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.
Sun Sentinel: For once, it was the Heat getting to say they've improved as a team, matured through the season and finally found some answers after three previous losses to Boston. "We can beat them,'' Dwyane Wade said. "For one game, we got over the hump. Once you finally see it works, now you continue to go do it."
Heat Index: To no one's surprise, the Miami Heat downplayed any notion that Sunday's win over the Boston Celtics was a case of getting any monkey off their collective back. "It's just one game," Heat center Chris Bosh said. "It has some significance, just trying to get that 2-seed, so it was a game of importance. But it's no bigger than that."
By the Horns: To continue what has become a common refrain this season, the Bulls had yet another “first time since the Michael Jordan era” moment yesterday when they reached the always-special 60-win plateau. In fact, the only other times the Bulls have ever won at least 60 games was in the MJ era. Jordan’s teams did it in 1990-91 (61-21), 1991-92 (67-15), 1995-96 (72-10), 1996-97 (69-13) and 1997-98 (62-20).
ESPN Chicago: Derrick Rose has gotten so good at closing out games this season that even when does, and his team racks up yet another win (the 60th of the season), he still doesn't sound happy about it. Rose believes that despite what everyone around him thinks, the Bulls aren't championship-ready just yet. "No, not yet," he said after Sunday's game. "We're pretty close, but we haven't proven anything yet. We're still trying to get there."
Sentinel: Pinch-hitting for the suspended Dwight Howard, Anderson put together a line score commonly found in Howard's bio: 28 points, 10 rebounds, one block in 34 minutes. A career scoring day aside, Ryan will be the first one to tell you that it's a lot better for the Magic when Howard is on the floor to posts those stats.
Orlando Pinstriped Post: Without Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic pushed the Chicago Bulls, the East's top team, to the final possession in a Sunday matinee, but wound up falling by a 102-99 final after officials correctly ruled Jameer Nelson's tying three-pointer on the Magic's final play was too tardy. Orlando sorely missed Howard's defensive presence in the lane; without him there, Bulls point guard and surefire MVP candidate Derrick Rose, arguablythe greatest player since Michael Jordan one of the league's three best players at his position, scored 39 points on 13-of-17 shooting, driving the lane with impunity and scoring at the rim. He finished 8-of-9 on baskets in the painted area, an unusually high number of attempts and makes for him in that zone against Orlando.
Bullets Forever: Only a Wizards fan would see this week as a positive one. The boys managed a narrow win over a bad Pistons team, then were blown out by the Pacers, beaten soundly by the Celtics (who are not playing well), and then blew out a Hawks team that is a gaping hole of suck. But hey, 2 wins are great, and for the Wizards to out-hustle a team is a huge deal. It was only a few weeks ago that Jimmy Wall was calling out his teammates for not putting forth enough effort, and now this rag tag group is consistently working hard. Call me crazy, but I think it's the D-Leaguers we've brought on board. I mean, there has to be some explanation for the increased effort, right? Cook Book isn't out there showing everyone how to work, and the only evidence I have is the play of scrappy Othyus Jeffers.
OC Register: This one was enough finally to get Kobe Bryant mad. After the Lakers lost their fifth consecutive game Sunday night, allowing the Oklahoma City Thunder to prove a point about its ability to threaten for the Western Conference title, Bryant steered clear of his teammates in the postgame locker room. He said he ducked into the adjoining training room because "I didn't want to redecorate the walls" in the main locker room.
ESPN LA: This one is painful for the Lakers on a few levels. First, unlike Friday's game in Portland in which L.A. didn't really bother with incidentals like effort and focus until the fourth quarter, Sunday the Lakers were invested in the proceedings, particularly after a second quarter dust up between Kendrick Perkins and Kobe Bryant. It's easier to brush off a loss chock full of complacency, less so on a night with more robust effort.
Project Spurs: It's no secret that the two things on San Antonio Spurs fans' minds as the Spurs enter the playoffs this weekend are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Spurs' big men [...]The Spurs have struggled at times playing against some of the league's bigger teams, and in four games against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are looking to be their first round matchup, Zach Randolph gave the Spurs headaches.
Project Spurs: With two games left, the league's best record is well within reach, the Spurs are one game ahead of the Chicago Bulls for the NBA's best record. But coach Gregg Popovich might practice prudence with the workloads of some of the team’s key players which was evident in their last game against Utah as Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker played less than 30 minutes a piece. Nonetheless, with a one game lead and only two games remaining wouldn't the Spurs want to give it a shot?
ESPN Dallas: Young Rodrigue Beaubois was the anticipated X factor. Perhaps veteran Peja Stojakoviccan be the real one for the Dallas Mavericks. Between his six-game injury absence in March and some sporadic playing time of late, sometimes one can forget that Stojakovic was added to the team back in January. Take Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers for instance. Through three quarters, Stojakovic had only stepped on the court during a timeout to give up his seat to guys who were playing.
Mavs Moneyball: After six games of DNP-CD's, all while receiving one-on-one tutelage from Carlisle himself, it appears Brewer is ready to contribute with a firm grasp of the Maverick schemes. Wednesday night against Denver, Brewer was able to put up 13 points on nine shots while adding three steals, and Friday's game against the Clippers he had a statline of twenty points on 8/16 shooting, while accumulating six rebounds, four assists, four steals, and a high flying block in the fast break.
Daily Thunder: It was just so blatantly clear how much of a difference in attitude this Thunder team had taking the floor tonight. I don’t know if it’s a Perk thing or just the way these guys are maturing, but they were ready to take anything the Lakers threw at them and punch back. At no point did anyone back down with a blue jersey tonight. Not once. To that point, Perk scuffled with Kobe in the second quarter. It was so obvious that Perk was blatantly holding Kobe and it sparked Kobe to shove Perk, which of course promoted Perk to shove back. Later, Perk was just pushing on Andrew Bynum as a shot went up and Bynum didn’t like it so he threw the ball at Perk to which Perk’s response was perfect. He just held his arms out like, “What? What are you gonna do?” Then in the fourth on a jump ball, Kobe was crowding Ibaka a bit so Ibaka stomped his foot on Kobe’s. Again, not moving one inch for them.
NewsOK: Kevin Durant continues marking tasks off his to-do list. On Sunday, he checked off a win against the Los Angeles Lakers inside Staples Center from his checklist. The 120-106 victory was the first time Durant and the Thunder notched a win here, one of only three places the Oklahoma City All-Star has yet to defeat the home team in his four-year career.