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.
Chicago Tribune: Later in the Bulls' postgame locker room, an unimpressed team downplayed the franchise-record 18 3-pointers, the pulling into a virtual tie with the Celtics for the Eastern Conference's top playoff seed and especially the 118-100 blowout of the Jazz…. Derrick Rose matched his career-high with five 3-pointers in the first quarter alone en route to 26 points as the Bulls also set franchise marks with eight first-quarter 3-pointers and 13 in the first half. About the only thing missing from Rose, who had 17 points in the first, was a Jordan-like shrug, a la the 1992 Finals.
By the Horns: How can you tell when a team is clicking? When they blow out a solid playoff team with relative ease despite missing a guy who ranks second on the team in scoring, rebounding and player efficiency rating (Carlos Boozer).
Heat Index: Miami followed its most needed regular-season win of the season with its most lopsided victory in Saturday's 118-85 thrashing of the Grizzlies. And that rope Spoelstra talked about holding onto earlier in the week was an essential element in both wins. With a strong defensive grip, the Heat corralled Kobe Bryant and crew and also smothered Memphis to avenge a loss in November, a setback that came amid Miami's 9-8 rough start.
Peninsula is Mightier: Bibby had his breakout game for the Heat, scoring 17 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting, all from downtown. He also collected 2 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal in 25 minutes off the bench. What I liked about Bibby's game was how nice it was to see a Miami point guard portraying such confidence. We knew when signing him that we were getting a solid outside shooter, but its been a while since the Heat have had someone running the point with this kind of veteran leadership.
Sentinel: Orlando and Phoenix face each other for the first time since a mid-December blockbuster trade involving six players. The Magic sent guard Vince Carter, guard/forward Mickael Pietrus and center Marcin Gortat to the Suns for guard Jason Richardson, Turkoglu and forward Earl Clark. "I think, looking at it, it was a deal that helped us both," Magic General Manager Otis Smith said.
Orlando Magic Daily: With Dwight Howard's free agency on the horizon, this feeling might be growing as it appears the stars are aligning (literally) in the major markets of New York and Chicago. This divide between the "large" and "small" markets is going to be an issue that possibly divides the owners in collective bargaining this summer. It is a concern though of a lot of fans who see a trend of superstars gathering together and do not believe they will want to do it in cities like Oklahoma City, New Orleans or Sacramento.
Brew Hoop: Given their modest 26-38 record, it may be a while before these deer once again inspire legitimate fear among the elite of the NBA, but three wins a row at least represent a good start. Case in point: needing a win over a Sixer team currently ahead of them in the East playoff race, the Bucks got their win and then some, winning all four quarters and thumping Philly by a season-high 28 points on a fun Saturday night at the BC.
Bucksketball: Brandon Jennings was a shining example of Milwaukee’s resurrected offense in the first half, just as he’s been a common scapegoat when the team struggles. Jennings made four of five first half threes, with all four coming off catch and shoots. The one miss Jennings had was a late in the shot-clock forced airball. Typical of their successes, typical of their struggles.
Forum Blue And Gold: In a game that meant everything for making up ground in the West, the Lakers gave it everything they had, defeating Dallas 96-91. Led by one of Andrew Bynum’s best — and most timely — performances of the season, L.A. effectively controlled the tempo for most of the game’s 48 minutes. Bynum was a beast on both ends of the floor, scoring 22 points, including several aggressive moves in the painted area, while also reeling in 15 rebounds. We’ve been saying it for several games now, but he’s truly been a different player altogether since the All-Star break and one who dramatically increases the Lakers’ hopes for a third straight championship.
Silver Screen And Roll: Late in the third quarter, Kobe Bryant came down on Shawn Marion at a bad angle and turned his ankle something fierce. He went to the locker room for treatment, returned to the floor and played down the stretch, but after the game Phil Jackson called it a "severe" ankle sprain and said that Kobe's status for Monday's game against Orlando is up in the air. Kobe told reporters that when the injury happened he was "scared shitless." He seriously feared that he'd broken it and that he'd be done for the season.
Mavs Moneyball: The Mavericks are still a legitimate threat to the Lakers, they just were not the better team on Saturday. Right from the start, the Mavericks had an incredibly rough time getting the ball in the basket. At times, it looked like there was a lid on the basket. The effort and energy were there, but the shots just would not go down. With 16 games left in the regular season, the Mavericks need to continue working on building a complete game.
The Two Man Game: This is the second game in a row where Shawn Marion (25 points, 11-20 FG, 12 rebounds, seven offensive rebounds, two blocks) has been the best player in a Maverick uniform. On Thursday, Marion did a phenomenal job of defending Carmelo Anthony (who shot 5-of-15 on the night) while dropping 22 and 8, and Marion followed up that performance by reprising his role as a defensive virtuoso (against Kobe Bryant, who finished 6-of-20 from the field) and thoroughly dominating the offensive glass. Dallas went to Marion in the post repeatedly against Bryant, Ron Artest, and others, and Marion was able to score from the block regardless of opponent. On the occasions when the initial hook didn’t fall, Marion followed his shot for a tip-in. Marion shot 20 field goal attempts on the night, and on 15 of those attempts he either made the shot or followed it up with an offensive board. Just incredible work.
Project Spurs: The San Antonio Spurs (54-12) opened up their three game road trip with a win over their division rivals the Houston Rockets (33-34) on Saturday night. After gutting out a win Friday in San Antonio against the Sacramento Kings, the Spurs were able to execute plays down the stretch and get key stops in the last 2 minutes as they defeated the Rockets 115 to 107. Tony Parker (21 points) and Manu Ginobili (19 points) led the way for a combined team effort as eight players scored in double figures. Antonio McDyess made a major impact with 12 points and 12 rebounds as he got the Spurs going early.
MySanAntonio: The Spurs did not play the 48 minutes of championship-level defense they would like to, but they did play about two minutes worth in the fourth quarter. In the end, that was enough.
Welcome to Loud City: The Thunder are going into Cleveland to face the NBA's worst team: The Cleveland Laughaliers. Most people have already marked this game in the win column. Though I doubt anybody has payed much attention to this team after they broke their long losing streak last month, I'm here to tell you they have improved since that stretch. The return of Daniel Gibson has given them a much needed boost, since they hardly have anyone else on their roster, and Baron Davis has functioned as an effective scorer in the games he's played in since he came from the Clippers.
NewsOK: The Thunder plan is to live by the letter of the law, which is this. If Seattle obtains a new NBA franchise within five years of the July 2008 agreement, the Thunder, upon request, will transfer the franchise's banners, trophies and retired jerseys to the new Seattle owners, provided that the new Sonics acknowledge a “shared history” with the Thunder franchise.
Now, if there's no NBA team in Seattle by July 2013, the Thunder can do whatever the heck it wants. It can wear Sonic throwbacks, display the 1979 NBA Championship trophy on a Bricktown gondola and use Jack Sikma's No. 43 to wipe down Nissans at a fundraising car wash.