Bulls

NBA Power Rankings: Here come the Thunder

russell-westbrook-kevin-durant-nba-power-rankings-slide.png

NBA Power Rankings: Here come the Thunder

Kevin Durant returned from a hamstring this week, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

The Thunder were 8-6 but had lost three of their last five, including a home contest to the Knicks. Russell Westbrook had been doing Russell Westbrook things, but it was evident they needed the former MVP back in the lineup.

The results? A 22-point road win over Utah, an 11-point win against Brooklyn and a commanding 16-point win against the Pistons. Durant averaged 30.3 points in those games, while Westbrook shot 50 percent from the field. It's got Oklahoma City at 11-6 and rising in this week's power rankings. Here's how Week 5 shook out:

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) (18-0) A seven-game road trip includes stops in Toronto and Indiana. Whether they return home with a loss, they won't be moving from the top spot anytime soon.
(3) (14-3) Winners in nine of 10, Saturday's 20-point road shellacking of the Hawks was particularly impressive. Tim Duncan had 18 boards in that one. He's 39.
(2) (13-4)  Kevin Love is playing like an All-Star again, making 2.8 triples per game at a nearly 41 percent clip.
4 (6) (11-6)  Wins of 22, 11 and 16 this week, with KD averaging 30.3 points on 59 percent shooting in those games since returning to the lineup.
5 (9) (11-5)  Wins over Washington and Chicago were statement makers. That 0-3 start seems like forever ago for the East's best 3-point shooting team.
6 (8) (11-7)  After finishing a five-game road trip they come home and beat the Cavaliers. Kyle Lowry should start his second straight All-Star game.
7 (4) (10-5)  Huge stretch coming up. Their next 8 games:BOS, OKC, CLE, WAS, at CHA, at IND, MEM, at ATL. They've looked the part of East contender thus far.
8 (5) (9-5)  Fred Hoiberg's group is 27th in offensive efficiency, better only than the Nets, Lakers and Sixers. Paging Derrick Rose. Yeesh.
9 (7)   (10-7)   It would have been nice to have seen them win one of their road tests against Oklahoma City, Memphis and San Antonio.
10 (18)   (10-7)   Perhaps a tad bit high, but there's something really fun about watching this offense. They've now won six of eight and almost topped Cleveland.
11 (10)   (11-8)  A 2-2 week featured some good (win at Memphis), some bad (loss at Minnesota) and downright ugly (20-point road loss to San Antonio).
12 (19)   (10-8)   Winners in seven of the last name with Mike Conley doing the heavy lifting. He's averaging 18.9 points and 6.9 assists in that span.
13 (12)   (9-8)   Avery Bradley is on a tear, averaging 19.7 points on 50 percent shooting in his last seven games.
14 (14)   (9-8)   Once they figure out the small forward carousel they'll be fine. Not too worried about their record at this point.
15 (21)   (9-8)   They're still far behind the real contenders in the East, but Scott Skiles is building something in Orlando. A 19-point win against Boston was an eye opener.
16 (13)   (8-9)  Buzzsaw of a schedule meant losses were coming, but a bright spot of late has been T.J. Warren. He went for a career-high 28 points in a loss to the Warriors.
17 (15)   (8-5)  Derrick Favors is 12th in the NBA in PER, sandwiched between James Harden and Andre Drummond. Good company.
18 (11)   (9-8)  The Wiz go as John Wall goes, and the point guard has averaged just 5.5 assists and shot 33 percent in his last four games. The Wiz are 0-4 in that span.
19 (25)   (8-9)   A confidence building win over the Hawks was the highlight of a stellar 3-1 week. Andrew Wiggins is getting better by the day.
20 (20)   (7-10)   Needed a 50-spot from James Harden to squeak past the Sixers, and needed overtime to beat the Knicks. 
21 (16)   (8-9)  Another roller coaster week for SVG's group, which beat the Heat by 23 and lost to the Nets four days later. 4-9 since a 4-0 start.
22 (22)   (7-10)  It's a testament to Terry Stotts that the Blazers are ninth in offensive efficiency considering what they lost in the offseason.
23 (17)   (8-10)  Four straight losses after that inspiring 8-6 start. The good news is they get Philly, Brooklyn and Milwaukee this week.
24 (24) (6-12) DeMarcus Cousins is up to 27.9 points (3rd in NBA) and 11.2 rebounds (5th in NBA). Superstar. No debate about his All-Star candidacy this year.
25 (26) (6-11)  They follow up a blowout win over the Pistons with double-digit losses to the Kings and Magic, and then to the Hornets. Things aren't getting better.
26 (27) (4-13)  Ish Smith has been great as the Pellies bring back Jrue Holiday slowly. Smith is fourth in the NBA in assists per game (8.1).
27 (23) (6-11)  That daunting schedule produced all losses, and now they're on the road for their next four. Danilo Gallinari (17.7 points) is still ballin'.
28 (28) (4-13)  Defensive stud Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has averaged 8.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals in his last five games. The rookie is showing real potential.
29 (29) (2-14)  D'Angelo Russell is starting to come around, averaging 12.8 points and 3.3 assists in his last six games. But all those numbers came in losses.
30 (30) (0-17)  Nerlens Noel has regressed in his second year, shooting just 41 percent and committing 3.3 turnovers per game. His blocks (1.1 per game) are down, too.

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

lebronheat.png
AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

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 scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that 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.