Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Bulls win to keep playoff dream alive, hurt Rockets in process
What you missed around the NBA while rats were climbing on you in the subway....
1) Bulls win keeps playoff dream alive, while Rockets loss drops them to nine seed. Two teams desperate for a win as they try to claw back into the playoffs and — stop me if you’ve heard this one before Rocket fans — but up by 14 in the third the Rockets got away from what was working. Houston couldn’t play defense, Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic was draining his threes, Jimmy Butler was dunking, and after a 10-0 Bulls run put the game away (we thought, the Bulls tried to collapse but Trevor Ariza’s three to tie missed the mark) the Bulls beat the Rockets 103-100.
It was a game that left you saying, “Do either of these teams deserve to make the playoffs?”
But one might. With the win the Bulls keep their dream alive — they are just one game back of eight seed Indiana (which lost to Orlando Thursday) with seven games to play. It helps that the Bulls beat the Pacers this week, next up for them is Detroit on Saturday, a team two games ahead of them in the standings. Fivethirtyeight.com has the Pistons at an 85 percent chance to make the playoffs, the Pacers at 84 percent, and the Bulls at 22 percent — not great odds, but better than one-in-five. They need some consistency, but the Bulls dream is not dead.
The Rockets, with their loss, fell out of the playoffs if they started today, falling half a game back (one in the loss column) from both Dallas and Utah, which are tied for the 7/8 seeds. The Rockets face a good Oklahoma City team next on Sunday, then next Wednesday have a huge showdown with Dallas. Because of their play lately and upcoming schedules, fivethirtyeight.com still thinks the Rockets will make it and the Mavs (without Chandler Parsons) will fall — the site has the Jazz at 91 percent, the Rockets at 76 percent, and the Mavericks at 33 percent. But a couple more sloppy losses like this will cost the Rockets. At least James Harden was dunking for them.
2) Thunder pick up a win against shorthanded Clippers. Barely. They are not going to send the video of this one to the Hall of Fame, but for the Thunder a win is a win. Doc Rivers decided to rest every Clipper you can probably name outside of Jamal Crawford (he had 32 points), and in the end that makeshift Clippers lineup couldn’t stop Steven Adams from getting the game-winning tip-in by overpowering Clipper defenders. Nor could they stop Russell Westbrook all night (26 points), who was doing stuff like this.
3) LeBron James passes Dominique Wilkins to move into 12th on NBA All-Time scoring list. LeBron has rocketed up the NBA All-Time scoring list this season, just because a lot of players (from Reggie Miller through active guys like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan) are all bunched together. Thursday night LeBron moved past Dominique Wilkins. Oscar Robertson is next, and LeBron should move past him in a game or two, he is just 21 points back.