As all of the Pippen Peoples know by now, the Chicago Bulls have their playoff berth wrapped up. That doesn’t mean that the Bulls don’t have anything to play for. The Bulls are in a dead heat with the Toronto Raptors for the number three seed in the Leastern Conference standings. The Bulls held up their end of the bargain beating the then #8 seed Atlanta Hawks 105-92. With the loss the Hawks fell percentage points behind the New York Knicks out of the playoffs if it started today. Last night the Toronto Raptors faced an injury depleted Houston Rockets coming in with a two game losing streak. The Raptors are dealing with their own injury problems playing without their starting point guard Kyle Lowry who did not play due to a swollen knee. Could the Raptors keep pace with the Bulls? Let’s find out shall we?
Well it seems that the Raptors has a certain voodoo that they do on the Rockets every time Houston come north of the border. The Raptors held serve beating the Houston Rockets 107-103. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 29 points while Greivis Vasquez who filled in for Lowry did a nice job scoring 15 points. Terrence Ross had 14 points while former Chicago Bull John Salmons, who I swear has been playing since WWII scored 12. With the Brooklyn loss to the New York Knicks, the Raptors extend their lead in the Atlantic Division to 2 1/2 games. A couple of injuries could make an impact in this race for the 3rd seed. Along with the Lowry injury, Amir Johnson is now dealing with an ankle injury. With the Bulls at full strength health wise with the players that they have, this will bode very well for Chicago coming down the stretch run to the playoffs.
As for Houston, they have lost their third straight game while having a rash of injuries. Dwight Howard sat out his sixth straight game with an ankle injury. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley missed his third game since injuring his knee. James Harden had the Raptors “Fearing the Beard” scoring 26 points. Chandler Parsons added 20 points. The Rockets could have punched their own ticket into the playoffs with a win. Jeremy Lin scored 16 points in the starting role for the Rockets. Two things really hurt the Rockets in this game, one was the defense and the other was free throws. The Rockets missed five free throws in the 4th quarter.
The Washington Wizards secure their first playoff berth in the John Wall era.
The Washington Wizards sewed up their first playoff bid since 2008 basically by watching the Boston Celtics lay down 118-92. Want proof? The game started on a 19-4 run for the first five minutes of the game. After that, this game was over and playoff ticket orders were going out. The Wizards shot 61% in the first half and 62.5% for the game which was the highest since 2001. John Wall scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists before celebrating in the 4th quarter. Marcin Gortat had 22 points on 10-13 shooting. Bradley Beal scored 19 points on 7-8 shooting. Makes you wonder if anyone on the Celtics played defense. All five starters for the Wizards scored in double figures, while they were backed up quite nicely by the bench of Andre Miller, Al Harrington and Drew Gooden who have a combined age of 500. This is a wonderful time for the Wizards franchise. They had been cursed since the infamous Gilbert Arenas gun situation that set the franchise back for years. I know that Head Coach Randy Wittman and General Manager Ernie Grunfeld are thanking their lucky stars these days with that “Playoffs or Bust” marching order owner Ted Leonsis laid out at the beginning of the season.
As for Boston let me sum it up like this. Jared Sullinger had 25 points to lead the Celtics. Rajon Rondo had 13 points. I am going to start a “Free Rajon Rondo” campaign. It’s a shame that he is stuck in such an abyss. He doesn’t deserve it.
The Washington Wizards are now the sixth seed in the conference standings. The Bulls do NOT match up well against these guys. The Bulls have always struggled against quick guards. The Wizards have two in Wall and Beal. Plus Andre Miller will have a block party posting up against the Bulls backcourt. Look for playoff matchup breakdowns as we get closer to the playoffs.
The message is clear for the Bulls…win! The third seed avoids playing the number one seed in the second round. As of right now, the Miami Heat sit at the top of the conference.