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.