The Losers

By: 04.10.10

Terrence Williams (photo. Nicky Woo)

Would anybody outside of Chicago and Toronto protest too much if we just scratched the 8th seed in the East? It’s not like we want to give LeBron a bye into the second round; it’s just that the Bulls and Raptors are playing like they don’t deserve a playoff spot. Tied in the standings going into Friday, they both blew golden opportunities to get a step ahead of the competition … Absolutely no excuse for Chicago losing to the Nets. Terrence Williams hasn’t played in a meaningful basketball game since he had “Louisville” across his chest, yet he was the best player on the court against a Bulls squad that has everything on the line. T-Will dropped a triple-double (27 pts, 13 rebs, 10 asts), throwing in halfcourt buzzer-beaters and 360 layups on the break … Chicago was down 10 midway through the fourth quarter and had to rally just to force overtime, as Brad Miller (27 pts, 10 rebs, 3 blks) scored 12 points in the final four and a half minutes. The Bulls were up two with three seconds left when Courtney Lee missed a jumper, but Brook Lopez was there for the follow dunk right before the buzzer — it was the not-so-athletic version of Josh Smith‘s game-winner … The Bulls quickly scored the first seven points in overtime, but blew that lead in the last minute. In the second OT, Jersey jumped out to a seven-point lead and didn’t falter, then T-Will delivered the dagger when he caught a Yi Jianlian airball and dunked it in one motion to stretch the lead to 10 with under 30 seconds to go … It wasn’t like the Raptors had an opponent they would’ve overlooked — getting the fully-healthy Hawks on the road — but Toronto played defense like they’ve yet to discover the wonders of the scouting report. With Hedo Turkoglu back in the lineup wearing a mask (and looking super-goofy in the process), the Raps appeared sort of motivated as they jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter. And then their D completely fell apart. Toronto gave up FORTY-FIVE points in the second quarter, as Jamal Crawford rained hot misery on their heads with 15 points and four triples during the run. Crawford (25 pts) was pulling threes from Pink City as the Raptors continually gave him too much space … And because Toronto needed more injuries, Antoine Wright rolled his ankle in the third quarter and had to be carried off … The Raptors would probably donate Marco Belinelli‘s body to science if they could get two guys like Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka. Beyond the obvious factors (Durant and Westbrook), the biggest difference in Oklahoma City’s turnaround has been the defensive energy and playmaking of role players like Thabo and Ibaka. They helped hold Phoenix to 34 points total in the second half of last night’s win. How much does a franchise like Minnesota hate that they’re paying Mark Blount $8 million to eat FunYuns when they could be paying Ibaka a fraction of that to run around like a maniac and try to spike every shot he sees into the 300 level? …

Dirk Nowitzki (photo. Monte Isom)

Two other teams vying for playoff position in the West, Dallas and Portland, had a defensive battle on Friday. Dirk Nowitzki dropped 40 points (17-17 FT), and that was damn near half of the Mavs’ 83 as they pulled out the win. Things nearly got Auburn Hills-style ugly late in the game, though, when Andre Miller and Nate McMillan drew back-to-back techs and security had to give some unruly fans the boot … Eduardo Najera has the best job in the NBA: All he has to do is use his six fouls, get under people’s skin, and basically be a goon. After Jason Kidd made a layup late in the first quarter, Najera was going to pressure the inbound pass when Juwan Howard went to set a pick on him. Howard gave Najera a little too much forearm and shoulder, knocking him down. From the floor, Najera may or may not have tried to kick Juwan in the nuts, and Juwan forcibly moved Najera’s feet away from him. Najera got up swinging and the two had to be separated … Other stat lines from Friday: Pau Gasol posted 29 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks as the Kobe-less Lakers beat Minnesota to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West; Dwight Howard and Vince Carter scored 25 apiece in Orlando’s win over New York; Deron Williams went for 27 points, 16 assists and 4 steals as Utah knocked off New Orleans; Zach Randolph had 28 points and 15 boards as Memphis beat San Antonio; Carlos Delfino put up 23 points, 5 dimes and 3 steals to lead Milwaukee past Philly; Andray Blatche had 31 and 11 boards as Washington upset Boston; Trevor Ariza had 17 points, 9 boards and 8 dimes in Houston’s win over Charlotte; Ben Gordon scored 39 with 7 threes as Detroit snapped Miami’s nine-game win streak; and Danny Granger dumped 36 points (14-14 FT) on the the Cavs’ JV squad in a Pacers win … More NBA Draft early entries: Georgia Tech freshman and projected top-5 pick Derrick Favors, VCU junior Larry Sanders, and UAB junior Elijah Millsap, younger brother of Paul Millsap. And if you missed it, check out Dime’s Q&A with Lance Stephenson, who talks about his decision to go pro and responds to critics who say he’s going too early … We’re out like Chicago’s pride …

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