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Kelly Dwyer

Behind the Box Score, where Dallas' little guys took down NOLA

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Dallas 98, New Orleans 95

One of those games where you wonder that, had they played another 22 minutes, if the damn thing still wouldn't be tied. These two teams just seemed to trade three-pointer after three-pointer in that second half, with seemingly all of them coming after the defense had spent a good 18 seconds playing sound defensive basketball, right up to that three-second stretch where the defense allowed a good three-point shooter to step into a good look in his respective wheelhouse.

The Hornets lost because the Mavericks were just barely better. And after an 8-0 start to the season and so much going right on Monday (Willie Green(notes) nailing several tough jumpers, Peja Stojakovic(notes) partying like it was 2003), just count your blessings and accept a three-point loss and move on.

Dallas? Figure out what went right, but be wary moving forward.

Because the three-guard lineup (Jason Kidd(notes), Jason Terry(notes), Jose Juan-Barea) that won Dallas this game (and make no mistake, they absolutely made the difference with penetration and even bombing from distance) also lost Dallas several games last year, and made things tougher than things had to be on many occasions in 2009-10.

Tyson Chandler's(notes) line (seven points, five rebounds, just one offensive and five fouls with no blocks) was unimpressive but his play certainly was. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) had 25 points and 10 rebounds, mouthed a terrible word that the local Dallas feed enjoyed replaying in slow motion after a clutch three-pointer, and he only needed 12 shots to get to those 25 points. Jason Kidd and Terry combined for six threes, and the Mavs hedged just well enough (again, Chandler) on New Orleans' screen and roll efforts down the stretch to pull this out.

With that, though, should bring comfort, and the ability to tweak for New Orleans. Even with Marcus Thornton(notes) out and Chris Paul(notes) having to sit out a nine minute stretch between the third and fourth quarters with foul trouble, the Hornets hung in there. Gave up a lead, sure, but the lead probably shouldn't have been as big as it was.

This was impressive, on both ends. Great game.

***

Charlotte 113, Minnesota 110

As fun and as goofy and as frustrating a back and forth as you'd imagine these two teams giving you over 48 minutes and 99 possessions.

So many mistakes, all over the place, but credit both teams for competing and looking for the open spaces throughout, even if the Timberwolves did fall apart down the stretch. Michael Beasley(notes) looked like he was about to start lighting it up again, and though he finished with 28 points, it was on 25 shots and not all that impactful. Beasley also had a late turnover with his team down one that may have been the difference in the game.

Gerald Wallace(notes), with 17 made free throws, was impactful. And though Tyrus Thomas(notes) turned the ball over seven times, that guy (20 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, four blocks) was everywhere, even if the calls weren't going his way (not saying they should have gone his way, but you get my dig).

Five three-pointers from Stephen Jackson(notes), who just kept finding his spot on the elbow extended all night, and with Kevin Love(notes) (20 and nine rebounds) limited to 32 minutes due to foul trouble (he also took a nasty spill in the second half), the Bobcats owned the glass.

I don't know if the end to this game, with a back-and-forth that just about defies proper description, but the Bobcats earned this win. I do know that Sebastian Pruiti knows how to describe things, well.

***

Phoenix 100, Denver 94

The Suns (4-20 from deep, a day after hitting 22 three-pointers) couldn't hit from long range, they were killed on the glass and didn't really do much at the line to pull away. But Phoenix won this one because it came through with a sense of focus that Denver (even in its finest hours) just rarely seems to boast on its own.

Just silly plays throughout, in the second half, for Denver. Going under screens on Steve Nash(notes), forcing shots on the other end, not paying attention to Jason Richardson(notes) when it was obvious this guy was putting his head down and going to the rim. And though it wasn't pretty (who would have thought a 101-possession game from Denver and Phoenix would result in 194 combined points?), Phoenix willed that win. Clichéd, I know, but the Suns earned that cliché.

22 rebounds, seven offensive, from Carmelo Anthony(notes) in the loss. But he only scored 20 points on 18 field goal attempts, even if a few of those misses were of the put-back variety. He needed the ball more in this game, though I submit that he hurt his chances with those six turnovers. Loved Nene's activity, but he also let the Suns walk all over the paint (think about how absurd that sounds) in the second half. And Chauncey Billups(notes) (14 points on 14 shots, two assists) wasn't really much to behold.

21 points for Hakim Warrick(notes) (he should be starting!) and three rebounds in 25 minutes (ugh; OK, I kind of understand, coach Gentry) in the win.

***

Oklahoma City 115, Utah 108

I don't know what it is about these two teams, but they just seem to turn it into a Nuggets/Warriors game whenever they match up. Over 130 points per 100 possessions in the win for Oklahoma City, which is just a ridiculous amount that sent the Thunder from 12th in the NBA entering this game to seventh following the win.

What a win. Russell Westbrook(notes) was hampered by foul trouble in the first half, but came through with 20 points and seven assists alone in the final 24 minutes. Kevin Durant(notes) missed 11 of 17 shots with Andrei Kirilenko(notes) in his face, but he also nailed 16 of 16 from the line on his way toward 30 points.

And Serge Ibaka(notes)? Serge Ibaka needs to start. Clowntime is over, Scott Brooks, because this guy (22 points on 13 shots, four blocks, 11 rebounds, and zero turnovers) changes the game for your team.

Utah wasn't exactly chopped liver in its first loss in six tries. Deron Williams(notes) came through with 31 and 11 assists of his own, but AK had a few iffy plays offensively down the stretch, Al Jefferson(notes) missed some shots (5-14 from the field) that he usually makes, and the Thunder just earned those 15 extra free throw makes (33-34 from the stripe for Oklahoma City, hard to top a team that pulls that off.

***

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Orlando 89, Memphis 72

This was an ugly game throughout. The first quarter was miserable, the rest of the contest not much better, as both teams combined for an unending supply of unforced turnovers.

The Magic forced a few of those defensively, I don't want to take away from their effort, but put it this way: Orlando is probably 17 points better than Memphis at home even when both teams are playing their best. They're also 17 points better than Memphis when both teams are playing miserably. So, instead of a 110-93 score, you got 89-72. This was "yin" to the "yang," if "yin" gets to stand for "so, so bad."

Both teams turned it over on more than a fifth of their possessions, way too much, but the Magic made up for it by making 27-32 free throws (Dwight Howard(notes) only missed three in 11 attempts), and Vince Carter's(notes) hot hand kept the Grizzlies from sustaining any sort of meaningful comeback.

19 points on eight shots for Carter, who had his elbow under the ball and honestly looked like he could have tossed in more than twice as much, were the Magic not so intent on giving the ball away so much.

Zach Randolph(notes) missed 11 of 15 shots, just a frustrating night throughout. These were shots he can make, but shots (quickies in the paint, with Howard breathing down his neck as you'd expect) that you can't kill him for missing.

***

Golden State 101, Detroit 97

It's not that hard. You care -- you fight and move into plays on both ends quickly and attempt to make a positive impact -- and you give yourself a chance to win. I know this sounds like a really, really long-winded poster in the break room, but that's all it came down to for the Pistons last night.

In the first half, they couldn't be bothered. Didn't react well to a tiny bit of pressure from the Warriors on the defensive end (surprising, I know), didn't get out in transition well, didn't get back in transition well, hacked too much, and didn't move quickly into its sets offensively. And in the second half? Forced turnovers, forced whistles. Forced everything, in a good way, with effort.

Golden State still won. They're the better team playing at home and with a little motivation (a new owner in place, a crowd all geeked up on half-price soda pop) on its side. But Detroit could be the team that takes advantage of other teams on their nights' off if they just wanted to be that team. For one half, they didn't want to be that team, and it cost the Pistons what could have been a great win.

Too deep a hole for Detroit, because even though the team's defense held Golden State to just 36 second half points, the Pistons aren't talented enough offensively to reel off a pair of 30-point quarters needed to come all the way back.

Monta Ellis(notes) had 27 points (but just three in the second half) in the win. Ben Gordon(notes) had a chance to tie or win it in the final seconds, but as was often the case in his time with Chicago, his footwork off the dribble was a little wonky, and he coughed it up.

***

New Jersey 111, Los Angeles Clippers 96

The Clippers just can't guard anyone. They can't play anyone because everyone's injured, but they just can't guard anyone either.

In his triumphant and much-anticipated return to Staples Center, Jordan Farmar(notes) had eight points and seven assists in the fourth quarter as New Jersey pulled away (usual starter Devin Harris(notes) was ejected after a scary if not entirely malicious but still pretty dangerous flagrant foul against Blake Griffin(notes) earlier in the game), Brook Lopez(notes) was on point from all over, and the Clips were just outclassed.

Not a shot, but the Clippers were playing two rookies down the stretch and running DeAndre Jordan(notes); who can change the tone of the game but isn't always the most cerebral player. And the Nets shot nearly 60 percent mainly because they couldn't be stopped in transition.

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