Chicago gores Toronto in crucial matchup; Kobe Bryant comes up short in the clutch

04.12.10 9 years ago 32 Comments

All due respect to ABC’s star-studded Sunday lineup, but the game that mattered most yesterday was Raptors vs. Bulls, with the last playoff spot in the East essentially on the line … You hate to say that one team “wanted it more” than the other when none of us really has any idea what’s going on inside each locker room, but for all intents and purposes, it looked like Chicago wanted it more. Right from the get-go they were just more active, more energetic and appeared more focused. Getting pull-up jumpers from Derrick Rose (26 pts, 7 asts) and momentum-building dunks from Taj Gibson early on, the Bulls went up by double-digits early in the second quarter, then extended the lead to 19 early in the third quarter and never looked back. Not to mention Toronto had zero answer for Joakim Noah, who put up 18 points, 19 boards and 7 assists … Hedo Turkoglu ditched the mask, and apparently put on some Dennis Rodman drawers while he was at it. Hedo pulled down a career-high 19 boards to go with 9 assists, but like The Worm he forgot his jumper, going 2-for-12 from the field … Without Chris Bosh, everybody in Toronto wants Andrea Bargnani to be more aggressive and operate closer to the basket. When Bargs (18 pts) got an and-one layup in the first half, one announcer screamed, “Enough of this jump shot nonsense! Play the city game!” … This game didn’t solely determine the 8th seed. In fact, the Bulls have a significantly tougher final two games than Toronto. While the Raps get the Pistons and Knicks to close out the regular season, Chicago has the Celtics and Bobcats … Question: Why was Kobe playing against the Blazers yesterday when L.A. already has the top seed in the West locked up? Answer: Because he doesn’t know how to do anything else. (Actually, the real answer is that L.A. can still finish with a better record than Orlando, which would get them homecourt should there be a Finals rematch.) … Crazy finish to this one. Already managing without Brandon Roy (knee) in the second half, Portland must have felt like they were playing 5-on-8 with some of the calls/no-calls against them. The Blazers were up five with under a minute to go after Andre Miller blew past Derek Fisher for an easy layup with no help D that encapsulated L.A.’s two biggest problems going into the postseason — their bigs are sometimes too soft, and D-Fish can’t guard anybody anymore. But then Kobe took over: He nailed a three when Fisher set a blatantly obvious moving screen on Martell Webster that gave Kobe room to shoot, then Kobe got a lefty finger roll and-one while LaMarcus Aldridge (24 pts, 11 rebs) was standing right there to take a charge. (Which you know you’re not getting called against Kobe in Staples) …

Marcus Camby gave Portland the lead on a tip-in, and with under 10 seconds to go, Kobe was going to his spot for the pull-up J when Webster intentionally fouled him. Inexplicable decision at the time — Camby (10 pts, 17 rebs, 4 blks) didn’t even try to hide his “What the f*** are you doing, kid?” face — but then Kobe (20 pts, 8-23 FG) damn near airballed both free throws. Pau Gasol got the rebound and passed out to Fisher, who was fouled by Miller. He split the pair, tying it up. Blazers ball, Webster went for a running three over Kobe when Fisher reached in and fouled him, so with 3.1 on the clock, Webster stepped to the line and drained all three. Kobe couldn’t get open on the last possession, and Gasol (23 pts, 12 rebs, 3 blks) missed a trey at the buzzer … Meanwhile, Orlando got a half-game up on the Lakers by knocking off the LeBron-less Cavs. Anthony Parker was also given the day off, but Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison did play. Dwight Howard posted 22 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocks in the win … We know Stan Van Gundy can’t mask his honesty, and maybe he was just doing it to remind his players that they need to be focused all the time, but he might have messed around and given the Cavs “other guys” bulletin board material: “The air went out of our locker room when they found out (LeBron) wasn’t playing,” Van Gundy said. “When those guys weren’t playing, we had a lot of guys that didn’t want to play, either. We wanted to play against their team and we really weren’t interested in playing against the other guys, unfortunately.” Dwight even said it would have been “embarrassing” to lose to Cleveland without LeBron. Remember that when Jamario Moon has some random 25-point night against Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals or Sebastian Telfair goes out there looking like Mookie Blaylock … Other stat lines from Sunday: Dwyane Wade had 32 points in Miami’s win at New York; Amar’e Stoudemire posted 35 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks; Darren Collison had 17 points, 11 dimes and 3 steals as the Hornets beat Minnesota; and Monta Ellis scored 27 in Golden State’s win over OKC, while Kevin Durant dropped 40 points and 10 boards in the loss … The Warriors honored Don Nelson pre-game for getting the all-time wins record. They brought out Swen Nater, who played on the first team (Bucks) Nellie coached, to present Nellie with a plaque and the box scores from his first-ever win and the record-breaking win. Nellie got on the mic and said Nater “might be the only living player from that team.” … We’re out like the Raps …

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