Bulls move into tie for 8th seed in stampede over Raptors

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Wow, the Toronto Raptors fans really showed up today. Too bad their team didn’t.

The Bulls crushed the Raptors in Toronto today to claim sole possession of the 8th playoff seed in the East, 104-88. If ever there was a game that showcased the weakness of the Raptors and the relative strength of the Bulls, this was it.

All the telltale features were there. The Raptors played horrific defense, often a product of their breakneck pace, letting the Bulls respond to each score with one of their own. Andrea Bargnani only collected five rebounds. But the big twist? The Bulls guards.

Derrick Rose dropping 26 and 7 isn’t surprising. With Chris Bosh out, he’s the best talent on the floor. But Flip Murray adding 10 and the Bulls holding Jose Calderon to 7 points is big, even if Jarret Jack dropped 14. From there, it was the Bulls’ bigs doing work, establishing control of the boards and getting buckets off of poor rotations.

A prime example? In transition, Rose fed Noah deep in the post. Andrea Bargnani was slow to get back in transition, leaving Jose Calderon to try and stop Noah. As Noah turned on Calderon, with Bargnani getting back into position to at least contest an attempt, Amir Johnson foolishly overreacted and leapt to intercept Noah…which of course left a wide open passing lane for Noah to dump off to Amir’s man, Taj Gibson for an easy slam.

Your 2009-2010 Toronto Raptors!

The Bulls face a Celtics team with little to play for Tuesday, though they may try to avoid Cleveland in Round Two if Atlanta trips up against Milwaukee Monday night. The Raptors get Detroit and New York, so a decidedly easier path. But they’re still now officially needing help to make the postseason, and they’ll do so without Chris Bosh, without whom they have not won.

Two teams, one spot. The Bulls made a statement tonight that they wanted it.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”