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Kelly Dwyer

Behind the Box Score, where the Hawks keep winning

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Atlanta 100, Cleveland 88

With the team's play, its ability to let down, its past, and the way it gave up a massive lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, it's OK to be down on the Atlanta Hawks.

Long enough to look at their 4-0 record, ‘natch.

The Hawks seem to be out of control at times, they're (read: Josh Smith(notes) is) taking shots they shouldn't take, and they're still seemingly a step away from that lovely Magic/Celtics/Heat triptych in the East; but they're winning. They're winning, Joe Johnson(notes) (15 points, nine assists, six rebounds) is coming around on this whole "maybe don't dominate as much"-thing, and that starting lineup remains formidable.

The Cavs? They remain the team (if not the organization) you should respect above all others.

This team gave up 40 points in the first quarter (Marvin Williams(notes) went off), on a series of Hawks makes that would enervate most teams. And yet, the Cavs stuck with it, and made a game out of it. That Cleveland crowd had a lot to do with it -- the Cavaliers are leading the NBA in attendance thus far -- but Byron Scott's group is to be commended for its attitude, and play.

And J.J. Hickson(notes), with 31 points in 32 minutes, just had it. Confidence, touch, quickness. A fantastic combination. More, please.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 124, Memphis 105

Here's what I love: Kobe Bryant(notes) played just under 26 minutes, and had 23 points. The Lakers are so good that they're going to be able to save one of the more dangerous weapons in NBA history for when it really, really counts. And the Grizzlies, sadly, don't really count right now.

17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists for Lamar Odom(notes) in the win, and his all-around play was typical of a Laker team that just flexes when it has to flex. Memphis had no answer for Los Angeles' ball movement.

***

Portland 90, Milwaukee 76

A good recovery for Portland, a team that didn't seem up to playing the Bulls on Monday, as they took advantage of the similarly-styled Bucks in Milwaukee. Active throughout, those Blazers were, and though it's the easiest thing to point out, I don't mind mentioning that LaMarcus Aldridge's(notes) play was symbolic.

A tie for a career high in blocks with five, four steals, and I am loving how wrong I've been (so far) about Wesley Matthews(notes) (16 first half points, 18 overall).

4-21 shooting from Milwaukee's backcourt, and John Salmons(notes) (2-14) is clearly hurting. Games in November count, and I appreciate him playing through injury, but it might be time to sit the guy in order to make December and beyond all the more fruitful.

***

Miami 129, Minnesota 97

In spite of LeBron James'(notes) 12 assists and Dwyane Wade's(notes) 26 points -- and the fact that the Heat were playing the terrible Timberwolves -- this still wasn't the fluid and effortless attack that we're hoping to see from the Heat this season. But this hardly mattered.

Things were close, for a spell, but the Heat just kept pushing the ball and working off of long rebounds and eventually turned this into a laugher. Michael Beasley(notes), who was having a great game/season up until the second quarter, landed hard on his hip and had to leave the game; and the Wolves never really recovered after that.

One thing that stuck out to me, in a glorified preseason battle? LeBron James didn't have a rebound in 32 minutes. Not a sign of a lack of aggression or effort, just a little odd.

Also, geez, the Heat just dropped 129 points in a game. This is the sort of night that leaves you wondering if anticipating an eight-peat is a little too pessimistic.

***

Boston 109, Detroit 86

Great spacing for the C's in this win, the ball was moving and Rajon Rondo(notes) had the Pistons on his hip and a step behind all game. Hell, the guy has had this whole league on his hip and a step behind all season.

17 assists on the road (the work of the in-game scorer counts, and there weren't any freebies that I witnessed) and zero turnovers for Rajon. He just got into the lane in the half-court or delayed transition all night, and the Pistons couldn't collapse well enough to do anything about it. Also, Glen Davis(notes) and Jermaine O'Neal(notes) are moving their feet as well as any big men in the league right now.

This isn't a snarky, mean comment; but if Tracy McGrady(notes) retired this afternoon I wouldn't mind it a bit. He's working, hard, but there just doesn't seem to be anything left. Hopefully I'm wrong about that.

***

Washington 116, Philadelphia 115 (OT)

This wasn't a great game between two great or even good teams, but it was a fun game. And when John Wall's(notes) scintillating home debut is tossed into the mix, it's safe to assume that this will be a memorable game.

Both the Wizards and 76ers took bad shots, they combined to turn it over on one of every five possessions, and miscues that didn't even result in a turnover abounded, but it hardly mattered. John Wall was superb, mostly, and Louis Williams(notes) was nearly unstoppable down the stretch. Save for the parts where the Wizards stopped him.

We've already talked about Wall. Williams tossed in 20 points in the fourth quarter alone (31 total, all off the bench), and kept the Sixer hopes alive even as Wall drove away. Elton Brand(notes), though you still can't help but marvel at how much he's lost athletically, still came through with 21 and nine rebounds (four steals, and that's the EB I remember), and Cartier Martin(notes) hit a stirring, game-tying three-pointer to nearly end regulation that I actually thought was a four-point play because I live near train tracks and thought I heard a whistle on court.

In all, a brilliant night out. Nick Young(notes) (20 points) was white hot for a spell, Jrue Holliday was all over the place (13 assists, six turnovers), and Spencer Hawes(notes) really isn't that good.

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