Behind the Box Score, where the Bulls are coming together

Chicago 99, Oklahoma City 90

Very nice all-around game for Chicago. The team hounded the Thunder into tough miss after tough miss, it wouldn't let Oklahoma City back into the game once it gained a good three or four possession lead, and Carlos Boozer(notes) made a huge jump defensively in this game, along with his ho-hum 29 points and 12 rebounds. Not since the Elton Brand(notes) trade, 9 1/2 years ago, have Bulls fans been able to ho-hum at that.

Also, Derrick Rose(notes) was fantastic defensively, hounding Russell Westbrook(notes) into several tough misses on jumpers. On top of that? He might be the fastest basketball player I've ever seen.

By my Tivo's count, at one point in the third quarter, it took Rose 1.8 seconds to go from a triple-threat position 27 feet from the hoop, to putting the ball in the goal at the rim. After a double-pump lay-in, no less. Less than two seconds to go from out of Kyle Korver's(notes) shooting range to into Omer Asik's(notes) shooting range, with the double-pump taking up a chunk of that time. I had to re-wind and re-watch a half-dozen times, just because it felt (and, somehow, looked) so unbelievable. A few minutes later, he banked in a three-pointer from half court. And this was his "off" game.

Joakim Noah(notes) was scary with six points, six offensive boards, six fouls, six defensive boards, and six assists. And Luol Deng(notes) overcame a tough start (only touching the ball once in the first seven minutes of the game, but coming off the court soaked in sweat regardless) to put up a nice all-around line (20 points, eight boards, four assists).

Oklahoma City looked tired and rattled by the Chicago defense.


Los Angeles Clippers 98, Sacramento 91

The Kings have been playing well, but they just can't buy a close one these days, and the trend continued in Los Angeles on Monday.

Pooh Jeter(notes) went off in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points, but the Kings just couldn't stay in front of the Clipper youngsters. Baron Davis(notes) was out with a pulled hamstring because he's big and out of shape, and Eric Bledsoe(notes) continued to think on his feet on his way to a +19 effort despite shooting 4-12. Blake Griffin(notes) played well, finishing with a double-double and seven assists, and Eric Gordon(notes) continues to be beastly.

BEASTLY. 29 points on 17 shots, 24 points per game as an average on the season. Boy, was I wrong to underrate him.


Utah 94, Memphis 85

I lost a good chunk of this game in the second half because of poor reception, which was odd because there were clear skies all around (I walked outside to check the dish for snow, nothing there), so I lost the part that showed Utah pulling away. When I return to working on a computer with my name on it, I'll try to see what happened, but until then I can just tell you that Memphis really worked hard to try and stay with the Jazz, and I liked Mike Conley's(notes) aggressiveness throughout.

Good play down the stretch for Deron Williams(notes) and Raja Bell(notes), apparently, as DW put up a nice 27 and eight assists while Bell nailed seven straight points in the fourth as the Jazz pulled away.


Miami 88, Milwaukee 78

Milwaukee has a habit of making opponents look like they brought their U(gly)-game just about every night out, but the Bucks shouldn't be credited too much (though they did force both players into those bad decisions) for making Chris Bosh(notes) and LeBron James(notes) look rather passive in this win. Both settled for jumpers, way too often, and as a result a poor-shooting Bucks team actually had a chance down the stretch.

It was Dwyane Wade(notes) that was fantastic, putting the Heat in a position to hang on. To start, as a guard, he pulled in 14 rebounds in a super-slow game, and that's a huge accomplishment. Beyond that, 25 points on 20 shots, six turnovers, but five assists. And activity.

Milwaukee just doesn't have the offensive horses.


New York 121, Minnesota 114

This was probably a terrible game. All that terrible defense, the lack of communication, the lack of help, the turned heads, the easy buckets ... but I had fun with it.

There is intelligence within these rosters. David Kahn gets a lot of rightful stick for talking his way into oblivion, but his Timberwolves can do some smart things sometimes. They can also act clueless, from rookies to long time vets, but it's a fun watch regardless. And the Knicks? Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) is pulling some 2005-stuff right now.

I suppose that points in the first half count as much as points in the second half do, and that I should tell you that Kevin Love(notes) actually outplayed Stoudemire on his way to a 33-point, 15-rebound night. But you wouldn't be wrong in walking away from this game marveling at how Amar'e dominated Love down the stretch on his way to a 31-point, five-rebound night. Absolutely crushed the Timberwolves forward, and though it was Love's play that kept Minnesota in it after Darko Milicic(notes) (who was strong in his first trip back to New York as a player since the Knicks traded him last February) had to leave with a quadriceps contusion (ouch).

That's what's fun about this game. Stoudemire was clueless defensively, as well. And Love actually did more to tilt the game in his team's favor than Stoudemire did, overall. But because Amar'e's tilt came in the fourth quarter? That's who we tilt to, even if we're wrong.

10 rebounds in 28 minutes for Landry Fields(notes), which just continues to be nuts, Michael Beasley(notes) (25 points) was hot for a while, too, and Wilson Chandler(notes) continues to look in shape and on point.


Atlanta 80, Orlando 74

The most obvious answer might be the right answer, as a flu-ridden Magic team missed jumper after open jumper in the loss. But Atlanta is also to be credited for playing well, if not always smartly, on its way to the win. The Hawks earned this, even as the Magic clanged away all those very good looks.

Orlando nearly doubled up its assists with turnovers, it missed 18 of 22 three-pointers, and yet it was still in the game mainly because the Hawks are pretty useless when Mike Bibby(notes) isn't running the show (I'm being serious when I tell you to try and use Damien Wilkins(notes) at point forward, Hawks, because he can really pass). Credit Atlanta, again, but this was an ugly one from beginning to end.


Indiana 124, Toronto 100

I don't want to say that the Raptors came out lacking heart or interest. They came out acting like the Raptors. The team doesn't pay attention, defensively, and it is made up of players who aren't likely to turn things around on that end any time soon. The only ones with a fighting chance are rookies and youngsters, and you just can't rely on a rookie to have his head swiveling in the right direction even half the time.

With that in place, the Pacers took off. A streaky, not-great offensive team, Indiana thrived against a miserable defensive team in the Raptors while bringing its typically-stout defense on the other end. Things were over in the first half, as Indiana went up by 24, and it was clear that a real-life day off (thought it was likely spent catching up on ... everything) did Indiana wonders in the win.

Toronto showed fire in at least matching the Pacers in the second half, but they weren't coming back on anyone. Not with that defense. And Brandon Rush(notes) (though he still has his iffy games) is playing his rear off on both ends. The Kansas product finished with 26 points and two steals off the Pacer bench.

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