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Kelly Dwyer

Behind the Box Score, where LeBron is exasperating

Cleveland 113, Detroit 101

I'm not sure when the Pistons learned to shoot, but they came alive against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, making a game of Detroit's second night of a back-to-back and forcing LeBron James(notes) to take over late.

There seemed to be something in Detroit's step that just made things work for them. I don't want to discredit the Pistons by telling you that Cleveland took possessions off defensively or in transition, but they did. That shouldn't take away from a Piston offense that moved the ball quickly, and seemed to be relishing the fact that Cleveland wasn't bumpin' Detroit out of its sets early in a possession, as was the case against the Celtics on Monday night.

Rip Hamilton scored more (24 points on four three-pointers), but Tayshaun Prince(notes) seemed to be all over the place offensively. 14 points, eight assists and seven boards for Prince, who is averaging 15 points and about eight combined assists and rebounds in March, after coming through with 14 points, six boards, and three and a half assists in February. It's been a surprising, pleasant turnaround for Prince, whose career seemed dead in the water as he struggled through injuries earlier this season.

The Pistons just couldn't keep James down, late. Two of his daggers in the fourth quarter weren't the best shots he could have taken (a long two and a pull-up three-pointer) and his fourth quarter block was likely a goaltend. Actually, it was a goaltend. Dig:

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But the final fourth quarter tally is pretty impressive: 15 points, three rebounds, four assists, a block. Or, what Tayshaun Prince averages per game in March. In about 34 minutes per game.

29 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists overall for James.

***

Indiana 99, Charlotte 94

Both teams are pretty terrible offensively, and though the Bobcats cut down the deficit in these two areas as they made a game of this in the fourth quarter, the Pacers just had a few more makes, and fewer turnovers. Simple as that.

The overall stats for Charlotte weren't too terrible, based on that 27-point fourth quarter that saw them bring it down to a one-possession game, but Indiana owned a double-figure or near double-figure lead for most of the contest. Good pressure on the ball, good pressure on D.J. Augustin(notes) (who just isn't a natural point, he makes his mind up on something before the play even starts, regardless of what unfolds), and Stephen Jackson(notes) had six turnovers all day.

26 points on 25 shots for Danny Granger(notes), who was either whomped in the face by Dahntay Jones(notes) or some combination of Charlotte Bobcats on an offensive rebound attempt in the game's final minutes. Granger collapsed to the floor several times and will not play tonight. Troy Murphy(notes) had a double-double with five assists added.

***

San Antonio 88, Miami 76

It was a tale of two hal ... no, I'm not there yet. I'll be there soon enough, but not just yet.

Did the Heat expect that the Spurs would be out partying on South Beach the night before? Did they think they could sleep through the first quarter, assuming the Spurs would do the same, and pull out the victory later? For all we know, the Spurs were out until 3 a.m. with sand between their toes, but you know Gregg Popovich has some CIA-level hangover remedy on the ready. You know these guys are recovering quite nicely.

So San Antonio trashed the Heat from the outset. Forced bad shots, I guess (that's giving Miami credit; they took terrible shots, as well), forced turnovers, worked the court and kept the Heat on their toes on the other end.

A 25-point lead, before the Spurs ran out of gas. Miami came back to make a game of it, but as all the other Spurs faded, Manu went Manu, keeping the Heat at arm's length.

22 points on 14 shots for Ginobili. Not a lot of offensive standouts in this. Richard Jefferson(notes) notched 15 points but faded late, George Hill(notes) had 16 points and five assists while pressuring the Heat but managed to turn the ball over five times. As many times as Dwyane Wade(notes), who scored 28 points but missed 15 of 26 shots.

***

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Atlanta 108, New Jersey 84

He may have LeBron James (New York traded for Tracy McGrady(notes), which sent Carl Landry(notes) to the Kings, and made a starter out of him), Glen Davis(notes) (injured Shaquille O'Neal(notes), made a sometimes-starter out of Anderson Varejao(notes)), and Tony Parker(notes) (injured, Manu's a starter now) to thank, but Jamal Crawford(notes) is well on his way to earning that Sixth Man of the Year award.

Crawford was the difference, 16 points as the Hawks pulled away in the first half with him on the floor, nine in the second half to ensure an Atlanta victory, shooting 11-18 overall with no turnovers on the night. Fab performance.

Truth be told, though he turned this close game into a laugher by halftime, the Hawks probably didn't need Crawford to pull this out. New Jersey scored a miserable 93.3 points per 100 possessions and was playing without Devin Harris(notes).

***

Memphis 104, Chicago 97

OK, to write BtBs, I have to flip around, so I don't see everything. The pun that is coming up is unintended. And though the box score tells me that Flip Murray(notes) made nine shots in 19 attempts, I must have been around for the 10 that didn't go in. The worst 10 shots I've seen tossed up East of the Mississippi River, mind you, save for Antoine Walker's(notes) better efforts.

The guy was terrible. Terrible, terrible shots. He scored 25 points, but he earned -512 Basketball Karma points with that night.

The Bulls fielded a D-League roster, and I have to credit the team's effort. The team got out to a strong start, watched as the varsity slowly beat its way back to a commanding lead on the JV crew, but Chicago (can we call this team "Chicago?" Do I have to?) managed to come back and make a game of it. Of course, bad Murray shots and three Jannero Pargo(notes) turnovers late sealed the deal for Memphis.

Flip Murray, Jannero Pargo. On the Bulls. It's like finding out Jim J. Bullock and Annie Potts are taking over for Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey on 30 Rock.

The Grizzlies should have romped, but I can't get too down on them for playing down to their competition. With Marc Gasol(notes) out they struggled for a steadying interior influence at time, though O.J. Mayo(notes) was needed with 24 points, Zach Randolph(notes) had 18 and 12, and Mike Conley(notes) filled in some open spaces and hit some tough shots at the end of the shot clock - 19 points, 10 assists, five steals.

Acie Law(notes) had 18 points, Hakim Warrick(notes) came off the bench for 22 and only four rebounds, and seemingly every out of bounds play Vinny Del Negro drew up featured Brad Miller(notes) missing a three-pointer from the corner.

***

Denver 97, Washington 87

Washington covered, which is why I never bet, and they're to be commended for not only keeping things close early on (working with a two possession lead for most of the first half), but for keeping things from getting ugly, late. The Wizards didn't let up, and playing their fifth game in sixth nights in the most physically demanding (literal) atmosphere in the NBA, that was quite the accomplishment.

Denver's good at basketball, though. It got a lot of help from the helpers (15 points on seven shots from Nene, good bench play), and Carmelo put up his typical 29 while pulling in 12 rebounds.

Andray Blatche(notes) topped 20 again (23 points and eight rebounds; turned an ankle in the fourth quarter), but the Wiz missed 11 free throws and just didn't have the legs to compete at this (again, literal) level.

***

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This is Ron Artest(notes), in Andrew Bynum's(notes) way, again. How many times this year do I have to see Bynum post up eight feet from the hoop on the low left block, only to see Artest think it sane to then post up just below Bynum on the same block three feet from the hoop.

It defies logic, spiraling from any template. And yet, the Lakers let him do it, likely thinking that they can put up with not playing their best because of Ron while still managing to win the title.

Los Angeles Lakers 106, Sacramento 99

These Lakers want me to hate them.

Pau Gasol(notes) and Andrew Bynum had complete and utter mismatches every time down court, they were playing well together and finishing expertly all game, and yet this does nothing to tame Kobe Bryant(notes) (10-26 shooting) and Derek Fisher(notes) (2-7 shooting)'s triggers.

I know the Lakers have this regular season wrapped up, but they're going to need these guys in the playoffs. They're going to need them interested, on the court, ready to play defense, ready to help. But it's Basketball 101 to feed the big man when he has it going, and Bryant just never gets that. Kobe had seven assists, he had a terrific game superficially with 30 points and nine boards as well, and he's to be commended for finding both Bynum and Gasol open under the basket for dunks at times, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about giving the ball up early, making yourself a threat away from the rock, and watch as two of this league's most talented (if not this league's most talented) 7-footers go to work. 29 other teams would kill for just one of these two, and the Lakers boast both. How can they continue to ignore them?

Oh, I know. One makes mistakes, and one's soft.

Guess what? Inconsistent and soft still score, board, pass, and block shots for you. Consistently. Unlike jump shots, which even for the greatest of shooters, are inconsistent.

I just need, in a fourth quarter that sees Pau Gasol score 11 (4-4 shooting, four rebounds, an assist), more than 1-4 shooting, three assists, and two turnovers for Kobe. I know he knows the game. I need to see him act like he knows, that we know, that he knows.

28, 12 rebounds, four assists and a block for Gasol. 21, 12 rebounds, three blocks for Bynum. 21-28 shooting, or, 11 more field goal makes in two more attempts than Bryant.

Even with the injuries, these Lakers could have been a 70-win team this year had they just committed to the offense, from the coaching staff on down. Ron, get out of the post. Kobe, stop shooting long jumpers. Bam. 70 wins.

25 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists for Tyreke Evans(notes). He had trouble finishing his scoop shots (7-19) in the paint amongst the trees, but otherwise it was a great performance for a rookie. The Kings just couldn't hang with Los Angeles' size.

***

Phoenix 152, Minnesota 114

Longer, quicker, better, smarter, more talented, more interested, more in love with the game, more attuned to what comes next and what should come after that, 152 points.

The Timberwolves don't care. They entered the season bent on telling you about 2011-12, the coaching staff has made a series of questionable choices, and the team's not all that good.

The Suns are, and you can't chalk these gaudy numbers up to pace. Though there were 101 possessions in this one, you do the math. The Suns topped the 150 points per 100 possession mark on Tuesday, and if that's been done already this year, I am unaware.

Seven turnovers for Phoenix. Seven. 101 possessions, 98 shots, 37 assists, so many chances to get it wrong ... seven turnovers. In a game that saw them put up 152 points. Nuts.

I watched it, I plan on watching it again on the archived League Pass Broadband setup, and I don't really know what else to relay to you. The Suns would make a pass, someone would be open in an area that he's known to score efficiently from, and then the Sun who caught the pass would score.

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