Chicago 88, Indiana 84

A lot of people have wondered how well the Chicago Bulls would do if Derrick Rose doesn’t play phenomenally every single night. The MVP candidate has done all of the heavy lifting offensively all season long and in Games 1 and 2 of the Playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

That’s the one doubt that people have when it comes to taking the Chicago Bulls seriously. Well, they got their answer last night. The Bulls can still win.

Rose was less than spectacular last night, shooting 4-18 from the field, but when everything was on the line—as he’s done all season—he made the play that mattered the most. It was a straight line drive to the basket and a finish with his left hand over three Pacers defenders with the game tied at 84 points apiece and with 18 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter.

His layup was essentially the game winner, and the dagger through the collective heart of Indiana.

The Pacers gave a valiant effort once again by playing the Bulls tough and physical, although Jeff Foster made some plays that could’ve been considered as “dirty,” but it’s the Playoffs, where hard fouls happen. Indiana once again threw everything they had at Chicago only to once again come up short. It was the proverbial game of death as they fell to 0-3 in the series and no team has ever come back from that kind of deficit to advance in the postseason.

Game 3 was a game that the Pacers had to win, and had they won, nobody, including myself, would’ve been surprised after seeing them play so hard in two consecutive games on the road at the United Center. But they didn’t win. So instead of a renewed sense of confidence, the Pacers are now having their faces photoshopped on a fishing boat or a dock in preparation for a display on TNT come Saturday.

It’s over. They’re done. —Bryan Crawford

Miami 100, Philadelphia 94

Last night’s contest between the Heat and Sixers ended with a classic, gut-wrenching Philadelphia loss. The Sixers probably played their best ball of the series, yet it was not good enough. Philly led 75-73 going into the final period, but a 27-19 final push from the Heat secured a 100-94 victory.

The Heat’s Big Three finally broke out—in unison—combining for 75 points, and 31 rebounds as well. LeBron James grabbed 15 boards of his own. The key to this game had to be the Heat’s rebounding. Miami set a team-Playoff record with 20 offensive rebounds, constantly getting put-backs from Dwyane Wade and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Heat’s 24 points off offensive rebounds and 48 points in the paint ultimately spelled doom for the Sixers.

Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand paced the Sixers with 20 and 21, respectively. Brand was the Sixers’ only real threat on the boards, as he grabbed 11 rebounds. Andre Iguodala continued to struggle on the offensive end. His 3/10 shooting performance triggered a blizzard of boos from the unyielding Philly fans. Thaddeus Young was also bottled up in this one, as he went 1/8 from the field. The stellar defense of the Heat’s Joel Anthony has clearly affected Young’s play in this series.

The Heat will look to end this series in just four games on Sunday. —Cris Jones

Portland 97, Dallas 92

Bigger than the story of Portland falling behind 2-0 in its Playoff series against Dallas was its co-captain, Brandon Roy, fighting back tears after Game 2 and talking about his disappointment with his diminished role on the team to the press.

Coach Nate McMillan did his best to put out the media fire by stating that no one wanted Roy on the court more than he did, but the damage was done.

But after ripping off 16 points off the bench to contribute to a Game 3 W at home in the Rose Garden in front of the Blazers’ rabid and rowdy capacity crowd, Roy had nothing left to cry about. In a post-game interview, the three-time All-Star revealed he had the support of the entire city of Portland and received an uplifting text message from Inside the NBA’s Charles Barkley that said simply, “Keep Ya Head Up,”

The Chuckster may have channeled Tupac in his attempt to be the Hoops Whisperer, but it was enough to wake the Blazers’ sleeping giant. Roy was inserted into the game early on in the first quarter and immediately went to work, showing flashes of his once unstoppable fade-away J. But as impressive as he was, Wesley Matthews was even more so. The Marquette standout went off for 22 points in the first half, including four shots from behind the arc.

Wesley’s jumper was wet, but so was the Jet’s. Jason Terry posted 29 points and 7 rebounds off the pine in a losing effort. Dirk Nowitzki chipped in 25 points and 9 boards but no other Dallas player scored in double digits. The biggest swing in momentum had to be Tyson Chandler fouling out of the game with 7:24 left in the fourth.

With the Mavs’ best interior defender forced to sit, Portland went to work, taking a 85-74 lead after consecutive three balls from Nicolas Batum and Gerald Wallace. A controversial replay gave Jason Kidd two points on a clear three-point basket, but it was still a two-possession game regardless. Andre Miller put the nail in the coffin when he iced two freebies on a Kidd foul with 8.9 ticks remaining and the Blazers avoided the dreaded 3-0 hole with a 97-92 victory.

Matthews finished with 25 points for the game and LaMarcus Aldridge added 20. Dallas now holds a 2-1 lead in the series as both teams stay put in Portland for Game 4 on Saturday. —Maurice Bobb