best player after providing unlikely primary performances in Cleveland’s Game 6, series clinching victory over the Bulls.

“They want to be good. They want to be great,” James said after the game. “And every single day they prepare the right way, and they just go out and they play with instincts. They’ve played basketball their whole lives, and for them to go out there and put it out on the floor, good things happen for guys who are true to the game.”

In two rounds of the playoffs the Cavaliers have been met with unforeseen injury circumstances to Love and Irving, twice trailed in their series against Chicago and had to deal with the realistic question of whether or not a team built on that star power could sustain their high expectations with a group of role players touting little to no postseason experience.

[MORE: Lifeless Bulls fall to Cavaliers in series-clincher]

Thursday night they got their answer.

It was a turbulent series for Dellavedova, who heard boos rain down from the United Center after getting tangled up with Taj Gibson in their Game 5 victory. But when Irving aggravated a left knee injury and exited the game for good early in the second quarter, the Cavaliers didn’t miss a beat on either side of the ball when Dellavedova took over.

The second year guard hounded Derrick Rose (14 points on 16 FGA) defensively and found his outside shooting touch in the second half, scoring 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting after halftime, with each basket extinguishing any chance of a Bulls comeback any time the hosts showed any signs of life.

Dellavedova went 15-for-27 in the series, handily outplaying his bench counterpart Aaron Brooks throughout and providing necessary defense on Rose while the Cavs attempted to hide Irving’s limited mobility on the defensive end.

“He’s an incredible competitor,” Irving said. “I’m so happy for him.”

Head coach David Blatt’s attempt to use James at power forward backfired in Game 1, prompting him to insert Thompson at the power forward spot to allow James to play on the perimeter. And though it left the Cavs paper-thin on the second unit, Thompson’s play in the series was invaluable. On Thursday night he scored 10 points in the opening stanza, helping Cleveland withstand a 31-point quarter from the Bulls. He continued his assault on the glass, grabbing 12 rebounds after halftime as the Cavs clamped down a Bulls team that scored 42 points after the opening quarter.

He increased his scoring total all six games of the series, and averaged a double-double after entering the starting lineup in Game 2 (10.4 points, 11.8 rebounds).

“Just being part of the playoffs and having the opportunity to play with (James) over here, it definitely is special,” Thompson said. “What a ride. I’m glad I could be a part of it and help this team win.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

It doesn't appear Irving will be playing at full-strength anytime soon, while Thompson has cemented himself in a starting role. And while James' production will always be a direct correlation of how the Cavaliers are playing - he added nine rebounds and 11 assists - Cleveland's role players suddenly have taken on a far greater role than they expected when the playoffs began.

Contributions from J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert hold value to the Cavs, but on Thursday night it was Thompson and Dellavedova who delivered the knockout blow to a championship-aspiring Bulls team and moved the Cavaliers one step closer to their ultimate goal.

"This guy here," James said pointing to Thompson, "he’s not the most athletic guy right here, he’s not the tallest power forward in our league, he’s not the strongest power forward in our league. But not too many guys can keep him guys off the glass.

"This guy here," James continued, turning to Dellavedova, "is not the most athletic, fastest, doesn’t shoot it as great as all the other point guards in our league. But I’ll put him out there against anybody.

"When your mind is true, I think the game gives back to you."

NBA return timeline clouded as Toronto cancels events through June amid COVID-19

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USA Today

NBA return timeline clouded as Toronto cancels events through June amid COVID-19

Tuesday afternoon, Toronto Mayor John Torey announced the cancellation of permits for all major events through June 30. That includes festivals, parades and other large-scale, city-led events.

The question for fans combing through news clippings, hoping for the return of live sports: How does this affect the timeline for the potential resumption of the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons?

The knee-jerk reaction is to call it a major blow. That June 30 date comes after 40 previously-scheduled Blue Jays home games and would take us well beyond the previsouly-scheduled conclusion of the NBA and NHL playoffs (in which the Raptors and Maple Leafs were both locks). It's the longest a major North American city has committed to drastic, concrete social distancing guidelines — a barometer of just how murky the response, relief and recovery process from the COVID-19 pandemic still is.

RELATED: United Center to act as storage facility for Chicago food bank

Important context: As of this writing, this ordinance does not directly bar the NBA, NHL or MLB from resuming play through that date. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported as much shortly after the news broke:

Still, no major sports league should or will return before every conceivable safety clearance is met. Just because this decision doesn't directly prohibit leagues from re-assembling teams, doesn't mean it won't impact their decision-making. It will. 

As will current stay-at-home edicts in the United States. Illinois' — issued by Governor J.B. Pritzker — runs through April 30. On Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order in his state that runs through June 10.

For what it's worth, the NBA appears motivated to somehow resolve its season at some point in the future. Recently, the idea of clustering teams and players into central, quarantined environments has been floated by prominent national reporters. Last week, Jabari Young of CNBC cited league sources in reporting that Las Vegas has been discussed as an option for such a concept.

But the logistical and emotional hurdles involved in any hypothetical return are immense. Look at the challenges Asian basketball leagues have encountered as evidence. At this point, it's impossible to say anything with even a modicum of certainty except that there is still a long, winding road ahead. 

Actions like those the city of Toronto has taken underscore that point.

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How to watch ESPN's 'The Last Dance' documentary on Michael Jordan, 1998 Bulls

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AP

How to watch ESPN's 'The Last Dance' documentary on Michael Jordan, 1998 Bulls

Tuesday morning, ESPN announced it is moving up the release of "The Last Dance" to Sunday nights over a five-week period from April 19 to May 17.

"The Last Dance" is an upcoming 10-part documentary series that promises to tell the untold story of the 1998 Bulls.

The series was originally scheduled to debut in June, but with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing live sports around the world to a halt, an early release was too tantalizing to dismiss.

"As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience," a statement reads. "We’ve heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that."

We're forever grateful.

Here's the schedule breakdown, per ESPN:

Episodes will also be made available on the ESPN App, ESPN.com and ESPN on Demand immediately following each installment's debut.

ESPN also announced that each episode will be available on Netflix for viewers outside of the United States just after midnight Pacific Standard Time the night they premiere. That breaks down as follows:

So buckle up, Bulls and basketball fans around the world. This should be a wild, can't-miss ride.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.