Bulls vs. Spurs (8pm ET Thursday, TNT)
The Bulls forgot about their troubles on Monday just long enough to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 100-90. Pau Gasol dropped a triple-double, scored 12 points on a meager four-for-14 shooting, grabbed 17 rebounds, dished out 13 assists, and had five blocked shots. Derrick Rose continued to shoot well, making nine of 18 and bringing his shooting percentage over his last seven games to 55%. Jimmy Butler returned Saturday from a month-long layoff with a sore left knee to score 24 points with 11 rebounds and six assists in the Bulls’ win over Houston. But awoke the next day with swelling in the same knee, causing him to miss the Bucks game and tonight’s game, too, instead opting for a visit to the famed Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. The Bulls are 32-30 and tied with Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
After stumbling Monday against Indy, the Spurs recovered to defeat the Timberwolves 116-91 on Tuesday, despite Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan all sitting for the night. LaMarcus Aldridge filled much of the void left by the Spurs’ stalwarts, scoring 29 points (11 of 13 from the floor), with seven rebounds, four assists, four blocks and a steal. Boban Marjanovic pulled down eight boards in just 10 minutes off the bench. Parker is questionable for tonight’s game, but Duncan and Ginobili are expected back. The Spurs are 54-10, proud owners of the second-best record in the league, and at +12.4, are still on pace to set the NBA record for best point differential.
Cavaliers vs. Lakers (10:30pm ET Thursday, TNT)
Tonight’s the night Kobe officially passes the torch to LeBron.
The Cleveland Cavaliers spent most of Monday night playing catch up with the Memphis Grizzlies, finally taking a modest one-point lead with 46 seconds to play, only to have the game slip away as Vince Carter sank four free throws in 11 seconds to seal a 106-103 Memphis win. The Cavs didn’t really deserve to win, frankly, as they turned the ball over 25 times and, other than LeBron and Kyrie Irving, the team shot a collective 16 of 45 (35.6%).
“I can sit up here and say that we’re a team that’s ready to start the playoffs tomorrow, but we’re not,” LeBron James said afterward. “We’re still learning. We still have things that happen on the court that just, that shouldn’t happen.”
Yep. The Cavs are now 44-18, and continue to maintain a two-game lead over Toronto for the top spot in the East.
You could make the argument that the Los Angeles Lakers are the hottest team in the NBA right now, riding a two-game winning streak that includes a 112-95 victory over the Golden State Warriors. You’d be wrong, but you could still make the argument. On Tuesday, the Lakers beat the Magic 107-98 with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle scoring 27, 24 and 23, respectively, on an night when Kobe was riding the pine. The back-to-back wins brought the Lakers’ record to 14-51, all but ending their chances of catching the Sixers for the worst record in the league.
Kobe continues to battle a sore shoulder and it’s possible he could miss tonight’s game, which would be a shame because it’s his last chance to face off against LeBron before riding off into the sunset. When Michael Jordan last faced Kobe, the Laker great said farewell by dropping 55 points on His Airness – will LeBron give Kobe a similar send off?