The Chicago Bulls got a vicious reminder of who they are and what needs to be done in this playoff run. The Oklahoma City Thunder shut down the Bulls in the last 10 minutes to win 97-85. Kevin Durant basically handed the NBA his home address for the MVP trophy dropping 35 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Russell Westbrook came back from a one game absence to barely miss getting a triple double scoring 17 points with nine rebounds and nine assists. He didn’t shoot great, only 5-14, but he gave Kirk Hinrich and DJ Augustin fits. Joakim Noah almost had a triple double but it was a quiet night for the big man. The Bulls offense was stagnant shooting 35% for the game. Other teams played Monday. How did it affect the Bulls?
#6 Brooklyn Nets (34-31) Sets the Suns 108-95
The Brooklyn Nets pull one game closer to the Bulls in the loss column beating the Suns 108-95. The Nets are now one game in the loss column behind the Bulls in the playoff chase in the Leastern conference. The Nets have really taken off with the small ball strategy now that Kevin Garnett has been out with back problems. Deron Williams led the charge with 28 points on 11-13 shooting by far the best shooting night of his career. Joe Johnson backed him up quite nicely with 19 points. The Nets hit their first eight of eleven shots leading to 67% shooting in the first half. The Nets led as much as 23 points in the game. But this story is about Williams. His last couple of seasons has been wrecked with ankle problems. If he has turned the corner and has gotten healthy, this spells trouble for the Bulls. We all know that the Bulls point guards can’t stay in front of quick point guards. If Deron Williams gets healthy, you can add him to the list as well.
The Phoenix Suns picked a bad night to lay an egg. They fell further back behind Memphis Grizzlies for the final spot for the eighth seed in the Western conference playoffs.
#8 Atlanta Hawks (30-35) Gains Ground on #7 Charlotte Bobcats (33-35) 97-83.
In the battle of the two teams who at this time are trying to battle out of the two “Week and a Half” series. What does that mean you ask? That means these are the teams that would play the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers in the first round. If they do, their season will last about a week and a half. Well the Atlanta Hawks are a basic example of why the Bulls need to keep winning. After dropping through the standings like a brick, they have now won four straight winning 97-83 over the Charlotte Bobcats. Paul Millsap has been balling of late and continued against the Bobcats scoring 28 points on 12-20 shooting. This game was huge for the Hawks. They have owned the Bobcats this season taking a 3-0 lead in head to head matchups. Now they own the tiebreaker if these two teams end up in a tie at the end of the season.
The Bobcats lost two different streaks in the same night. They lost their eight game home winning streak and a four game winning streak overall. They also blew a chance to get back to .500 for the first time this late in the season since the world was flat. Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 20 points and seven assists. After winning Eastern Conference player of the week, Al Jefferson was put relatively in check with 16 points and 12 rebounds. It was his 30th double-double of the season but it was only the second time in 10 games he was held to less than 20 points.
With the Bulls having a record of 37-30, this is no time to fall asleep. They have two HUGE trap games against the Philadelphia 76ers who is chasing history with the longest losing streak in NBA history. With the Bulls occasional struggles to score, they could be had. They must be careful. No team wants to be the team that breaks the streak. The game that sandwiches these two Sixers games is a play date with the Indiana Pacers who are trying to secure the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bulls have to keep winning.