Bulls

Rose's buzzer-beating triple gives Bulls 2-1 series lead

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Rose's buzzer-beating triple gives Bulls 2-1 series lead

If you didn’t see the 3-pointer from Derrick Rose flow like a missile into the rim off the glass, the roaring approval of the United Center let you know the Bulls pulled off an improbable win to take a 2-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 99-96 final.

Rose took the inbounds pass with three seconds left and the game tied at 96, caught Tristan Thompson on a switch and sent the Chicago crowd home with something they haven’t seen in ages, as he flipped the narrative on himself and this Bulls team — putting up a 30-point game with one day’s rest, calmly lifting this franchise to within two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“It was a broken play, I was supposed to get the ball in the corner,” Rose said. “When I ran to the corner I wasn’t open so I ran toward the ball. Mike (Dunleavy) threw me the ball, I drove right.”

Dunleavy’s angle gave him the perfect view, as 47 minutes and 57 seconds came down to three seconds, as the Bulls had to improvise on the broken play to make a way out of no way—especially when they gave themselves a heart attack by not fouling on the previous play.

[SHOP: Buy a Derrick Rose jersey]

After J.R. Smith tied the game with 10 seconds left with a triple off a pass from LeBron James, this one seemed destined for overtime but Rose’s shot into the Chicago sky ended the night in 48 minutes—a hard-fought one that could’ve gone the other way and squandered homecourt advantage the Bulls stole in Game 1.

“In some situations you like to do that and these guys are getting pretty good that if they catch facing the basket and you wrap them up, we actually lost a game like that. But in certain situations we definitely want to foul.”

James struggled again from the field, although his stat line of 27 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds looks great, he had to fight Jimmy Butler for everything, often finding the league’s Most Improved Player making his case for Defensive Player of the Year with the yeoman’s work he did on James.

Butler forced James into seven turnovers, with five steals to go with his 20 points and eight rebounds. Butler's late layup with 33.9 seconds left gave the Bulls a 94-93 lead before he forced James into a missed layup on the ensuing possession.

[WATCH: Rose's game-winning three-pointer over Thompson sends Bulls home winners]

“The two of them in the backcourt played great. We had a lot of guys step up,” Thibodeau said. “(James) reads the game extremely well. He’s seen every possible defense and he shows a lot of patience.”

Taking the all-important swing game lived up to its name, as the momentum swung all night, and kept swinging, even after Pau Gasol exited in the second half due to a left hamstring strain.

James had to make the bulk of offensive decisions because Kyrie Irving was hampered by a right foot injury that limited him to just 11 points and zero assists in 38 minutes. The return of Smith (14 points) after a two-game suspension and Matthew Dellavedova (10 points in 15 minute) helped keep the Cavs from being completely anemic offensively, as they shot 39 percent.

The Bulls fought back from their own ineptitude on offense, shooting 27 percent in the first quarter and 35 for the first half, scratching and clawing behind Rose and bench production from Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson, two of the unsung heroes on the night. Mirotic scored 12 with eight rebounds, giving the Cavaliers fits and forcing them to put James on him while Gibson helped the Bulls to a 54-39 rebounding edge on the glass with nine points and nine boards.

[MORE: Cavs can live with Rose's game-winning shot]

“They played well during the season together,” Thibodeau said. “Niko can space the floor for you. Taj gives you rebounding. They complement each other well.”

The Bulls began to shake out of a slow first half behind Rose as soon as halftime ended. Rose first three possessions, going straight to the basket.

“I just wanted him to read the game,” Thibodeau said. “When he does that, getting it up the floor quickly and getting us to play with pace. That doesn’t mean to the rim all the time but when you generate speed and you get hit, that’s my understanding of how fouls get called. He forced them to make calls tonight.”

Only taking one jumper, Rose’s activity buoyed the Bulls, as he was determined to get to the rim with 10 points in the period, a testy one for both sides as they began to realize neither will back down, leading to some testy exchanges and technical fouls.

But they were lifted early by Joakim Noah’s energy, as he heard the calls for his benching and responded with a fervor only he can bring.

Many presumed Mirotic’s playing time must come at the expense of Joakim Noah’s defensive awareness, but Thibodeau managed to coax the most from both at the same time.

Noah’s activity and Mirotic’s shooting was just what the United Center crowd needed to see—before Rose truly sent them on a high at the buzzer.

Michael Jordan delivers heart-wrenching eulogy for Kobe Bryant

Michael Jordan delivers heart-wrenching eulogy for Kobe Bryant

Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were more than competitors, more than peers... More than even friends. Jordan made as much clear in eulogizing Bryant at a public memorial for him and his daughter Gigi at Staples Center on Monday.

Amid a beautifully numbing overall ceremony, Jordan’s comments struck the perfect balance between reflective, hilarious, heart-warming and gut-wrenching. My words couldn’t possibly do it justice. Here are Jordan’s, in full:

 

“Maybe it would surprise people that Kobe and I are very close friends,” Jordan said. “Kobe was my dear friend, he was like a little brother. Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe.”

And so he did. Highlights included a perfectly-timed ‘Crying Jordan’ meme quip and Jordan recalling countless late-night (and early-morning) conversations with Bryant about everything from basketball to business to family. On a day meant to be a celebration of life, Jordan delivered a deeply intimate look into his and Bryant’s relationship, and all the ways Bryant inspired him. It was incredibly powerful.

 

“He wanted to be the best basketball player he could be. As I got to know him, I wanted the best big brother that I could be,” Jordan said.

That manifested in those aforementioned conversations, which Jordan said turned from an “aggravation” to a deep passion over the course of knowing Bryant.

“He knows how to get you in a way that affects you personally, even if he’s being a pain in the ass,” Jordan said. “But you always have a sense of love for him, and the way he can bring out the best in you. And he did that for me.

“I remember maybe a couple months ago, he sends me a text. And he said ‘I’m trying to teach my daughter some moves, and I don’t know what I was thinking or what I was working on, but what were you working on as you were growing up trying to work on your moves?’ I said ‘What age?’ He said: ‘12.’ I said, ‘At 12 I was trying to play baseball’... And this was at 2 o’clock in the morning. But the thing about him is we could talk about anything related to basketball and anything related to life.” 

Jordan’s most emotional moments of speaking came when he detailed Bryant’s passion for basketball and family, and his unwavering desire to make those around him better. Those are the things that will endure.

“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” Jordan said. “I promise you, from this day forward, I will live with the memories of knowing that I had a little brother that I tried to help in every way I could.” 

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NBA Power Rankings: Lakers dynamic duo will be tough to beat in the playoffs

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USA Today

NBA Power Rankings: Lakers dynamic duo will be tough to beat in the playoffs

The latest chapter in the storied rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers unfolded Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles with a national television audience watching all the drama.

Boston’s Jayson Tatum continued his ascension as one of the league’s clutch scorers by pouting in 41 points, helping his team grab a late lead at Staples Center. But when it comes to clutch performances, it’s hard to beat the Lakers’ superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

James hit a step-back jumper to give his team a one point lead and then Anthony Davis hit three of four free throws down the stretch to give L.A. a 114-112 victory, increasing their latest winning streak to five games.

The Lakers are now five games up on Denver for the top seed in the West and they’ve strengthened their bench with the addition of veteran forward Markieff Morris, who was bought out of his contract by the Pistons last week.

While many NBA analysts believe the crosstown Clippers should be favored over the Lakers in a potential conference finals, it’s hard to beat the chemistry that James and Davis have displayed in their first season together.

James has become the de facto point guard for the Lakers, with his primary focus to get the ball to Davis at his favorite spots on the court. James is more than willing to accept the co-star role at this point in his career as he looks to win a fourth championship. And that approach should serve the Lakers well as they get ready to start the playoffs in mid-April.

The Clippers might look good on paper, but with Paul George in and out of the line-up because of a variety of injuries, time is starting to work against Doc Rivers’ team in trying to develop the on-court chemistry that is critical to playoff success.

Barring an upset, the battle of L.A. should play out in an exciting seven game series in late May. Basketball fans can hardly wait.

Now on to this week’s power rankings.