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.

Kobe Bryant says his age 37 is not like Michael Jordan’s age 37

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Once again, Kobe Bryant‘s career arc is being compared to Michael Jordan’s.

There’s a lot of reason’s that’s flawed — starting with Kobe being drafted on to a Lakers team that had Shaquille O’Neal and was already considered NBA elite, as opposed to Jordan working to build a franchise up. That said, Kobe has invited the Jordan comparison at times and it has been a constant through is career. Fair or not.

Kobe is coming back this fall after seasons of injury to the NBA and those comparisons continue — now to the Wizards’ version of Jordan. And Kobe is not at all fond of that, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This is uncharted territory,” he said. “My 37 (years old) isn’t MJ’s 37 (when he returned after taking two seasons off to play for the Washington Wizards), you know what I mean? Nor is it the same team or the same system that he was playing in. It’s much, much different. There’s really no barometer, no (precedent) for training physically, for recovery. It’s uncharted territory.”

Kobe is right, starting with Jordan was retired at age 37 (he came back at 38). Also, Jordan had four+ seasons off by the time he was 38 and was not coming off multiple major surgeries.

Kobe is entering his 20th NBA season and what any real basketball fan should wish for him is health. Let him play one full season (with limited minutes and nights off), let him get to the final game of this season next April and make his own decision on his future. Let him leave the game on his own terms.

That said, if Kobe can average Jordan’s numbers at that age — 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game — it will be a major accomplishment, and the Lakers will have a better record than many of us expect.

And Kobe may want to play a 21st season as well.

Celtics ease to 124-91 win at Olimpia Milano in Global Games

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MILAN (AP) — The Boston Celtics eased to a 124-91 victory over Olimpia Milano at the Mediolanum Forum on Tuesday, comfortably winning the first of a double-header in Europe as part of the NBA Global Games.

Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Celtics with 18 points, including nine in his first seven minutes after coming off the bench midway through the first quarter.

Jared Sullinger added 14 points, as did Avery Bradley, who also had four three-pointers, while David Lee weighed in with 13 as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Alessandro Gentile – who is reportedly wanted by the Houston Rockets, who hold NBA rights to the 22-year-old – top scored for Milano, with 19 points.

Next up for the Celtics is Real Madrid in Spain on Thursday.