The first marquee matchup of the day involves the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic. The Bulls beat the Magic 102-99. The Bulls are seemingly trying to chase down the Spurs and overtake them for the best record in the league. The Bulls are now one game back of San Antonio. I thought this was a very good game. Buckets were traded and it was very fast paced. However among all these things, a few things stood out.
The first is that for the Bulls, Derrick Rose did a lot of the heavy lifting. He scored 39 points shooting 13 of 17 field and he made all ten of his free throws. He also had 3 rebounds and 5 assists. I wasn’t really surprised that Derrick could do this. After all he’s done this all season long. I’m more surprised by the fact that he did this with both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah in the lineup.
Secondly, I was wondering how Orlando would fare against a good team without Dwight Howard. I have a feeling that technicals over the course of the season my catch up to the Magic in the playoffs. They may play a few playoff games without Dwight Howard. The Magic it turns out fared pretty well against the team with the best record in the east. Orlando allowed the Bulls to shoot 60% from the field which was most definitely a poor defensive effort. The Magic did themselves a favor by shooting 50% from beyond the arc. This resulted in their highest scorers being Jason Richardson with 24 points and Ryan Anderson with 28 points. It was a close game and Jameer Nelson failed to get the game tying three point shot of in team resulting in a Chicago Bulls victory.
The second game of importance was between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. The Heat pounded the Celtics 100-77. The player with the hot hand in this game was Lebron James who played like he was pissed off. He lead all scorers with 27 points. This might have something to do with the shove given to him by Jermaine O’Neal gave him on is way to the basket. I don’t know what it was exactly but, whatever it was Boston had no answer for it.
Boston doesn’t appear to be the same team that they were earlier in the season. Specifically their defense is lacking. This has more to do with the trade of Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder before the trade deadline. When he left he took his heart, nastiness ans aggression with him. All of these things were needed by the Celtics. It was what made them contenders. Danny Ainge has yet to admit it but when he traded Perkins, he made a huge mistake. He tried to prepare for the future, a team that is ready to contend right now. And given the age of the team in question one could argue that this team can only contend right now. This resulted in Miami being able to bully their way inside the paint. Something that was previously too difficult to do.
Another big reason why Miami won this game by so much was that the out-rebounded the Celtics 42-26. This does have a lot to do with Perkins but from watching the game it just looked like Miami was the hungrier team. They tried harder. Which isn’t to say that Boston wasn’t trying but their effort was just not on the same level as the Heats. Miami has now overtaken Boston as the second best team in the eastern conference.
The final game of the night involved the aforementioned Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers. Some said that this was a must win game for the Lakers. A statement game of sorts because OKC did not need any confidence going into the playoffs that they could beat the Lakers. Furthermore the Lakers were on a 4 game skid that they needed to stop. So it was a must win game for sure.
Instead what happened was that the game got away from LA. It was a close battle. Both teams traded runs, even though the Thunder were able to remain dominance throughout most of the game. It was something of a shootout with both teams shooting at or around 60% from the field heading into the half. In the end though the Lakers came up short. They had a few key turnovers and lapses in defense coming down the stretch. The Thunder beat them 120-106. This is the Lakers fifth straight loss. Teams have come into the playoffs cold before and simply turned on the switch but that always has it’s risks. If this is what LA calls getting primed for the post season. I don’t want any part of it.
Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant had eerily similar stat lines by the way. Kevin shot 11-15 to produce 31 points. Kobe also had 31 points on 10-19 shooting in the loss.