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SportsMonday: Illinois Pride, Bulls Shame

Really, Cavaliers? That's all you have?

The team's 110-77 loss Sunday night to the Golden State Warriors put them in a 2-0 hole in the NBA finals and in danger of being swept. And I was left rooting for Shaun Livingston to pile up some points in garbage time to improve his case for a possible Finals MVP.

Local angle (kind of!) Livingston is the pride of Peoria, a proud graduate of Central High School. How cool would it be if Livingston won the Finals MVP a year after teammate Andre Iguodola, the pride of Springfield (Lanphier), Illinois, brought home that trophy?

It was looking like the combo guard would have a great shot this year after he scored 20 points in Game 1 on 8-of-10 shooting. But teammate Draymond Green (pride of Saginaw, Michigan, by the way - so at least he is a proud son of the Midwest) asserted himself in a big way in Game 2, nailing five three-pointers on his way to 28 points. If it was a three-game series, Green would win the MVP.

But it isn't. Game 3 is scheduled for Wednesday night in Cleveland. The Cavaliers have played light years better at home during the playoffs so far so perhaps they will bounce back and at least not totally embarrass themselves the way they did in the first two games.

The team from Cleveland seems to be paying the price for handing over the head coaching job to a novice at mid-season.

(Actually, the bigger problem was handing over the general manager's job to their star player a few years ago.)

So, the Warriors are almost certainly ascendant again. Are there lessons here for the Bulls? Well, last offseason they too dumped their successful coach and brought in a novice with no NBA head coaching experience. Strangely enough, that didn't work out very well.

The Warriors have done a masterful job pulling this championship team together. They have also been monumentally lucky. In the last three years, the list of personnel moves they've made worked out better than any reasonable person could have hoped, and the moves they didn't make that would've been disasters is oh so long.

For one thing, the Warriors desperately tried to sign Dwight Howard as a free agent in 2013. I think it is safe to say that Howard spurning Golden State worked out pretty well for the champs.

The Bulls tried to ape the Warriors but they didn't have players who could play that way (doh!). Rookie coach Fred Hoiberg also turned out to be a feckless leader who had no clue how to motivate the professional troops.

But perhaps the Bulls can learn a little from the Cavaliers' downfall. The worst part of the first two games has been Cleveland's complete inability to play competent defense for longer than a minute or two.

Hey Bulls, focus on playing better defense. You won't be very good and you won't be a championship contender until you somehow luck into at least one more superstar (and watch the Warriors disintegrate somehow) but that would be a playing style that your fans could take pride in.

Isn't there a veteran assistant out there you could bring in to coordinate things at the defensive end? Someone who would be in position to take over for Hoiberg when Hoiberg fails again next season?

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Jun 24, 2017

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