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: The 22-year-old point guard proved that one more time on Tuesday night. After blowing a 17-point lead in an 83-80 loss on March 2 in Atlanta, Rose made sure the Bulls didn't make the same mistake twice. Chicago blitzed the Hawks from the outset and didn't let its foot off the gas this time with a 114-81 victory. Rose, who played poorly in the Bulls' loss that particular contest, finished with 30 points, 10 assists and four rebounds. He shot 6-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Blog a Bull: This season there's been impressive wins, and even similar drubbings. Heck, one just last night. But this was a team playing on a back-to-back, on the road, against a playoff caliber team. And the Bulls put on an absolute clinic.
Heat Index: The Heat are the only team in the NBA in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and they have three players capable of taking over a game at any time with little help from their teammates. (Insert your own caveats about Bosh, who seems to have re-found his game recently.) They also have a harem of other players who are fully capable of being keys to victory or complete non-factors on a given night. Depending on which role players are making the biggest impact, the Heat are capable of taking on a completely different identity on any given night. Believers will call this versatility; skeptics will call it a lack of identity. We won't know which it is until the playoffs are over.
Hot Hot Hoops: Come playoff time, it is typical for teams to pare their rotation down to eight or nine players, an exercise that will be difficult for the Heat. One particular position that hasn’t been talked about broadly, but should, is that of the bench swingman. For the first 40 games or so, James Jones filled the role capably. Lately, however, it has been Mike Miller garnering all of the minutes. In comparing the two, there are numerous statistics indicating that the Heat may be giving these important minutes to the wrong player.
Orlando Magic Daily: the Magic are confident (at least in their words to the press) they will be ready once the postseason begins. I tend to agree that Orlando will up its level of play, focus and intensity once the games start really counting. The only problem is that everyone else — at least the Chicagos, Bostons and Miamis of the league — will do that too. It is an uneasy place for Orlando to be in as the team is still very much working its way toward the consistency the team has come to recognize the past three years.
Sentinel: Smith wants to see Arenas create waves in Orlando by challenging Jameer Nelson for the starting point-guard job next season — or even seizing it from Nelson. This scenario sounds far-fetched now, given Gilbert's struggles since arriving in a mid-December trade. "I'm OK with having a controversy with players fighting for a job," Smith said. "That's a good problem to have. I'll deal with that issue."
3 Shades of Blue: Tony Allen. This guy, right now, is the undisputed leader of the Grizzlies. The absurd level of energy, the hops (no one's thinking about his weak knees anymore, are they??!?!?), the towel-waving when he's not in the game, the urging on of the crowd..this guy is doing his very best to help drag this young team to an even higher position in the conference. Everyone from Conley, to the coaches, to even the broadcasters, seems to recognize Allen's do-or-die-tryin' attitude and its importance to the Griz. He didn't have quite the stat-packed game this night as a couple other recent ones, but his example of how to close out to Utah's shooters rubbed off on OJ and Sam Young enough to choke off what can be a rather potent 3point attack for the Jazz.
Biggest must-win since the spring of 2006? Yes. Couldn't be more thrilled. One of two on the upcoming BOS/CHI roadtrip? Heck, let's go for two. The Griz have embarrassed the Celts in BOS before, no reason they can't do it again. I think we'd all agree that it's time for CHI to lose one at home, huh? As Tony Allen might say…"LET'S GET IT GRIZZ".
OC Register: It was a definite feel-good moment for the Lakers. They weren't going to win a championship just by beating a likely lottery team, but by winning this game they sure looked like a team that is going to win a championship.
Forum Blue And Gold: All-in-all, this was a good win for the Lakers. They survived the Bynum suspension with two wins — two tough wins that they had to gut out in the final minutes. Thankfully, they don’t play again until Friday against the Clippers.
Project Spurs: The Spurs (57-13), already have clinched a playoff berth and own a big lead in the West will play without Duncan who landed awkwardly after scoring early in the first quarter Monday night and did not return in a 111-96 win over the Golden State Warriors. An MRI taken on Tuesday confirmed he sprained his left ankle. Duncan will stay in San Antonio for rehabilitation during the team's three-game road trip that begins tonight, but the Spurs are unsure how much time he will miss.
Project Spurs: As you all know, last week I had an opportunity to speak with basketball great Bill Walton in New York City at a basketball round table. […] during the roundtable I had an opportunity to get his thoughts on which teams will make it to the 2011 NBA Finals. Check out the video of Walton answering my question and what he thinks about the Spurs chances coming out of the West.
Mavs Moneyball: Nowitzki has come a long way from the one rebound performance against the Suns, but he knows that he needs to bring more to the table to help his team out as the second season is approaching. Over the course of 103 playoff games as a member of the Mavericks, Nowitzki has averaged 10.3 rebounds/game in the playoffs, well above his career average of 8.4 rebounds/game. "I’ve got to rebound better, especially coming down towards the playoffs when we see the big teams," Nowitzki said. "If we see Memphis, they’ve got some big boys. Portland plays a bunch of big guys. New Orleans has (Emeka) Okafur and (David) West, so all of these teams down there are big. I’ve got to find a way to get some rebounds."
ESPN Dallas: Jason Kidd turns 38 today and he's just thankful he hasn't had to play that many minutes on most nights. "Some nights I feel a little bit older than 38," Kidd said. "But, I feel great physically. I do feel good. Coach [Rick Carlisle] has kept my minutes down."
News OK: The Thunder's season-long, six-game winning streak ended at the hands of Toronto on Sunday night. But Oklahoma City is 17-5 in games following a loss. That .773 winning percentage trails only San Antonio (12-1) in games immediately following a loss.“The only thing I can think of is just the competitive spirit of our guys,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said when asked to explain how his team has responded to defeats. “They look at losses as a missed opportunity and they go into the next game with the mentality to make up for that loss. That's a great mindset to have.