GAME NIGHT FROM THE UNITED CENTER
Minnesota (34-23, 12-17 on the road) at Bulls (18-35, 11-14 at home) 8:30 CT tip.
TV: ESPN 8:30 CT tip.
RADIO: 670 The Score: Chuck Swirsky, Bill Wennington, Steve Kashul 8:15 pre game.
Bulls: Markkanen and LaVine each: 15ppg. Minnesota: Butler: 22ppg.
Bulls: Markkanen: 7. Minnesota: Towns: 12
Bulls: Dunn: 6. Minnesota: Teague: 7
CCI 24 SECONDS COMMENTARY:
The Bulls will pay tribute to two former Bulls’ standouts as Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson return to the United Center for the first time since being traded in two separate transactions. Butler is headed to his fourth All Star Game and has earned every accolade through hard work and a competitive edge that envelopes his basketball soul. Gibson will go down as one of the toughest, blue collar players in recent Bulls history. Both deserve a standing ovation for what they gave the organization on/off the court.
There is a basketball game, of course, and the Bulls need to play a high level to beat the Timberwolves. Critics rip in to Towns and Wiggins for their uninspired play on the defensive end, but it’s improving and they’re still adjusting with Butler in the mix. Towns incidentally leads the NBA with 48 double-doubles including seven straight and 20 out of the last 21 games. Pretty impressive for a 22 year old, third year player. Towns has no idea how good he can be. He has the skill set to be a top five player in the NBA for many, many years.
Lauri Markkanen returns seeing his first action in nearly two weeks. Kris Dunn remains out of the lineup today and tomorrow.
The Bulls sent Jameer Nelson to the Pistons and secured Noah Vonleh from Portland. Vonleh has appeared in over 200 NBA games and is still trying to establish himself at this level. There is absolutely no downside to this move. None.
NBA NEWS AND NOTES
Prior to Cleveland’s nationally televised Wednesday game against Minnesota, ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth reported: “Talking to a source close to the team, and they said their (Cavs) issues have nothing to do with basketball..they don’t like each other.” Koby Altman must have been listening. The Cavaliers’ GM who has been under enormous pressure in his first year at the helm, pulled off major and minor trades which sent Dwyane Wade to Miami, Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye to the Lakers, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder to Utah and Iman Shumpert to the Kings. In exchange, the Cavs picked up Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, and Rodney Hood. I like these moves. The Cavs improved in a matter of hours on/off the court. Wade gets to go home. He’ll get his jersey retired and a statue and retire as a member of the Heat - exactly what he wanted. I’m a big fan of Hood, Hill and Nance. This is an upgrade. The Cavs locker-room obviously had issues and with an eye on today and more importantly tomorrow, with or without James, the Cavs shook things up.
The Lakers won the day though, clearing cap room to sign two front line free agents in the 2018 off season. For the rest of the year, Thomas will have the green light to shoot, shoot and shoot and continue to shoot!
Emmanuel Mudiay will be given every opportunity to win the starting point guard job as the Knicks will provide a robust opportunity for him to play extended minutes.
The Magic sent former lottery pick Elfrid Payton to Phoenix for a second round pick. Just a few years ago the Suns had a plethora of point guards; not the case any longer. Payton is a fast paced guard so this should benefit Phoenix. However, he has become a defensive liability. Orlando didn’t plan to resign him so at least the Magic will get a valuable second round pick that will land around 33-37.
Elsewhere—SportsNet in Canada is reporting the Raptors have had internal discussions about bringing Vince Carter back to Canada. The Raps buried the Knicks 113-88.
The Celtics have won five out of their last six and became the first team in the East to win 40 games with an OT 110-104 victory over the Wizards.
The Lakers are hot. Winners of 12 out of their last 16, LA ripped OKC 106-81. Lonzo Ball missed his 12th straight game with a knee issue.
The Magic won their third straight with a 100-98 win over the Hawks.
Golden State 121 - Dallas 103. Draymond Green was all over the floor: 12 points-10 rebounds- 6 assists- two blocks and two steals. Klay Thompson had an 18-5-4 game on his 28th birthday.
In OT—the Blazers beat Charlotte, winning their ninth straight at the Moda Center. Nurkic 24-11. Walker had 40 for the Hornets.
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Always a pleasure!