It’s not about now anymore. It’s about five weeks from now.
That’s not completely a sentiment shared by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who it seems has pushed his players hard, trying to get the top seed in the East. For him, playing is how you get ready for the playoffs, he told the Chicago Tribune.
“Somehow this notion that you can miss the entire season and come back in the playoffs and play well, I haven’t seen that. So I don’t know what people are talking about. You have to build the right habits so you can perform well when it matters most.”
But he will have to wait a while for Derrick Rose. The reigning MVP is not even running yet — or even walking with a normal gait — following his groin injury and Tribune beat writer K.C. Johnson describes him as week-to-week not day-to-day.
Richard Hamilton is just now able to lift his arm above his sprained shoulder and will still be out a while.
The Bulls are still winning — they are an amazing 11-4 without Rose — and still are three games ahead of the Heat for the best record in the East. Thibodeau and the Bulls need Rose and Hamilton right for the playoffs, even if that means sitting for longer than Thibodeau would like.
With just 17 games remaining, Thibodeau fielded a question on the ideal number of games at full strength to build continuity for the postseason.
“As many as possible,” he said.
This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.
The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.
With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.
Emphasis on “almost.”
The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.
The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.
After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.
The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.
Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.
The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.