Coach J.B. Bickerstaff isn’t overly concerned with Thursday’s road loss to the Raptors and still seems to like the Cavs’ odds of avoiding the play-in tournament. The Cavs are still in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, via a tiebreaker. (Related Dribbles.)
“You’ve got a choice of fighting or you’ve got a choice of running, and our guys don’t run,” Bickertaff said. “We’ll lay it out there. But again, we’re in a position where we just have to take care of business. We take care of business, we’ll be fine.”
- Lamar Stevens, who scored 16 vs. the Raptors, has now topped 15 points in three straight games.
- Multiple Cavs have said they need to start being more physical as the playoffs approach. The list includes Lauri Markkanen, who basically said the Raptors were just tougher. “They brought the physicality in the game in the beginning,” Markkanen said. “I think we kind of matched that as the game went on. We’ve got to watch the film and see how we can improve, but obviously not our best game.”
Chicago has lost five of six and is danger of dropping out of the top six in the East. The 7-10 seeds in each conference have to take part in the play-in tournament.
“It’s frustrating; obviously, we’re just trying to figure out how to get back into a rhythm,” Bulls guard Zach LaVine said. “No one is going to help us. We’ve done enough talking. We’ve done enough of trying to pep talk and rallying to keep guys’ spirits up, but we just have to get it done now.”
- The Bulls were without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (groin) in Thursday’s loss to the Pelicans, but coach Billy Donovan said the decision to hold him out was precautionary. “He’s been experiencing some tightness for a little bit,” Donovan said. “He didn’t think it was anything too severe. He received imaging, and there was nothing significant. … The wisest choice was not to push him and for him not to push himself.”
- As we relayed earlier, it may be a bit longer before Lonzo Ball is able to return (Hoops Wire link.)
Coach Rick Carlisle missed Thursday’s blowout loss to the Grizzlies for personal reasons, and he is just one of several people normally on the bench or on the court who’s out of action in Indiana. For instance, Malcolm Brogdon has rested for three straight games.
“We’re short-handed. We’re asking guys to do a little bit more … and needing them to do a little bit more,” acting coach Lloyd Pierce said. “It puts you in a situation where you need everything to go right.”
- Goga Bitadze said the Pacers’ struggles at least offer a good learning experience, and that the Grizzlies are a good model to follow. “We’re a new team. We’re still learning each other, how to play with each other,” he said. “That’s a great team, like I said, so taking little things, some good things (from them) I guess is the smart thing to do.”