Brook Lopez (BKN) — 22 pts, 9/16 FGs
Joakim Noah (CHI) — 21 pts, 10 rebs
Brooklyn Nets (34-25) vs. Chicago Bulls (33-25)
At this point in the season it is the little surprises that have tom ake a coach very happy.
The little things like scoring a big victory, getting another team within your sights in the Playoff race and seeing great individual performances.
A perfectionist like Tom Thibodeau probably does not care so much about the triple double Joakim Noah put up on Thursday. He probably also does not care for the Derrick Rose distractions and the will-he, won't-he of whether he is going to come back or not this year.
No, a team and a franchise like the Bulls always has its eyes on the prize and the thought of winning a championship. And so that makes tonight's game against Brooklyn such a key one for Chicago.
Even without Rose, the Bulls are finding a way to fight for home-court advantage. And that is why Thibodeau might be as prickly as ever. He probably wants to see his team play at the same championship level they would if Rose were in the lineup and at full health. That is certainly what he expects on the defensive end with Joakim Noah and Luol Deng anchoring the team.
So now Chicago has Brooklyn in its sight for the fifth seed in the East. And tonight's game will go a long way to sorting out the East standings. And that makes this game a pretty big one for the Bulls. Chicago continues to believe the team can do things without Rose. So when the Rose shadow finally eclipses and becomes Rose the player just think how much confidence this team might have.
While that is weighing on them, the Bulls continue to surprise and play far better than anyone could expect. Now let's see if they can do it with Playoff pressure beginning to ramp up.
Other Storylines to Watch
-The Nets always seem to be looking for headlines. The Nets have not quite been the same since the beginning of the year although they seem safely in the Playoffs now. Nets Daily reports that Brooklyn has no plans to add anyone else to the roster short term. Likely the team they are using now is the team that will got to the postseason.
-The Bulls got some welcome news in the return of their point guard. That would be Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich has returned the last three games after missing about 20 days with an injury. Hinrich scored 15 points and dished out six assists in Chicago's win over Philadelphia on Thursday. He also had 10 and 11 assists in his previous two games. Who did you think I was talking about?
Tonight's Other Games
Stephen Curry (GSW) — 30 pts, 8 assts, 11/20 FGs
Jrue Holiday (PHI) — 27 pts, 7 assts
Golden State Warriors (33-26) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (22-34)
Stephen Curry is still feeling the love from his Wednesday night show at Madison Square Garden. The buzz surrounding Curry is still glowing and Curry's phone is still lighting up. Curry did not have quite the same performance in Friday. In front fo the stat-heads at the Sloan Conference in Boston, Curry posted 25 points on a less-than-impressive 6-for-22 shooting.
|Toronto||114||Final — OT||101.9||50.0||27.1||13.6||18.0|
Kyle Lowry (TOR) — 10 pts, 10 rebs, 10 assts, 5 stls
Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) — 29 pts, 11 rebs
Toronto Raptors (23-36) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (28-28)
The Bucks are trying to hold off the Raptors for the final Playoff spot and have a decently sized lead. Milwaukee though has big plans for holding on to that final spot. What and why Milwaukee could not acquire Josh Smith is continuing to emerge in several reports. The big sticking point for Atlanta in parting with Smith to Milwaukee was Milwaukee's unwillingness to part with Monta Ellis. Now the Bucks are stuck with a three-guard rotation of Ellis, Brandon Jennings and J.J. Redick. Not a bad lineup. Toronto has a lot of ground to make up.
Derrick Williams (MIN) — 23 pts, 8 rebs
J.J. Hickson (POR) — 18 pts, 16 rebs
Minnesota Timberwolves (20-35) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (26-31)
Brandon Roy will be making his return to Portland tonight. He will not be playing unfortunately, but Roy will be back in Portland to receive the fans' respect one more time. Roy is traveling with Minnesota specifically for this purpose. It has been rough for Roy these last few years and very very frustrating for him for sure. Minnesota thought they could get one more little bit out of him. It was not to be. Roy's knees would not cooperate.
Brooklyn Nets (33-24) vs. New Orleans Hornets (20-37)
The Hornets PR staff had some fun at Kris Humphries' expense. As if Humphries needed further reminder of his public wedding to one, Kim Kardashian. The Hornets included that little nugget of a note in their game notes this evening. The Nets PR staff is also known to have a little fun. Recently they noted that Brooklyn is 32-0 in games where they outscore their opponents. Now they are 33-0 in such games.
Monta Ellis (MIL) -- 22 pts, 9 assts, 6 stls
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) -- 21 pts, 20 rebs
Milwaukee Bucks (26-28) vs. Dallas Mavericks (25-30)
The Bucks suspended center Samuel Dalembert for tonight's game in Dallas after he was late to a team function. That might be the least of Milwaukee's concerns. Reports surfaced that Dallas will have interest in free-agent-to-be Brandon Jennings this offseason. The Bucks will still have the ability to match that offer. When the time comes, of course.
|Minnesota||83||Final -- OT||78.3||37.2||23.1||14.4||27.8|
Derrick Williams (MIN) -- 21 pts, 12 rebs
Wesley Johnson (PHX) -- 14 pts, 9 rebs
Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33) vs. Phoenix Suns (18-39)
Hamed Haddadi was traded for the second time in a month as the Raptors forwarded him along to the Suns. Word was that part of the reason was visa difficulties for getting Haddadi clearance from his homeland in Iran. It has been a strange diplomatic issue that has only propped up in limited circumstances -- like this one. Haddadi has chosen to honor his homeland by wearing No. 98, his country's international telephone code.
|L.A. Clippers||106||Pace: 93.4||113.4||61.8||23.1||14.6||34.2|
Gerald Henderson (CHA) -- 24 pts, 12/19 FGs
Blake Griffin (LAC) -- 24 pts, 7 rebs, 6 assts
Charlotte Bobcats (33-43) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (40-18)
If there is any more sign that the Clippers culture has changed, it is seen in a tweet Jamal Crawford sent out earlier today. Crawford called the Clippers the best organization he has been with top-to-bottom. When the wins are going well, even a blind dog finds a bone, I guess.
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) -- 25 pts, 7 rebs, 10/17 FGs
Ryan Anderson (NOH) -- 20 pts, 12 rebs, 7/11 FGs
Dallas Mavericks (24-29) vs. New Orleans Hornets (19-36)
The Mavericks made a minor move in acquiring Anthony Morrow at the trade deadline. But he comes with some big praise. Coach Rick Carlisle called Morrow the best shooter he has seen aside from Chris Mullin. That might be going a bit far perhaps. But Morrow is a strong 3-point shooter and should help spread the floor if Dallas intends on making the Playoffs this year.
|Oklahoma City||127||Pace: 102.7||123.7||63.3||25.8||16.3||26.5|
Alexey Shved (MIN) -- 17 pts, 7/12 FGs
Russell Westbrook (OKC) -- 37 pts, 7 rebs, 9 assts
Minnesota Timberwolves (20-31) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (39-15)
It might have been a minor move, but it will rock international basketball. After Russia's strong performance in the 2012 Olympics, they not only will lose their coach but also their best player. Timberwolves forward Andrei Kirilenko announced his retirement from international competition, ending a very successful and decorated tenure in FIBA basketball.
Jeff Green (BOS) -- 31 pts, 7 rebs, 11/14 FGs
Goran Dragic (PHX) -- 19 pts, 10 assts
Boston Celtics (28-26) vs. Phoenix Suns (18-37)
There was definite talk that Kevin Garnett was going to get traded out west to the Clippers. That ended up not happening for a variety of reasons. One was Garnett being unwilling to waive his no trade clause. Another might have been the internal disagreements within the Clippers about the best move. In the end, Boston made a relatively minor move to bring in Jordan Crawford and inject some scoring. It will be interesting to see whether this veteran team can finish.
|L.A. Lakers||111||Pace: 104.0||106.8||50.6||25.5||13.8||40.0|
J.J. Hickson (POR) -- 22 pts, 11 rebs
Kobe Bryant (LAL) -- 40 pts, 15/23 FGs
Portland Trail Blazers (25-29) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (26-29)
With Mark Cuban jokingly saying the Lakers should amnesty Kobe Bryant to get away from crushing luxury tax debt, the Lakers were guaranteeing they would make the Playoffs. That is definitley the mindset Kobe Bryant has and his teammates -- particularly Dwight Howard, Mike D'Antoni and Pau Gasol -- concurred. So now the season starts anew... again. A big game against another Playoff-hungry team should give all the motivation necessary.--->