Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls

Bulls beat Heat in overtime, but neither team looks ready for the playoffs


The Bulls and the Heat are far and away the top two teams in the Eastern Conference standings, so it’s only natural that their nationally televised tilt on Thursday night would be billed as a potential preview of the conference finals. But if either of them play the way they did in this one for an extended period during the playoffs, they’ll be lucky to make it that far.

Chicago outlasted Miami in overtime 96-86, but with Derrick Rose struggling on the night to finish with just two points and eight assists in 25 minutes on 1-of-13 shooting, and Miami finishing with just two points on free throws while failing to score from the field in the extra session, neither team impressed or looked even a little bit like one that could contend for the championship.

Rose played for the Bulls, but was largely ineffective. Unless he can stay on the floor for the remainder of the regular season to build some chemistry with his teammates, Chicago, despite having the league’s best regular season record, may be faced with challenges that it isn’t prepared to deal with as early as the second round of the playoffs.

Miami, meanwhile, has its own issues.

LeBron James finished with 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting, but missed a free throw with 11.4 seconds left that could have made it a two-possession game. That left the door open for C.J. Watson to tie it with a three near the end of regulation, but those are just small details in the big picture of problems that Miami faces as the playoffs rapidly approach.

The Heat continue to tinker with lineups and rotations at this late point in the regular season, seemingly unsure of who fits where, especially where the team’s bigs are concerned. Udonis Haslem got the start in this one, but played just 11 minutes while the bulk of the time at his position was given to Ronny Turiaf off the bench. Joel Anthony saw a few minutes of action too, after receiving a DNP-CD in Tuesday’s loss to the Celtics.

Shane Battier played 31 minutes off the bench for the Heat, and while few would argue with his basketball IQ, it’s fairly clear that he’s no longer an effective on-court player at this point, especially in extended minutes for a team trying to get to the Finals. Battier’s defense hasn’t lived up to its inflated reputation in years, and on this night, he was a game-worst -34 in the plus-minus statistic that, admittedly, is only useful when one wants it to be.

The outcome of this game wasn’t important for its impact on the regular season standings, but it did say something about where these two teams are as we head towards the playoffs.

The Bulls are firmly in control of the one-seed in the East heading into the postseason, with this win helping them solidify a four-game lead over the Heat in the standings. Miami doesn’t figure to fall out of the two-spot, sitting comfortably in second place, four and a half games ahead of the Pacers.

Neither of the beasts of the Eastern Conference have anything to play for in the season’s final two weeks in terms of playoff positioning. But they both have plenty of work to do to prepare for that postseason run.

Boston and New York are the teams playing the most cohesive brand of basketball right now; both are hot, and both are to be feared. Despite the regular season success sustained by both Miami and Chicago, the top teams in the conference (at least on paper) have a lot to figure out before the playoffs begin if they’re going to position themselves to make that expected run deep into the postseason.

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. Jordan had four+ seasons off by the time he was 37 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.