Dunleavy scores 22 to help Bulls beat Heat 93-75 (Yahoo Sports)

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 14: Mike Dunleavy #34 of the Chicago Bulls shoots over Chris Andersen #11 of the Miami Heat during a game at American Airlines Arena on December 14, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MIAMI (AP) — Derrick Rose was fouled on a fast break, staggered off the court and kept going out a tunnel.


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Dwight Howard returns to help Rockets top Nuggets

Howard had 26 points after missing the previous 11 games with a knee strain.

      
 

 

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Texas Basketball: How Tough Loss to Kentucky Will Help Longhorns in 2014-15

The Texas Longhorns made a massive statement Friday night at Rupp Arena, even though they fell 12 points short of knocking off the top team in the nation. 

The first half of the 63-51 loss in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge was dominated by Rick Barnes’ Longhorns. The feat is even more mind-boggling when you look at the foul trouble the team experienced. 

Kentucky eventually turned up the pace of the game and showed off its excellent talent. But the defeat on the road handed Texas plenty of positives heading into the rest of its nonconference play. And more importantly, the Longhorns received a massive confidence boost in regards to their chances in the Big 12. 

We all saw Friday night the Longhorns have plenty of depth in the frontcourt. They don’t just have one big man to spell the starters coming off the bench. They have three players in Myles Turner, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert who can make an instant impact in the paint when called upon. 

Unfortunately for Texas, it had to flaunt its ridiculous depth early in the first half after Cameron Ridley was sent to the bench with two fouls. 

The referees, who are still calling fouls as we speak, handed Ibeh two fouls and one to Turner before the under-12 media timeout. Turner picked up his second shortly after the break. 

Even with every one of its big men in some type of foul trouble, Texas was able to contest every shot inside the paint taken by mighty Kentucky. 

Despite the Wildcats’ insistence on shooting inside instead of opening up lanes for the shooters on the perimeter, Texas was able to counter with impressive defense. 

What Ibeh, Turner and Lammert lack in width, they make up for in height and smarts. It is widely known none of these players have the wide presence in the paint of Ridley, but that did not stop them from physically challenging the imposing Kentucky frontcourt. 

Before Kentucky woke up during the early stages of the second half, Texas was holding its own, which is a terrific sign of progress for a team expected to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 regular-season crown. 

There is no doubt when Texas has its frontcourt at full strength, it is the best in the Big 12. Kansas has a game-changer in Perry Ellis and a young stud in Cliff Alexander, but after that it doesn’t have much. 

Iowa State is seen as the other true contender for the Big 12 regular-season title, but like Kansas, the Cyclones have a small amount of game-altering big men, led by Georges Niang

If we base Texas’ chances to win the back-to-back games against Kansas and Iowa State in January on just the Kentucky game, it would be hard not to give the Longhorns the advantage. And that is before we begin talking about the things the Longhorns have to improve on before they begin their grueling Big 12 slate. 

With five nonconference games left before the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech on January 3, the Longhorns have plenty of time to fine-tune their flaws. 

Foul trouble was the obvious concern from the loss to Kentucky, but it is worth noting the Longhorns will not face another team with as much frontcourt depth as the Wildcats have for the rest of the season. 

There will be games where one or two players spend an extended amount of time on the bench, but as we saw Friday night, the next-man-up mentality of the Longhorns is alive and well.

By hanging with Kentucky for a long amount of time, Texas proved it can play well without its imposing big man, Ridley. The three players used to replace Ridley also bring different skill sets to the table, which will cause matchup problems down the road. 

Lammert is a terrific defender who can cause plenty of issues for frustrated opposing offenses. Turner’s versatility will challenge future opponents to guard him on the perimeter as well as in the paint. Ibeh is more of a true paint player who has the length to contest any shot in his direction. 

If we take the focus off the frontcourt, which is hard to do at times, the play of the other players on the court also helped Texas battle with the Wildcats. 

Jonathan Holmes is the top scorer on the team, and as we saw against UConn, he has a knack for showing up in clutch spots. The Longhorns will need the clutch gene of the senior forward to appear at some point during the brutal run through the Big 12. If Holmes is able to make some big shots late in games, Texas could win a few more games than expected. 

The other important quality Holmes possesses is his consistency. In seven of his eight games, Holmes has scored nine points or more. If he continues to put up strong numbers throughout the season as expected, the Longhorns will not have to worry about their play on offense. 

In the backcourt, Demarcus Holland is gaining a ton of valuable experience in the starting five with Isaiah Taylor out until the start of conference play. 

Holland was one of two Texas players in double digits Friday night, as he scored 10 points in 38 minutes. In four of his eight games this season, the junior guard has found his way into double digits to put his points-per-game average at 8.4. 

If you thought the depth of the Longhorns was scary in the paint, just wait until Taylor joins Holland and Javan Felix in the backcourt for the stretch run. 

Texas certainly has a few things to improve on after the Kentucky game. If they fix the little things in time for the Big 12 regular season, the Longhorns could be on the top of the conference standings in March. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from ESPN.com. 

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Davis finishes strong to help Pelicans drub Lakers

Anthony Davis closed out the New Orleans win with eight points in the final six minutes.

      
 

 

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Gill, Harrell help No. 5 Louisville beat FIU 82-57 (Yahoo Sports)

Louisville's Anton Gill, left, goes up for a dunk ahead of the defense of Florida International's Dominique Williams during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won 82-57. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Anton Gill celebrated his 20th birthday by breaking out of a slump and leading No. 5 Louisville’s best shooting night of the season.


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Kentucky’s Calling Card of Defense Will Help Carry Them in Foul-Filled Contests

We’ll be hearing whistles in our sleep for the next few days after watching No. 1 Kentucky outlast No. 6 Texas by a score of 63-51 in a physical battle that featured 51 personal fouls.

This game was ugly.

For large stretches, it was downright unwatchable.

Twitter was overflowing with complaints about the flow of the game and the amount of fouls being called, but nobody put it better than Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports:

Yet there was really never a doubt that Kentucky’s defense and depth would prevail in the end—as always.

First things first, Texas deserves a ton of praise for fighting as hard as it did.

Playing without starting point guard Isaiah Taylor as he continues to recover from a broken bone in his wristand effectively playing without big men Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner, who combined for seven points, seven rebounds and 10 fouls in just 34 minutes of actionthe Longhorns at least had the illusion of a chance at pulling off an upset.

When fully healthy and not playing in games being officiated like it’s November 2013 all over again, Texas really might be the team most suited to beat Kentucky. Even with all those fouls, the Longhorns still grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and beat Kentucky on the glass by a margin of plus-11.

However, Kentucky’s defense was just too much for them to handle.

Texas had eight more turnovers than made field goals. Kentucky blocked “only” four shots in the game, but Dakari Johnson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein altered at least half a dozen other shots.

The Longhorns worked hard on the offensive glass. But it really felt like the only reason they got so many second chances is because the first chances were thrown so haphazardly at the rim that it was a coin flip for who would come up with the loose ball.

Without Taylor, their offense has certainly been a work in progress. In their last game before this one, the Longhorns shot 30 percent from the field in a 63-53 win over Texas-Arlington.

Suffice it to say, the last team you want to see when you’re already struggling to make shots is Kentucky.

Coming into this game, the Wildcats ranked first in the nation in defensive effective field-goal percentage, turnover percentage, block percentage, and two-point field-goal defense, all according to KenPom.com (subscription required).

Considering Texas shot less than 30 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers, there’s a pretty good chance the Wildcats will remain top dog in all of those categories.

That defense combined with the type of transition offense that Matt Norlander captured in a Vine make Kentucky unbeatable.

In this particular game, Cauley-Stein was Mr. Everything on defense. He had nine of the team’s 19 defensive rebounds, five of its nine steals and three of its four blocks.

(Perhaps Cauley-Stein’s most noteworthy number was 33 minutes, as opposed to just four for Marcus Lee, even though Lee didn’t commit a single foul. R.I.P. Platoons.)

Cauley-Stein was equally outstanding on the other end of the court, finishing the night with 21 points, but as Jay Bilas said near the end of ESPN’s broadcast of the game, “You’ve got to put him right up there for National Defensive Player of the Year. It’s awfully early, but who has been a better defender than he’s been?”

Actually, before tonight Towns had the best case for that honor. He didn’t do much of anything in this game, but he was averaging 6.5 blocks per 40 minutes and leading the team in defensive rebounding percentage.

And if it isn’t Cauley-Stein or Towns, it has been Johnson grabbing rebounds and blocking shots.

If all three of them happen to have an off-night, how can you argue with Trey Lylesthe team’s second-best defensive rebounderas the fourth-best interior defender?

Let’s not forget Alex Poythress, either, who is also blocking close to two shots per game.

You get the idea.

Even when you get Kentucky into all sorts of foul troublethose five big men combined to draw 19 whistles on Friday nightthe Wildcats are still impossible to score against.

Just think about it: Kentucky shot 37.5 percent from the field, was outrebounded by 11, committed 26 fouls leading to 29 free-throw attempts and still won by 12 points.

If there exists a blueprint to beating Kentucky, Texas followed it to a T and still couldn’t even cover the 12-point spread, according to OddsShark.com.

The sad and funny thing is that there are people out there who think Duke has the best chance of beating Kentucky. What is Duke going to do against this juggernaut when Jahlil Okafor gets into foul trouble, other than hope and pray that Marshall Plumlee doesn’t get posterized too many times?

Even when the Wildcats are dealing with foul trouble and missing shotsthey were 0-of-11 from three-point range until Andrew Harrison finally made one near the end of the gamethey are just too big, too deep, too good at defense and too talented to be beaten.

Maybemaybe—a team could get hot from three-point range and nullify Kentucky’s great interior defense.

However, opponents are shooting just 25.4 percent from beyond the arc against Kentucky this season, thanks in large part to a 6’8″ small forward and a pair of 6’6″ twins manning the guard positions for more than half the game.

No, the only team that can beat Kentucky is Kentucky.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There are a good number of teams out there that can hang with the Wildcats for 30 minutes, but it would take something truly incredible to have the lead over this team after 40 minutes.

Unless they start turning the ball over left and right and sulking through games the way they occasionally would in the first four months of the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats will go 40-0.

Not might, could or should—will.

They can thank the nation’s best, deepest and most athletic defense for that.

 

Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com and KenPom.com.

Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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Lakers Rumors: LA Smart to Turn to Earl Clark to Help Recharge Depleted Roster

The rebuild in Los Angeles has its eyes set on the NBA D-League.

For a four-win Lakers team, that is not a bad thing.

A new approach to building the roster (as opposed to the instant gratification of the past) has backfired as a young roster continues to struggle with injuries, chemistry and efficiency. Steve Nash is gone for the year, and promising youngsters Julius Randle and Xavier Henry will also miss the season. Ryan Kelly is also out due to an injury.

But in an effort to keep rebuilding with youth, Mitch Kupchak and the front office seem to have eyes for Earl Clark, who currently suits up for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News broke down the situation:

The Lakers have had ‘talks’ to sign forward Earl Clark this week, according to a league source familiar with the discussions. The deal is not finalized, but it’s believed to be a one-year deal worth $1 million. The Lakers could either wait until the NBA approves hardship exception to finish that deal. Or the Lakers could waive Henry, who is owed a guaranteed $1.1 million. 

Signing Clark is a smooth move for a number of reasons. He has experience with the organization already, having appeared in a career-high 59 games with the Lakers a few years ago. He is also a stretch 4 who can play in place of Kelly or come off the bench and provide a spark. Adding Clark to the roster makes sense from a strategic standpoint.

While it is true Clark will be 27 years old in January, there is little reason to split hairs over a number—Clark is a young player with plenty of upside and room to grow with the Lakers over the course of the next several years.

He can help bring along the roster in that span if the organization so chooses to play it that way, which in time means it has itself a chiseled veteran to contribute off the bench.

By the sounds of an interview in November, Clark seems to prefer the role he had with Los Angeles above all else, as captured by Dennis Silva II of The Monitor.

I made 3s in L.A., proved myself as a stretch guy. I go to Cleveland and all they want me to do is shoot 3s. When I’m in Orlando, I’m told don’t shoot the ball, just play defense. It’s tough for me. I’ve gotten into this tweener thing because I’ve gone from coaches who really don’t know how to use me.

Clark has already taken to Instagram to picture himself in the familiar colors:

From a statistical standpoint, Clark was his best with the Lakers:

Those numbers are proof enough that Clark will be an asset to the team once again. 

This time, though, the role is a bit different. There is no role as a complementary piece to Nash and Dwight Howard now. Instead, there is a role as a bit of a mentor on a miserable team where the task at hand is to space the floor and allow younger guys to go to work and develop. 

In that sense, Clark’s signing is a massive achievement. 

Think about it. How else can the Lakers even acquire notable talent at this point? Jordan Hill cannot be moved until January. Nick Young and Ed Davis are locked in until mid-December. Carlos Boozer cannot be moved. There is essentially no draft pick. Nobody would want Jeremy Lin’s contract.

So the D-League it is. It just so happens to be that there is Clark, a familiar, recognizable face young enough to be an attractive sell and equipped with a skill set to complement a budding roster.

The potential inking of Clark is not a move that will turn things around in the short term. There are no playoffs. Fans should not overload websites to purchase jerseys.

But as the interest in Clark shows, the Lakers are not in the business of instant gratification any longer.

For this year, at least.

 

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Richardson, Moore help Tennessee beats Santa Clara (Yahoo Sports)

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) drives to the hoop around Santa Clara guard Denzel Johnson (20) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tennessee got 18 points apiece from Josh Richardson and Armani Moore, and took control with impressive defensive play to start the second half en route to a 64-57 win over Santa Clara Thursday in the opening round of the Orlando Classic.


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Mark Cuban: Realignment could help the NBA

Mark Cuban wants to throw out everything your second grade teacher taught you about geography — all to assist a plan to fix the gap in quality between the NBA’s Eastern and Western Conferences — by realigning eight teams. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com, in the Dallas Mavericks owner’s plan, the Mavs, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans would move to the Eastern Conference. The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks would move to the West. “It’s not like it’d be the first time we’ve ever realigned,” Cuban said while working out before Wednesday’s home game against the New York Knicks. “It’s happened many times before, so there’s precedent and I just think it shakes things up and makes things interesting.” Just about any Western Conference owner wouldn’t mind swapping conferences — especially when the East is as soft as ever.  So is Cuban trying to make it easier for his Mavs by padding it with Knicks and 76ers games?

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Loving’s 18 help No. 16 Buckeyes roll over Camels (Yahoo Sports)

Ohio State's Marc Loving, right, goes up for a shot against Campbell's Andrew Ryan during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. ( AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Only four games into the season, even coach Thad Matta is surprised by how many players are contributing for No. 16 Ohio State.


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