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.
ESPN Chicago: With the win, the Bulls are now just a half game behind the Boston Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The team doesn't want to scoreboard watch, but the Bulls are happy about the possibilities over the final month of the regular season. "Yes sir, it's exciting stuff," Noah said. "But we understand, to get to where we want to get to, we just got to stay focused on the moment. Not worry about expectations, not worry about what you guys are talking about. When you win a couple games in a row, everything's unbelievable and then you lose one it's like the end of the world. We're not worried about that; we're staying focused on what we need to focus on, and that's just getting better, improving, and winning ballgames. It's good stuff."
Tribune: The Bulls posted their fourth winning streak of five or more games this season and limited their ninth straight opponent to fewer than 90 points. In fact, the Hawks managed just 26 points after taking a 50-48 halftime lead. Al Horford, who burned the Bulls for 31 points and 16 rebounds a week ago, managed just six points.
Orlando Pinstriped Post: In one of the most exciting NBA games in recent memory, in which the combatants combined for an NBA-record 36 three-pointers, the Golden State Warriors rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Orlando Magic, 123-120, in overtime thanks to 17 triples in the second half. Shooting guard Monta Ellis played the entire game and led all scorers with 39 points, including a career-high 7 three-pointers, while Dorell Wright scored 32 on 8-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. Their work offset another brilliant performance from Orlando's perimeter trio of Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu, which combined for 78 points on 28-of-52 shooting, with 12 threes of its own.
Orlando Magic Daily: The Magic were not particularly disciplined defensively, often crashing to the paint to stop penetration and leaving open the 3-pointers. Golden State made Orlando pay for that strategy. Although there may not have been much the Magic could do with David Lee doing a good job drawing Howard away from the paint, forcing Orlando to make some over rotations.
Peninsula is Mightier: As nice as it was for Miami to break their losing streak on Thursday against the Lakers, it's almost equally important for them to keep things rolling and get another win today against Memphis. If the Heat drops this game then it'll be like taking a step backwards, where winning would keep the momentum going in Miami's favor. With just 17 games remaining until the playoffs, this is when the Heat players really need to think about why they all came to Miami.
Miami Herald: In other words, the Heat — 2-6 in its last eight games — can’t afford to cruise into the playoffs just yet. With a challenging set of games awaiting the team, the Heat tempered its important win against the Lakers on Thursday night with a measured perspective. “It’s one game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We certainly wanted to get over this initial hump. We have to keep moving forward. The important thing about going through a stretch like that is that the guys did not collapse.”
Bucksketball: Philadelphia is on the second night of a back-to-back, coming off a big win in Boston. Milwaukee’s operating on two days of rest and has won two straight. They’re desperate to make a run at the final playoff spot and are in a position to do so. If they can’t pull this one off against a quality, but possibly tired, opponent, that’s probably a strong indication that the last two wins against Washington and Cleveland had a lot more to do with Washington and Cleveland than Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Journal: the 5-foot-5 Boykins could prove to be a valuable scorer and backup point guard in the final month of the season. He delivered with a crowd-pleasing 8-of-9 shooting performance and 18 points in the Bucks' 110-90 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday night. "This is the freshest I've felt at the end of a basketball season in a very long time," Boykins said after practice Friday. "I know exactly how to prepare now, how to take care of my body.
Project Spurs: The San Antonio Spurs got their 53rd win of the season and their 11th straight against the Sacramento Kings last night beating the Kings, 108-103.
While the Kings were missing Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih, they managed to keep it close, especially in the final minutes. But the Spurs big three of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan proved to be more than the Kings could handle.
Project Spurs: [Tonight] the San Antonio Spurs will face the Houston Rockets and it seems Rockets' Luis Scola may not suit up
Silver Screen and Roll: One of the great mysteries surrounding the 2010-11 Lakers is why they're not a better defensive rebounding team. It doesn't make a ton of sense, as they were just fine on the defensive glass last year. In terms of defensive rebounding rate, meaning the portion of their opponents' missed shots that they recovered, the Lakers ranked ninth in the NBA in 2009-10. This season they've sunk to 19th, and unless you think Jordan Farmar was the key to controlling the defensive boards, there aren't any personnel changes to account for the slippage. Granted, Andrew Bynum has missed some games, but he missed games last year too
ESPN LA: In my look at the tape, there were only two shots from Bryant that fans have every right to question: The triple in the corner off the inbound (fouled or not, it was a terrible shot) and the ludicrously three deep with 25 seconds to play. Those were flat-out bad choices. The isolation play against Wade isn't exactly my favorite play, either, but at the same time the idea Kobe Bryant might go one-on-one in a critical situation, likely drawing the defense and kicking to an open teammate as he's done many times before, isn't exactly going off the grid.
ESPN Dallas: Dallas and L.A. play the second of three games this season Saturday night and the Mavs can take the season series with their earlier win at home on Jan. 19. A win Saturday would move Dallas 2.5 games ahead of the Lakers in the Western Conference standings and three games up in the loss column. However, winning the season series would only be good for confidence-building for the postseason. In the case the Mavs and Lakers are tied at the end of the regular season, the Lakers will own the tiebreaker because of a recently changed rule in which head-to-head matchup takes a backseat if one team is a division winner. The Mavs won't catch the Spurs in the Southwest Division and the Lakers hold an 11.5-game lead in the Pacific Division.
NBA Hangtime Blog: the Mavs’ defense has actually been worse on this 23-game run than it was through the first 42 games. But the offense has been so efficient that the defensive slippage hasn’t mattered. The interesting thing about the Mavs’ increased offense is that, despite the faster pace, Dirk Nowitzki is scoring less than he was earlier in the season. Through the first 42 games, Nowitzki averaged 23.4 points per game, but he’s averaging just 22.5 over the last 23. Instead, the Mavs are getting more from Jason Terry (15.4 ppg first 42, 18.1 in last 23) and Tyson Chandler (9.1 ppg, 13.1 ppg), as well as contributions from Peja Stojakovic and Roddy Beaubois.
Daily Thunder: From the start, it was pretty easy to tell the Thunder was going to win this game. The Pistons aren’t very good, they didn’t seem to be all that invested and they’re kind of horrible on the road. It really was just a matter of how well Oklahoma City would execute and if there was a chance we’d see Royal Ivey. But for a lot of the game, the Thunder seemed a bit unfocused. They appeared to lack intensity. So the Pistons hung right in the game. But for a stretch to end the third quarter, OKC finally tightened up, moved the ball, made shots and essentially put Detroit away.
NewsOK: With 6:04 left in the third quarter, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook scored his 4,000th career point to join Oscar Robertson, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Anfernee Hardaway as the only players in NBA history to have 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds in their first three seasons.