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.
Sentinel: The lowly Raptors outrebounded, outshot and just plain outhustled the Magic to engineer a 102-98 upset in front of an announced sellout crowd that enthusiastically booed Turkoglu every time he touched the ball. "This is how we've been playing," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Our guys, they want to try to pick their spots. I'm confident in what we're able to do when we want to play. But I'm not confident that our guys will come with an approach to really come out and play hard and play with great energy. I'm not confident in that at all."
Orlando Magic Daily: It is hard to tell whether Orlando truly believes the team can flip the switch in two weeks when the playoffs being (Stan Van Gundy does not think so, succinctly saying that the team did not even try to do it tonight) or if there is some deeper problem. These consistency issues have plagued the team all year and it just appears this is who it is. Then again, the problem could be a lack of practicing. It is pure speculation for sure.
Heat Index: The good news from Miami’s 108-94 win over New Jersey on Sunday, however, was that it looks like the Heat’s Little Nine are starting to provide a bit more help. That’s partly a function of health, as Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller returned from injury. It’s partly a function of additions, as two players who weren’t here at the start of the season — Erick Dampier and Mike Bibby — combined to play 55 minutes.
Peninsula is Mightier: No win ever comes easy though, and Miami fans had to endure quite a scare during that dominant 1st quarter. Dwyane Wade bruised his right thigh while defending Travis Outlaw on a fast break, pulling himself out of the game and heading straight to the locker room to treatment. Thankfully he returned for the 2nd half and played his usual amount of minutes, finishing the game with 18 points in 27 minutes of work.
By the Horns: Derrick Rose’s highlight block from the Raptors game generated some interesting discussion. By The Horns reader Antz noticed that Rose has more blocked shots on the season (48) than LeBron James (46). While I was double-checking that stat, I also noted that Rose has more offensive rebounds (78) than LeBron (77).
ESPN Chicago: Derrick Rose had just finished dropping 36 points on the Toronto Raptors to lead theChicago Bulls to their third consecutive victory late Saturday night, but he knew coach Tom Thibodeau wasn't going to be happy. After all, the Bulls had given up 106 points to the lowly Raptors, an unacceptable total for a team that has stuck to a defense-first mentality all season. “In practice, he's going to curse us out," Rose said. "He's going to curse us out. But we're used to it, man. We're used to him yelling. We always know we can get better. But we just got to go out there and put more effort into it."
Liberty Ballers: If I had to guess, I'd say Louis Williams sits the rest of the season and will try to give it a go in the playoffs. All signs are pointing to the strained right hamstring injury to be more serious than was originally thought [...] Operating under the assumption that Lou is out for the playoffs, where does Doug Collins go from here? My first choice would obviously be Evan Turner. Actually, my first choice would be benching Andre Iguodala andElton Brand for at least the next 4 games because they are meaningless. Doug playing them despite their lingering injuries is just asking for trouble. It's a very poorly thought out decision under the umbrella of the all-ignorant-encompassing "WE WANT TO WIN GAMES".
Philadunkia: Seventy-seven down, five to go. The lengthy journey which has provided many thrills and good fortune has taken a sour turn at an unfortunate time. The injury bug finally bit the Sixers in strong fashion with news arising that Lou Williams will be out indefinitely because of a strained hammy. Obviously losing our Sixth Man of the Year candidate who has played well this season — averaging 13.7 points per game while constantly hitting big shots — will hurt. Replacing his roster spot is NBA journeyman, and current NBA D-Leaguer, Antonio Daniels. Daniels, who is 36 and last played in the League in 2009, joins the 7-6 on a 10-day contract.
ESPN LA: Denver center Nene missed the second of two free throws with 11.3 seconds left with a chance to turn a three-point Nuggets lead into a two-possession game. Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin was lined up around the key with Odom between him and the basket andRon Artest behind him. Martin pushed Odom under the basket, tipped in the miss and put the game out of reach. The normally easy-going Odom let his frustration show after the game, first chucking the basketball from one end of the court more than 60 feet towards the opposite basket and hitting a camera mounted on the top of the shot clock and later telling a reporter as he made his way across the locker room, "Second time … Two times this year … [Expletive]!"
Forum Blue and Gold: This was one of those losses that we had the pleasure of watching toward the end of last year’s regular season: it wasn’t about the numbers, more about the effort and the willingness to execute. Denver worked to force Lakers turnovers and hit the offensive glass hard — and those were the things that ultimately gave the Nuggets the upper hand down the stretch.
Project Spurs: The San Antonio Spurs were finally able to get back into the win column today and ended their six-game losing streak with a convincing win over the Phoenix Suns in front of a sellout crowd at the AT&T Center. George Hill was the difference-maker for the Spurs and he was key in getting the Spurs out to an early lead. Hill entered the game midway through the first quarter with the Spurs down by one and went to work immediately, leading the Spurs on a 14-2 run by attacking the paint, getting to the line and knocking down a pair of three-pointers all for 16 points in the first quarter alone.
MySA: Matt Bonner typically shuns much of the dirty work inside, choosing inside to stay outside at the 3-point line as his primary offensive strategy. But struggling in a recent slump changed all that Sunday. Bonner didn’t shoot in the first quarter and worked inside before shooting his first 3-pointer on his fifth attempt. By osmosis, it seemed that Bonner was inside for much of the first half. And that time in the paint enabled him to grab a season-best 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive boards as he helped the Spurs claim a 114-97 victory over Phoenix.
Mavs Moneyball: Sunday marked the end of the Dallas Mavericks' toughest stretch of the season as they played 20 of 30 games on the road. They are 21-9 since Feb. 1, third best record in the league during that span. That is an impressive record, but the Mavericks had a tough pill to swallow as they suffered a 104-96 loss to the Portland Trail Blazersin Portland. Shawn Marion led the Mavericks in the losing effort with 19 points and Rodrigue Beaubois added 18 points. Portland had six players in double figures and were led by Gerald Wallace with 19 points and eight rebounds.
ESPN Dallas: “There’s a good chance we’ll see them in the playoffs,” big man Brendan Haywood said. “They’re probably going to be pretty confident with that matchup.” There is indeed talk in this town that the Trail Blazers would prefer a first-round matchup with the Mavs. It was the primary topic of conversation on the Trail Blazers’ television broadcast postgame show. Portland has earned the right to be confident against the Mavs by defeating Dallas twice in the last 20 days.
NewsOK: There have been numerous losses this season in which the Thunder has admitted it couldn't properly counter a team's zone defense. On several occasions, the defensive scheme has slowed or shut down the Thunder's offensive attack. With the playoffs beginning in just two weeks, now is the time for the Thunder to settle on a solution. The last thing the Thunder needs to run into in the postseason, it seems, is an opponent that implements and executes a zone defense. Fortunately for Oklahoma City, the Denver Nuggets, the Thunder's current first-round opponent if the standings hold, use little to no zone. But Portland, which is in sixth place and only three games behind Denver, mixed in a zone throughout several stretches of the last two meetings. And, like Phoenix, it bothered the Thunder.