Bulls power past Raptors Blazers leave Lakers in foul mood, 91-88
TORONTO — A message in the Chicago locker room read: "How bad do we want it?" The way Joakim Noah played, it was easy to tell.
Derrick Rose scored 26 points, Noah had 18 points, 19 rebounds and matched a career-high with seven assists and the Bulls beat Toronto, 104-88, last night to take a one-game lead over the Raptors for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"I knew it was a really important game, I was really focussed," Noah said. "I just wanted to go out there and impose my will as much as I could, just be aggressive offensively and defensively. It was a huge win and I just wanted to make sure that our team played harder than their team."
Luol Deng scored 14 points, Taj Gibson had 11 and Ronald Murray and Hakim Warrick each scored 10 points for the Bulls, who led by 25 points.
Chicago has won eight of 12 since Noah returned from a foot injury that forced him to miss 10 games. The Bulls went 0-10 without him.
"He's a guy who's always energetic, always yelling and talking," Rose said. "He's always energy while he's out there and you want to do the same when you see him do all that stuff."
The win helped Chicago forget the misery of Friday's double overtime defeat at New Jersey, its second loss to the Nets this season.
"It's been up and down but as long as it's up, we've just got to keep it up here," Rose said. "We've got two games left and we've got to play every game like it's our last."
MAGIC 98, CAVALIERS 92
Mickael Pietrus scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter, and Jameer Nelson hit a late 3-pointer to help Orlando beat host Cleveland, which was resting LeBron James for the playoffs.
Pietrus made two 3s to open the fourth, and Nelson connected with 2:53 left to make it 96-88. Dwight Howard had 22 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks for Orlando.
Delonte West had 21 points, and Mo Williams had 19 points and nine assists for the Cavaliers, who finished the regular season 35-6 at home.
HEAT 111, KNICKS 98
Dwyane Wade scored 32 points and visiting Miami pulled into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with Milwaukee.
Michael Beasley added 16 points, and Udonis Haslem and former Knicks forward Quentin Richardson had 14 apiece for the Heat, who won for the 10th time in 11 games.
David Lee scored 26 points for New York.
HORNETS 114, TIMBERWOLVES 86
Emeka Okafor scored 23 points, Marcus Thornton added 22 and Darren Collison had 17 points and 11 assists to help host New Orleans snap a five-game losing streak.
Julian Wright added a season-high 16 points, and David West had 10 points and 12 rebounds in the Hornets' final home game of the season. Ryan Gomes scored 18 points for Minnesota. The Timberwolves have lost five straight and 21 of their last 22 games.
SUNS 116, ROCKETS 106
Amare Stoudemire had 35 points and 13 rebounds, and host Phoenix used 3-pointers to pull away at the finish.
The Suns made four 3s in a row, two by Channing Frye and one each by Steve Nash and Jason Richardson, in a 14-0 run after Houston took a 102-100 lead with 3:23 left.
Phoenix moved into a tie with Utah and Dallas for the third playoff spot in the West, a half-game behind No. 2 Dallas, with two to play.
Nash had 23 points and 11 assists for the Suns, winners of 12 of their last 14.
Luis Scola scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half for Houston.
WARRIORS 120, THUNDER 117
Monta Ellis scored 27 points in his return following a two-week absence, Stephen Curry added 25 and host Golden State overcame a 20-point deficit to beat playoff-bound Oklahoma City.
The Warriors missed three free throws in the final 53 seconds but held on to win when Kevin Durant's 3-point attempt with a second left bounced off the back of the rim.
Durant finished with 40 points for Oklahoma City, which dropped into the eighth seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining. The Thunder are tied for sixth with Portland and San Antonio, but the Blazers and Spurs hold the tiebreakers.