The Bulls won an important game last night over the Sacramento Kings to hang on to the 4th seed in the Leastern conference. The message is clear. The Chicago Bulls have to keep winning. Period. The Bulls have three teams breathing down their necks being the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats. Not only that, they are trying to catch the Toronto Raptors for the third seed. Here’s what makes this all interesting, all of the teams are hot right now. With the Bulls holding serve let’s take a look at the other contenders and see how they did.
#5 Washington Wizards (35-31) defeats #6 Brooklyn Nets (33-31) 101-94
I told everyone at the trade deadline that the Wizards were going to be problems and they are. The trade for Andre Miller and the acquisition of Drew Gooden is paying major dividends in this playoff chase. Gooden who is on his second 10 day contract trying to link up with the Wizards for the rest of the season scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He scored 11 points in the 4th quarter including a huge three pointer late in the game breaking a 94-94 tie. I’m not a GM but I play one on Pippen Aint Easy…the best choice for Bulls news, previews and reviews and I have some advice for the Wizards…SIGN HIM!!! The combination of Gooden, Andre Miller and Al Harrington made a huge impact in helping get this win. These guys provided a physical presence that changed the momentum in the first half.. The Nets with Garnett out with a bad back and Reggie Evans banished to Sacramento lack a tough physical presence and it showed last night. That’s what got them beat by the Bulls in the playoffs last year. John Wall scored 33 points dished out six assists and had two steals. This might have been one of his more efficient games of his career, he shot 10-15 from the field, 4-6 in three-point shots and nine of ten from the line. Maybe someone told him to shut up and play. He got fined 15,000 for comments this week after a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats and had a technical foul the very next game. Bradley Beal finished with 15 points in a gutty performance after being carried off the previous game with a sprained ankle.
As for the Brooklyn Nets, who were led by Marcus Thornton with 19 points off the bench, I have this to say…They choked this one away. Brooklyn did not have a field goal for the final 6:22 of the game. A couple of things come into play here. The Nets still depend on that one on one stuff that tends to burn you in situations like last night when the shots are not falling. Another thing is Jason Kidd has to do a better job in drawing something up to get the ball in the basket. Oops, I keep forgetting…he can’t. Joe Johnson had 16 points and Paul Pierce had 15. The Wizards and Nets are tied in the loss column but since Washington has won the season series, they have the tiebreaker. The win also leapfrogged the Wizards into the 5th seed behind the Bulls.
#8 Atlanta Hawks (29-35) defeat the Denver Nuggets 97-92
It seems that everybody’s hot these days. After losing 14 of 15 games and dropping from the third seed all the way down to being in danger of missing the playoffs all together. Now the Atlanta Hawks have now won three straight. The Hawks defeat the Denver Nuggets 97-92 behind a dominant performance from Paul Millsap. He scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Jeff Teague had a solid floor game with 15 points and 10 assists. I like the game he played for the Hawks. This team is not built for a point guard that takes a lot of shots. Usually when Teague scores a ton of points the Hawks lose. This team needs to play a lot like the Bulls, with a system that is a sum of its parts. Kyle Korver had 18 points and Pero Antic had 16.
The Hawks tried to give it away. The Denver Nuggets evaporated a 21 point lead to take the lead 81-80 with seven minutes remaining. Jeff Teague hit two timely jumpers to keep the Nuggets at bay. The “Manimal” Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 25 points and Wilson Chandler had 12 points. The Nuggets leading scorer Ty Lawson had 11 assists. It’s good he did something because he went 0-173 (actually 12) and scored only two points. The Nuggets were coming off a dramatic win over the Miami Heat. (What is it about beating the Heat that makes the next game so unwinnable?) The Atlanta Hawks need to keep winning as well, the new York Knicks are now 31/2 games out of the last seed in the playoff chase and they have won seven straight. Phil Jackson coming to town being a coincidence? Absolutely.
The message is clear for the Chicago Bulls…WIN!