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Kelly Dwyer

Behind the Box Score, where the Jazz kept at it

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Utah 116, Miami 114 (OT)

You'll have to pardon me for refusing to lose my mind over this game.

I'm about nine hours removed from the end of this Jazz win as I sit down to write about this contest, and I'm heartily looking forward (though, as I post this, it's silently flickering before me) to the noon Eastern re-showing of the contest on NBA TV for me to glom over. I realize it's my job to tell you how things went last night, and not rely on the noon re-showing of the game that most of you with real jobs aren't allowed to watch, but I also want to go slow.

Mainly because I don't have many new answers. The Heat lost this game, as you probably already know, because they have nothing to rely on defensively, or offensively.

This isn't to say that this team is unreliable, or that its players are unreliable, on either end. These are smart, talented, dudes. And that defense? Statistically, it's been nothing less than dominant to start the season.

But the Heat have nothing to close out on. They have closers, both LeBron James(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes) have proven that throughout their careers even if you can't name a single buzzer-beater they've hit, but there's no rhythm to what they do, yet. And even defensively, though the group has owned that end, this is still a risk-taking team that falls shorts once those risks even out. Couple that with the All-Star game-like "no, man, let me extra pass; you take it"-offense, and you have a team that can be taken advantage of.



(For the time being, at least.)

And the Jazz, those hopeful Laker-killers in waiting, were ready to pounce. I don't like Jerry Sloan pulling Al Jefferson(notes) after he missed six of his first shots, but I can understand why he wanted Al to see the Jazz offense from the sidelines in order to further understand where's he's a little behind (and if the pulling was due to some lesson-making ... come on, Jerry). Utah had sound penetration throughout the second half, and it never let up.

Toss in a few crazy, crazy three-pointers from Paul Millsap(notes) -- alongside some brilliant interior scoring from Paul Millsap -- and you have a deserved Jazz win. And as much as I like to see two teams playing to peak efficiency, while realizing that the Heat are miles and miles away from that point, it was still a huge crock of fun. Now, just add Al Jefferson.

84 points in the last 29 minutes for the Jazz. Miami was giving up 86.4 points per game (that's, Zach Randolph(notes), per 48 minutes) entering the contest.

***

Cleveland 93, New Jersey 91

The great thing about the NBA is, if you decide that you're going to be focused and free and on point and full of effort every time out, you will give yourself a chance to win every night. Every damn night.

And the Cavs? They've brought nothing but focus and intensity since the season started. The result? A 4-3 record, and this win.

New Jersey wasn't exactly stealing money in this loss, but they couldn't match Cleveland's effort nor quickness, and when a team comes through with 27 assists on 36 field goals and just eight turnovers all night? You're in trouble, Netsies.

1-12 shooting for Mo Williams(notes), and while I'm not going to kill the guy for a bad night, TRADE HIM! You have Ramon Sessions(notes), he can't shoot as well but he certainly can stir the drink, and (Cleveland) you can really take advantage of a team looking to go over the top and pay for the right to do so by trading Mo.

***

Indiana 144, Denver 113

As we talked about last night, the Pacers absolutely took Grandma to Applebee's last night in that third quarter, giving the Nuggets a real Tokyo Sandblaster on its way to a shocking 31-point win.

Denver is fully capable of giving up the odd 144-point game, but it should be noted (despite the team's potential) that it was seventh in defensive efficiency entering Tuesday night, and that they weren't exactly giving the Pacers the same treatment that, say, the Warriors gave Brandon Jennings(notes) about a year ago. Terrible defense, no doubt, but nothing to fire anyone over.

Indiana just had it going on, which is something that someone from Indiana would say (they still say "had it going on," here. I'm saying it right now). The Pacers made quick, smart passes and worked the delayed transition (a Jim O'Brien staple) to perfection. 37 assists included a little bit of home scorer home cooking, but Denver's turned heads deserved what it got. And even though the game's quick pace (98 possessions) aided in the big score, Indiana's (near) 147 points per 100 possessions might be the highest mark you'll see from any team this year.

This is the point where I lead you to the box score, as linked-to above, because absolutely everyone played exceedingly well for Indiana. Even Josh McRoberts(notes).

***

New Orleans 101, Los Angeles Clippers 82

Is it too early to give New Orleans the "ho hum" treatment?

I mean, they dominated the Clippers with their defense, while moving the ball and working delayed transition throughout on the other end. Has it taken just seven games (after watching the team miss the playoffs last season) for us merely to expect this from them?

Sure, why not?

The Hornets are fantastic, and while I wouldn't count on Willie Green(notes) scoring 19 efficient points in 25 minutes again (why the HELL is Marcus Thornton(notes) sitting this game out; can my Bulls have him, if you don't need him?), this game had all the look of a professional outfit doing what it was supposed to do. So, while I want to destroy Monty Williams for acting the rookie and continually sitting Thornton, and while I might think that Chris Paul(notes) and David West(notes) have more to do with that streak of professionalism than anyone else, this is a credit to the Hornets organization.

The Clippers just don't have any guards. Eric Gordon(notes) is hurt, Baron Davis(notes) played but he's hurt, Rasual Butler(notes) started but he's not a guard, Willie Warren(notes) is a wookie, and Eric Bledsoe(notes) is just figuring things out.

***

Milwaukee 107, New York 80

A blistering start for the Bucks, who dropped a Pacer-like 41 points in the first quarter of this win, on the heels of Brandon Jennings, who never seemed to stop penetrating. I'll admit that I missed a good chunk of the run between flipping around games, thinking that that the story arc behind this Bucks win wouldn't come in the first 20 minutes of live action, but there we have it. And for a Bucks team that has struggled to score this year, good on ‘em.

20 turnovers and 38 percent shooting for New York, which doesn't really work for a team that can't defend. Drew Gooden(notes) and John Salmons(notes) (8-23 shooting) continue to struggle for Milwaukee, but the team has hopefully turned a corner (especially with Jennings hitting on 6-8 shots inside the arc) with this win.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 99, Minnesota 94

This is why, if I ever got enough money to go to one of these restaurants, I'd choose the tasting menu.

Say you walk into a five star restaurant with billions to spare, and a night to relax and eat to your heart's content. Sure, you know your food, you trust your palate, and you understand the skills and strengths and potential of the establishment you're seated within. It's still on you, though, to match everything and try to make this a night you'll talk about for years. To nail the pre-dinner cocktail, the amuse-bouche, the appetizer, the wine, the entrée, the aside, the dessert, the whole schmear. It's on you to make this night, rife with potential, one for the ages.

Which is why, as much as I trust what I like and what I want, I'd rather the chef offer a tasting menu, and make the selections for me.

(Of course, given those billions, I'd never do that. There's no way I'm not picking my own lineup. I'd have it my own way, like at Burger King. But you get what I'm leaning toward, right?)

This is why the Lakers (the NBA's best team and best offensive team) did not destroy the Minnesota Timberwolves (the NBA's worst team, and worst defensive team) on Tuesday night. There were too many options. I've got one-trillionth (and that's giving me some credit) the talent and basketball smarts that Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes) have, and yet I could still understand the absolute overload of nearly-debilitating options against a Timberwolves team that just seems to want to hand teams lay-ups or potentially pretty passes and finishes 13 times per 24 seconds.

So the Lakers half-stepped, over-passed, and just didn't have it. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves (playing their tails off), put the Lakers in foul trouble, crashed the boards, missed lay-ups, made tough lay-ups, and hit open threes. This team really is talented, so I'm not going to say that this is the best the Wolves will play all year, but it was good to see. Even if there was little cohesion along the way.

And, along the way, there was little cohesion and good play on either side all night. So, beyond Kevin Love's(notes) 23-point, 24-rebound, five assist night, I don't really care what went down in the box score. Just know that the Lakers (Lamar Odom(notes), Ron Artest(notes), Kobe, and Phil Jackson) burned inside, but didn't lose their cool. And that the Wolves can give you a game, if you get too giddy (and that isn't a way of saying "if you take them lightly").

Fun night out, despite all the missed opportunities on both ends.

***

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Portland 100, Detroit 78

This is the sort of game they had in mind when they told us how to use the word "outclassed." Nothing against the Pistons, we're rooting for them to turn it around, but they're just not in Portland's league. And even when Detroit was hanging in there during the first half, and before we decided to fully focus our attention to the Lakers/Timberwolves game, it was obvious. The Pistons just couldn't hang.

Especially while the Blazers kept pushing that high-low game that Sebastian Pruiti broke down the other day. Even with Ben Wallace(notes) around, the Pistons had no deterrent, and the Blazers were able to drive baseline around Wallace with guards as it was anyway. 112.4 points per 100 possessions for Portland, which is quite stout.

Also, Brandon Roy(notes)? Don't put a heating element on that knee. Ice it. Sit out until December, if you have to. I quite enjoy watching you play basketball every other night, but I'd much prefer you playing basketball once a week (or however the NBA staggers games during the playoffs) in May and June. We won't remember a November sit out in spring when you're pushing the Lakers to the brink.

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