Behind the Box Score, where the Bulls are the business

Chicago 106, Los Angeles Clippers 88

Listen, I don't like the way Tom Thibodeau uses Carlos Boozer(notes). I'd like to see him go toward the Bulls big man more often in isolation or flex sets, while he's in his prime, and before he turns into an overpaid lout four years from now. I wish Thibs would utilize Kyle Korver's(notes) shooting more often, and give him more minutes. I don't get the Keith Bogans(notes) thing, either. I have no idea why Luol Deng(notes) plays until he drops, especially in a career filled with stress fractures, and I certainly have no clue as to why Derrick Rose(notes) was out on the court for the final few minutes of a game the Clippers had no chance of even moving below a double-digit deficit.

But, goodness gracious sakes alive, does Tom Thibodeau have this Bulls team playing fantastic basketball right now.

Greater than the sum of its parts, and yet you still feel as if they can do better. The Clippers competed, in this loss, but by the third quarter Chicago just had Los Angeles on the ropes both mentally and physically. It flooded the mid-range, forcing the Clippers away from isolation sets it wanted to run with Blake Griffin(notes), and because Los Angeles is coached by Vinny Del Negro, it really didn't have any other option beyond the one it just saw Chicago take away.

And while Chicago's offense wasn't exactly the most complicated thing we've ever seen (you got your drive, you've got your kick; mo' kick, mo' hat), it was enough. Rose dropped 32 points with 11 assists. Luol Deng was everywhere, tossing in 26 points, five assists and two steals (still, gotta pull in more than six boards) in 39 minutes. Carlos Boozer had 16 and 10, and even he'll tell you that he was off.

Blake Griffin finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists, but just seven points, seven rebounds, and three of those dimes came after halftime. Not completely shut down, but more or less without impact as Chicago pulled away. Baron Davis(notes) is obviously in a great deal of pain with a bum back, right now, but that's what happens when you attempt to play NBA-level point guard play while out of shape. These things happen.

Chicago is happening all over this league. The team is tied with Miami, out East, and has a better record than any Western team outside of San Antonio. And it's had its full complement of players, with Joakim Noah(notes) at full strength and not playing with one hand, for about a week's worth of a season that we're 48 games into.


Denver 109, Portland 90

Portland looked good for stretches, running a modified flex offense and getting good looks on the Denver interior. But playing on the second night of a back-to-back, in the mountain air, after dismissing San Antonio at home on Tuesday? It was too much, and Portland has to be happy with the split.

And look at the Nuggies, finally at full strength. The team's rotation is at full health with Al Harrington(notes) around, and Carmelo Anthony(notes), Nene, and Chauncey Billups(notes) each topped the 20 point mark in the solid win.

Five of 21 shooting for Blazer point men Andre Miller(notes) and Patty Mills(notes). Also, Wesley Matthews(notes) appeared to become the first NBA player to return, in-game, from a broken leg. So there's that.


Houston 97, Utah 96

The Jazz pushed Houston around, but the Rockets came through with a much-needed win against a Deron Williams(notes)-less Utah, executing down the stretch and keeping that playoff dream alive.

Houston doesn't make it easy. The point guard duo of Kyle Lowry(notes) and Aaron Brooks(notes) is one of the better one-two punches this league has, but these guys seem to make mistake after mistake throughout. And yet ... 26 points, seven assists, two steals and just two turnovers in 56 minutes of play, 12-22 shooting. Where did all those turnovers and terrible shots go?

The ball ended up in C.J. Miles'(notes) hands too many times on Wednesday night, as the Jazz wing shot 18 times to score 18 points. Raja Bell(notes) had four points in 31 minutes, and didn't really do enough defensively (as has been the case all season, and I'm not taking a shot at the guy) to warrant that limited production on the offensive end. And Al Jefferson(notes) still looks labored and out of touch. He put up 20 and 12, but you just get the feeling he can do so much more. Mainly because we've seen him do so much more.

A fun watch and good win for Houston, who refused to give up. Sounds like, and is a cliché, but that's exactly what went down in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.


Phoenix 92, Milwaukee 77

31 percent shooting for Milwaukee in this loss. Against THE SUNS. That's, I think, something like negative 27 percent shooting against an average defensive team.

With a good chunk of Milwaukee's roster either sick or hurt or possibly both, Milwaukee didn't stand a chance. Ersan Ilyasova(notes) tied for the Bucks lead with 15 points in this game, but he had to shoot 20 times to get there, with two of his attempts blocked, and he had zero assists along the way.

Milwaukee's defense was solid, holding a great Suns offense to less than 106 points per 100 possessions, but what's the point when you miss 62 field goals?


Memphis 102, Minnesota 84

Minnesota made just five free throws on Wednesday night, and while the Grizz weren't much better (doubling them up, in that department), you're just not going to win many games in this league without getting freebies to buffer that point total. Toss in Zach Randolph's(notes) thorough and utter domination of Kevin Love(notes), and you have another sound Memphis win.

I kept hearing Sam Young's(notes) name, every time I flipped over, and for good reason. Eighteen points, six assists, no turnovers and three steals for the Memphis wing. 23 and 10 for Randolph, and Minnesota was held to just 87 points per 100 possessions.


Oklahoma City 104, New Orleans 93

Absolutely no stopping Kevin Durant(notes), in this game.

The Hornets did their worst, forcing Durant away from the basket while getting up on the All-Star at the three-point line, but it didn't matter. He'd just rise up, taking the shot New Orleans wanted him to take (that low-percentage, long two-pointer), and ... swish.

Forty-three points, on just 19 shot attempts, for Durant. Double-figure rebounds, five assists. Dominant stuff, against a Hornets defense that has forced team after team into record-low production at times this year.

On the other end, New Orleans was hamstrung with an early injury to Chris Paul(notes), who came back, and 22 pointless minutes handed to Willie Green(notes). Green managed five points on eight shots, with five fouls in his time, while Marcus Thornton(notes) came through with four points in 10 minutes of play, needlessly spending time on the bench while coach Monty Williams makes this league's longest and most ridiculous point. We get it, Monty. You think Thornton could do better defensively.

I think you can do better, coach-efensly, Monty. Because you have the league's best point guard (to anyone who bothers to have learned about new basketball stats since the ones they learned about at age eight) and an All-Star caliber power forward, and your team is 20th in offensive efficiency. And you have one of the league's better scoring guards on your bench, wasting away, and you don't play him because ... grr, tough guy stuff. Arg, leather-bound books and cheap Canadian whiskey.

Five of 14 shooting and 12 points for Jeff Green(notes), but at least he made two of the seven three-pointers he took, raising his percentage on the season.


Charlotte 97, Detroit 87

For once, you'd be right in pointing to Charlotte's great defense and offense in this win. Sure, they limited the Pistons to 100 points per 100 possessions, closing up shop every time it was needed; but the Bobcats also piled on the points, 111 per 100, and Stephen Jackson(notes) was well ahead of everyone in that department.

39 points on 26 shots for Jackson, who continually brought rain (or sleet, I suppose) on his long jumpers that seemed to go 25 feet to the rim and 45 feet up in the air on the ball's way toward said rim. 11-21 shooting for the Charlotte bench, too, and Detroit couldn't compete while it was getting crushed on the glass.

Also, the latest reports have Rip Hamilton spotted in a hot air balloon somewhere in New Mexico, late Wednesday afternoon.


Dallas 113, New York 97

Jose Juan Barea(notes) is really having himself a heckuva year, and his scoring aptitude has been putting Dallas over the top recently. He dropped 19 points in the second and third quarters combined as the Mavs outscored New York by 20 points during that 24-minute span, as the backup scoring guard has averaged nearly 15 a contest over Dallas' last five games.

Twenty-nine points, 11 rebounds, three assists and one turnover in just 33 minutes for Dirk Nowitzki(notes), who put together a Dirk Nowitzki-like effort. New York's defense wasn't great, giving up 116 points per 100 possessions, but it may have competed had the offense not fallen flat in the face of Dallas' sweaty brows. One hundred points per 100 possessions for the Knicks, the starting backcourt missed 19 of 25 shots, and Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) needed 20 shots to get his 21 points.


Indiana 117, Cleveland 112

Cleveland had its chances, forcing the Pacers into taking tough shots down the stretch in order to pull this win out. And the Cavaliers, save for some futility in the final minute, and a 14-2 deficit that it put together to start the game, looked like the better or at least equal team for most of the contest, but even at home it wasn't enough. That roster just isn't good enough to do much beyond competing at an NBA level.

That Darren Collison(notes) is a sprightly little thing, though, driving and shooting his way toward 22 points and nine assists including a game-clinching three late in the contest. Danny Granger(notes) had six free throw makes and 11 points overall in the final 8:45, and the Cavs did not have enough firepower to keep up.

Against the Pacers. At home. You can't help but feel for these guys. Assuming Dan Gilbert isn't in the building, of course.


Philadelphia 106, New Jersey 92

For whatever reason, Philadelphia seemed quicker and more alert in this win, working its way to the ball quicker on offense and showcasing a ball movement attack that wasn't represented by the 23 assists registered in the box score.

Just eight turnovers, all night, for the Sixers, as New Jersey's two best players (Devin Harris(notes) and Brook Lopez(notes)) combined for just as many. Wicked good guard play, aye, with Lou Williams adding 26 points off the bench, and Jrue Holiday(notes) completely outplaying Devin Harris on his way to a Jason Kidd(notes)-styled triple-double. 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists for the 76ers point guard, who is in his second season and was born in June of 1990 if that makes you want to go sleep in the snow, alone, because you feel so, so old.

Four rebounds in just under 36 minutes for Brook Lopez. So, clearly things are improving.

Also, raise your hand if you thought Doug Collins would play Andres Nocioni(notes) just once in a 20-day span this season. Because that's what's happenin' right now.


Atlanta 100, Toronto 87

A pretty dispirited Raptors team lost this game. This wasn't the worst case of going through the motions that I've ever seen, but Toronto clearly wasn't into it. The Hawks were able to get the shots it wanted after a couple of good passes, and the Raps (despite getting to the line and crashing the offensive glass well) weren't much in terms of competition.

I can't blame them, as Toronto had been stuck in Indiana for a day and a half following its loss to the Pacers on Monday, having to sit on the runway for hours at the Indianapolis airport, and constantly check out and re-check in to its hotel. This is a team that just wants to get home, and home is in a snowy town that nobody on grew up in, playing for a team nobody rooted for as a kid. At some point, as a lesser player on a lesser team, these things catch up to you. The Raptors just look sick of the gig, at this point.

Eighteen points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks for Josh Smith(notes). 37 points on only 21 shots, with eight assists, for Joe Johnson(notes), and Al Horford(notes) had seven assists in the win, constantly picking off Hawks going backdoor.

Thank you for reading.

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