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Ball Don't Lie

Behind the Box Score, where the Heat were too cool

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Cleveland 102, Miami 90

I suppose it's in poor form to get angry on someone else's behalf. To become upset when that person has no interest in gritting their own teeth. To burn with frustration, when that person doesn't seem to give a rip.

For all I know, the Miami Heat care. They'll get angry behind the scenes and put in untold hours perfecting their form, working on that unreliable (if, overall, quite good) offense, and divining ways to help defensively. In the end, though, when pressed all I see is a Heat team that relies almost exclusively on bad habits to get themselves out of jams, despite the zero percent success rate this season. The long shot when a drive is needed, the overdribbling when movement and passing are due. A turned head, when Anthony Parker is wide open in the corner.

Make no mistake -- the Cleveland Cavaliers earned this game due to the team's brilliant defense, and fantastic effort. They came out with a spark, never stopped moving, never stopped looking to move the ball, and the results speak for themselves. The NBA's least-talented team took down one of its most talented, and quite handily. There was never a let up in this fantastic win for Cleveland, only bouts of offensive ineptitude mainly caused by the fact that, let's be honest, the NBA's 29th-ranked offense just isn't all that good.

But the Heat once again showed that they don't care about themselves, this game, their fans, or casual fans of NBA basketball. If this team can't see the obvious, lame storyline that comes with taking on the still-angry Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland, with Baron Davis returning to the fold, then what hope do they have? Did they think that the Cavs, with nothing to play for all year, would fold in their last chances to play spoiler, to earn revenge? Did they not see this coming?

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There are your Heat, though. Too oblivious to care behind the scenes. Living up to every terrible stereotype they've created when the pressure is highest. Unless they're playing the Lakers, I suppose.

How so? With Dwyane Wade bailing a dragging Baron Davis out with a long three-pointer, even with that left baseline cleared. LeBron James playing a passive fourth quarter (27 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists; nice, but three points didn't count and two came with the game decided … where was the impact?), Chris Bosh looking impotent on the glass and scared in the paint. The rest of the team stinking, terribly.

The Cavs stink. But on Tuesday night, the Cavs cared. And the Cavaliers didn't mind that the "of course they'll beat LeBron" storyline was too hackneyed, they wanted to work hard and pass the ball and cut with abandon and beat LeBron. Anthony Parker shrugged off a terrible shooting slump to drop 20 points. Ryan Hollins would not stop moving on either end, finishing with 13 points and three blocks, and J.J. Hickson managed 21 points and 12 rebounds. Cleveland completely earned this win, and it would be a terrible basketball shame if Miami had backed into a win on Tuesday night.

And it will be a shame if, playing this way, they backed into a championship this June. Because in continuing to play this way, that will be the only way they'll win that ring.

***

Houston 112, New Jersey 87

Things are coming into place for Houston. They've boasted the best statistical offense in the NBA over the last five weeks, and while they didn't exactly remind of the 1989 Pistons on Tuesday night, they did hold the hapless New Jersey Nets to a pitiful 92 points per 100 possessions in this win.

Houston was probably due for it, considering that New Jersey was without Deron Williams, and the Nets had to rely on too many middling long jumpers from Johan Petro and Jordan Farmar, with a couple of chippies that wouldn't go down for Kris Humphries. On the other end, good movement from the Rockets guards and wings (Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee) led to white hot offense, and as a result the Rockets are back to being just two games down on the Memphis Grizzlies with eight to play. Tough, but do-able.

30 assists on 46 field goals for Houston, and that was in a road performance.

***

Sacramento 116, Phoenix 113

Essentially playing out the string, the Suns cannot stop anyone, and the Sacramento Kings fed off a good home crowd and 1-9 combined fourth quarter shooting from Steve Nash, Channing Frye, and Aaron Brooks to pull out the win.

He still doesn't guard anyone, either, but Marcus Thornton came through with 24 points and 11 rebounds in the win, gunning for five quick points in the final three minutes after Kings coach Paul Westphal went big and played Omri Casspi in his place for the first nine minutes of the final frame (can't argue with the outcome, or Westphal's reluctance to put Tyreke Evans on the wing, though I would like that as a lineup moving forward). I also liked DeMarcus Cousins' defensive rotations, and Sacto's quick decision-making throughout.

The Suns just have too many players that cannot be relied upon, be it for a full game or short term down the stretch of an eventual loss.

***

Oklahoma City 115, Golden State 114 (OT)

A tough loss for Golden State.

The game was close throughout, and you just got the feeling from beginning to end that if Monta Ellis had just approximated his typical totals and percentages, then the Warriors would have an easy-ish win. And with the game going into overtime (on an Ellis three-pointer, it should be noted) and being decided by just one-point, you can't help but look to Ellis' 9-30 shooting in the face of Thabo Sefolosha's fantastic defense. He had 11 assists to just one turnover, but just couldn't consistently overcome Thabo's long arms, and as a result forced a few too many to these eyes.

Stephen Curry had no such issues, dropping 35 points on 23 shots, but he turned it over six times. Kevin Durant got his 39, and was integral down the stretch in OT, but Russell Westbrook also turned it over six times while missing 11 of 15 shots. A fast, fun game throughout, but both teams were just a little above the league average in offensive efficiency, with the high score coming as a result of the game's 111 possessions in 53 minutes.

It was quite the watch, though. Kendrick Perkins was doing Kendrick Perkins things, sticking out his rear end, scoring zero points but pulling in 13 rebounds. Serge Ibaka is getting more and more comfortable with his jumper on his way to an 18-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance. Epke Udoh had some nice recoveries defensively, David Lee is getting back to enjoying the game, and Reggie Williams popped off the Warrior bench for a needed 10 points.

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