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Kelly Dwyer

Behind the Box Score, where Memphis locked down

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

Oklahoma City 105, Memphis 101 (OT)

A lot of guys pressure the ball, or overplay, or take a swipe at things 30 feet from the hoop. It's just the nonsense you have to deal with as an NBA guard, as that extra effort usually results in an actual steal or turnover one in 50 times.

But I swear that Tony Allen(notes) represents that one. For every 500 swipes, league-wide, he's the guy getting those 10 steals. The guy gets up on you, we've seen that before, but that overplay actually results in a turnover. And Allen, who often looks like the worst player among 10 on the court, ends up coming off as the varsity guy slumming in a pickup game with the junior high kids. At times, it really isn't fair. Is there a more dominant terrible NBA player in this game? He reminds me, not unkindly, of Brian Cardinal(notes) in 2003-04. Though I submit that Cardinal was better. For those that weren't around to see it, I'm telling you, Cardinal was brilliant that season.

Back to Allen, and this actual game. He messed with the Thunder. Took them out of their offense, and single-handedly kept the Grizz in the game in the third with all his free throw makes. Could the Thunder have done better? I'm being serious when I tell you that I don't know. Memphis leads the world at causing turnovers. You wouldn't kill a team for losing to the squad with the best record (a number) in the NBA, so why kill OKC for coughing up so many turnovers against a team that causes the most turnovers (a number) in the NBA?

Twenty-seven points, 9-12 from the floor, 9-12 from the line, and five steals for Allen. Twenty-one turnovers for the Thunder, including eight for Russell Westbrook(notes), and Jeff Green(notes) continues to struggle to find a niche in the pro game, missing ten of 12 shots, mostly afterthoughts completely lacking in confidence.

Also, how great has Zach Randolph(notes) been this year? Thirty-one points, 14 rebounds, four assists, no muss and no fuss. Fantastic.

***

Philadelphia 117, Atlanta 83

By now, hopefully, you've heard NBA.com's John Schuhmann detail the white hot five-man unit that has done fantastic work for the 76ers thus far in 2010-11. Though the group has only a couple of full games' worth of minutes, and (by John's own admission), the numbers are skewed by a dominant seven minute turn against a lacking Nuggets team a month and a half ago, the Philly five of Jrue Holiday(notes), Jodie Meeks(notes), Andre Iguodala(notes), Thaddeus Young(notes), and Elton Brand(notes) has done brilliant work. They put up points, and the other team doesn't.

On Tuesday, the Sixers came through with more of the same, though it wasn't just limited to that five. Spencer Hawes(notes) started the game, and the Sixers were +10 in half a quarter with him in the pivot. Then, after moving Brand to center and bringing Young into the game, Philly was +8 in half a quarter. It was a blowout before the second quarter start, and Doug Collins' team never let up. With Brand on the bench and Lou Williams in the party to start the second quarter, Philly kept it up. And the Hawks seemed to have no answers defensively and, this is important, offensively.

The Hawks appeared clueless, on the offensive end. And while I appreciate what Al Horford's(notes) touch (and, um, rear end) do for that team's offense, they still could have acquitted themselves better in Al's absence. Extra minutes for Josh Powell(notes), Mo Evans, Zaza Pachulia(notes)? These aren't good things, and they add up. But Joe Johnson(notes) managed four fouls, five turnovers, and six points in 22 minutes; and while he's been absolutely brilliant since coming back (early, it should be pointed out) from wrist injury last December, he has to do more than the in-and-out dribble and long pull-up.

***

Orlando 101, Los Angeles Clippers 85

The Orlando Magic is a strange team. They appear to boast endless options offensively, but those options fall flat when you realize that this bevy of fantastic offensive performers falls flat when it comes time to create their own shots in the half-court. Respectable players, no doubt, but they still struggle to bring it when the play breaks down. They need "that guy," to make things happen for them, and if the last few years have been any indication, Hedo Turkoglu(notes) is not that guy. Unfortunately.

Which is why Stan Van Gundy wants this team to run, more. After all, Orlando boasts an all-world rebounder and shot blocker up front. And in transition, even when things are five-on-five, Ryan Anderson(notes) turns into a guy you have to freak out about. Jameer Nelson(notes) can get that moving screen and either shoot, drive, or dish. Jason Richardson(notes), crap, I forgot they have him, but, wait, who has ball? Randy, you got ball? Hedo, not so much, but, crap, there's Dwight Howard(notes) trailing.

It took a while, on Tuesday. Orlando got off to a crummy start offensively, but things got better when they ran. And they allowed themselves the chance to succeed on that end by placing prohibitive zoning restrictions on Blake Griffin(notes) all night. Ryan Anderson never left his side, but what should have been a scary mismatch turned into something quite palatable for Orlando because Howard was amazingly able to shade over to Griffin consistently while still (and this is, truly, quite the accomplishment) getting over to deny lob after lob to DeAndre Jordan(notes). I'll only point out raw plus/minus when I think it fits, but Howard's +30 in only 37 minutes of play? Yeah, that fits.

I don't think Howard has slacked off, defensively, this season. But I do think Andrew Bogut(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes) (in limited minutes) have had the same impact as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. After Tuesday, I don't know what to think, beyond appreciating the fact that I can watch all three from the comfort of my couch nearly nightly.

***

Milwaukee 92, Toronto 74

Speaking of which ...

Milwaukee has a way of doing this to teams, but man, Toronto looked baaaad offensively on Tuesday night.

This is an offense-first team that put up about 82 points per 100 possessions, about 30 points less (seriously) than Bryan Colangelo was hoping for entering the last few seasons. The Raptors, a team built around spacing and shooting, missed all 10 of their three-point shots. This is bad.

The Bucks? Apologies for the brevity behind this recap, but there's nothing new, here. They moved their feet defensively, shared the ball on the other end, took advantage of Brandon Jennings'(notes) hot start, and got out in transition when feasible. I would be quite scared of this team following the All-Star break. This isn't to say that the Bucks will be a lock to make the playoffs or to win a round, but heading into Milwaukee to play an actual game? You're going to have to earn it.

***

San Antonio Spurs 100, Detroit 89

This is what a slow pace does to you, but mine eyes deceived me. Only 85 possessions in this game, which sort of hid the fact that this was a pretty good offensive game for both outlets. I was too busy paying attention to the turnovers for the Spurs and the tough, missed, shots for Detroit.

Not San Antonio's finest night, but they also put up over 117 points per 100 possessions on the road, and staved off what was clearly a very interested Pistons team. Even with that interest, still, a frustrating night. Ben Wallace(notes) had five boards and no points in half a game, pretty bad, and the Detroit starting backcourt of Tracy McGrady(notes) and Ben Gordon(notes) (who was worse than T-Mac, I should point out) combined for 7-23 shooting, 15 points, and three assists in a full 48 minutes. Will Bynum(notes) went off for 21 points in less than 24 minutes, playing well in the fourth quarter, but it was enough.

And, I'm guessing, Gregg Popovich got very angry following the game.

***

Miami 117, Indiana 112

You'll read quite a bit about how Kobe Bryant(notes) might be Los Angeles' best player (which is, to me, the MVP of a team), but how Pau Gasol(notes) might be the squad's most important player. I agree with that, because in the flow of Los Angeles' five-man offense, the threat of an engaged Pau takes El Lay from the ranks of the "almost there" to the realm of the "look out, world."

And, sometimes, you'll get the same thing in regards to LeBron James(notes), Chris Bosh(notes), and the Miami Heat. And I'm not buying.

Because James is this team's best player (that's a compliment), and he's also the team's most important player (that, in this case, isn't a direct compliment). When he's engaged, this team might be unstoppable, regardless of the opponent. And when he isn't? Things fall apart, as they did last fall when Indiana took it to the Heat in Florida, winning handily as James just felt secure with being part of the show.

Now, Bosh put the Heat over the top in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, nailing tough shot after tough shot on his way to seven points in the quarter. The spacing that Bosh provides is incredibly important, and they miss him when he's not around. But the difference between this Heat win and the team's loss in November was James, who had six turnovers, and needlessly shot eight threes (making two) in Miami's defeat at Indiana's hands three months ago.

Without LeBron's 26 points, take it from Danny Granger(notes), Indiana "would have been up by 40," entering the second half. James kept them in striking distance by playing engaged, quick basketball, and when Miami's defense caught up in the fourth quarter? It was all over. Darren Collison(notes) and Danny Granger combined to miss seven of eight shots, and the Pacers didn't have a chance. James' jumper with under a minute left sealed it.

Fine showing for the Pacers, despite the late struggles. And I should point to the first foul out of the season for Roy Hibbert(notes). I know that man has had his struggles this year, but that's a HUGE accomplishment for someone who is two years removed from averaging 7.7 fouls for every 36 minutes that he played.

***

Minnesota 112, Houston 108

A fun back and forth, with a trillion lead changes and enough good spacing to make you appreciate the offense. I really appreciated both Kevin Love(notes) (!) and Anthony Tolliver's(notes) work on defense, Luis Scola(notes) was a bouncin' baby boy, and Kyle Lowry(notes) did well to attack and make smart decisions on both ends.

Play this contest for another few quarters, and who knows how it would have turned out? As it stands, Jonny Flynn's(notes) return to the ranks of the respectable (15 and seven assists, 14 shots, five turnovers; not even that good, but respectable, I suppose) was enough to keep Minnesota around. That's not me overreaching, Flynn has not been an NBA-level player so far this year as he struggles to return to form following a hip injury (which knocked Darko Milicic(notes) out of the Wolves lineup), and merely coming through with a so-so line was enough for Minnesota.

Eighteen points on 10 shots for Wayne Ellington(notes), too, which was huge. Hit the game-clincher, as well, in Kevin Martin's(notes) face.

20 and 13 for Kevin Love, and this lowered his per-game averages. Geesh.

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