Its time to start focusing on the playoffs and our potential roadblocks to Banner 18. Every day we'll bring you what's making news in enemy territory. This way we know what they're up to when it comes time to take 'em out.
By the Horns: the Bulls blew out the Bobcats in Charlotte, winning for the 11th time in 13 games, moving to within 1.5 games of the Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference, and clinching their sixth playoff berth in the last seven seasons.
Of course, no “dream come true” moment is complete without a sobering dose of reality. In this case, the reality check was delivered in the form of a flagrant foul by Kwame Brown that put Carlos Boozer on the ground and injured the big man’s ankle in the process.
ESPN Chicago: The Bulls' bench was the catalyst to this particular win and Tom Thibodeau knows it could be the same for others over the next couple of months. Korver had 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor. Taj Gibson had 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and grabbed six rebounds as well. Ronnie Brewer had 10 points of his own, C.J. Watson added six points, Omer Asik pulled down six rebounds. It was an all-around from a group that has only gotten better as the season has worn along.
Orlando Pinstriped Post: Jameer Nelson went on a scoring spree in the fourth quarter to lead the Magic to a 106-102 victory Wednesday night. Nelson scored 12 of his team-high 26 points in the decisive fourth period, mixing drives to the basket with pull-up jumpers off the dribble to keep the Kings' iffy perimeter defense guessing. Indeed, it was the Magic's wing players who keyed the offense tonight, as Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Gilbert Arenas combined for 47 points and 8 three-pointers in support of Nelson.
Sentinel: Despite being hammered on the boards, 51-35, the Magic pulled the game out after playing sluggishly most of the night. "We didn't play well," Nelson said. "If we think it's OK, it's not. We have to change what we do. It's not on anybody but us. It's not on offense; it's on defense. We can't flip the switch for the playoffs. We're not good enough."
Heat Index: Bosh is asking for an equilibrium. There’s no doubt that Bosh’s game has become more perimeter-oriented in Miami. In his postgame news conference, Bosh took turns blaming himself, his teammates and his coach for his deployment on the floor. And he’s mostly correct; the outward migration is as much a product of his own doing as it is a product of his surroundings.
Miami Herald: That’s a lot of crazy bleep happening at one dreadful time, and you see the weight of it in the Heat’s tears and you can hear it in their trembling voice. Maybe this stretch is representative of some sort of awful structural flaw in Miami’s bench, defense or blueprint. Or maybe it is just an amazing and random number of shots going in.
Liberty Ballers: Durants final statistical line was that of an NBA superstar (and not just because he scored over 20 points!). 34 points on 26 shots along with 16 defensive rebounds and the clutchest (word?) form of 3-pointer you could see during a regular season game rounded out his great evening. Unfortunately for Sixers fans, he was not added to the Igoudala Victim List tonight. That is no knock on Dre's defense though. Giving up 4 inches and what seems like a million inches (exaggeration) in length (Jay Bilas loves it), Iguodala did all he could to try to contain the NBA's highest scorer. He had a hand in Durant's face all night and limited his ability to get out on the break as much as you could hope for. This was just a night of great offense overcoming great defense.
The Spurs hit their first 14 shots and finished with a season high 40 points in the first quarter to take a 14 point lead and never looked back.
Project Spurs: [Podcast] Are there any lingering concerns from the Spurs loss to the Lakers? We go over the pros and cons of the loss to the Lakers, what this might mean down the road for the Spurs, and much more.
ESPN Dallas: The good news regarding Shawn Marion is that X-rays of his bruised ribs were negative. The bad news is he took a shot to the rib cage in the same spot that was already sore from a bruise that occurred in Phoenix prior to the All-Star break. Marion was clearly in discomfort after Wednesday's highly disappointing, 93-92 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, who played without Chris Paul.
ESPN Dallas: Jason Terry took exception to a foul called on Jason Kidd with 8.4 seconds left in the game that awarded Jarrett Jack three free throws. Jack made all three attempts and the Hornets got a stop at the other end to pull out the improbable, 93-92 victory. "I don't know if Jarrett Jack gets that call," Terry said. "We know Kevin Durant does. You know Kobe may get it. But I don't know about Jarrett Jack. That's just my personal opinion. So we've got to live with it, take it on the chin and go ahead and get ready to get this next one."
Silver Screen and Roll: 18.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks — 26.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks – 20 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2 blocks
Do you know what these stat lines have in common? … The first line is Andrew Bynum's performance from 1/4/2008 to 1/11/2008. The second is from 1/21/2009 to 1/30/2009. The third, 3/9/2010 to 3/16/2010. I doubt I have to tell you what those dates mean, but I will anyways. These dates, and this data, represents the average of Bynum's performance in the five games that pre-date his tragically annual major injury.
OC Register: “It’s a perfect setup for them to get back on track,” Bryant said. “They have no option but to fight, to play their hearts out. It’s going to be a big challenge for us. They’ve lost five games in a row now. They’re looking at this game as a game that’s going to turn things around for them.”
Daily Thunder: So down five, needed two baskets and a stop, it just did not look good for the Thunder. But that’s why having a player like Kevin Durant is so, so nice. Because at any moment, at any time, he can pick an entire team up. First, it was a tough running baseline jumper. That was big. Then with the Thunder needing a stop or they lose, KD played wonderful defense on Andre Iguodala, getting a piece of his shot. OKC controlled and here we were — down three with 12 seconds left and the game in the hands of Scott Brooks’ clipboard. He dialed up a decent set for Durant who did what he’s always capable of doing: knock down a big one.
News OK: It was the second overtime victory this week for the Thunder, which is now 7-1 in extra time this season. "Down by five, then get lucky to win the game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said afterward. "I'm not happy with that (slow starts defensively), but I love the fact that as the game goes on, the competitive spirit rises with this group. That's been our season all along, but we need to get better starts defensively.