Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Boston 92, Orlando 88
(Boston leads series, 3-2)

Call me the opposite of old fashioned, but I don't think the Orlando Magic are losing because Dwight Howard(notes) isn't getting enough touches.

I know, I know. They need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They need to get tough, when the tough gets going. They need to rock themselves out of the hard place. Basketball works from the inside, out. The paint is no place for the meek. The meek has no place in the paint. I've read your bumper sticker. It's twaddle.

Dwight Howard has no moves. He's a dominant force, and well deserving of that Defensive Player of the Year, but his moves are crap. I saw him throw some junk up against Kendrick Perkins(notes) that Brett Szabo would be ashamed of, and those moves are not something I can blame on "well, he hasn't gotten the ball in a while, so he's forcing things with the clock running down." Believe me, I love Dwight, I love it when big men get the rock, and I'm making all the excuses I can for the guy.

But he has no moves. Lefty runners are nice, but the guy has no turnaround jumper, he has no righty jump (or rolling) hook he can continually go to, and his drop step is lousy. It's very early in his career, it's no slam on Dwight, it's just the unfortunate reality (soon to change, I'm sure) in May of 2009.

So when I hear commentators try to play the hardass and tell us that Howard needs some Shaq-like touches, you'll have to excuse me when I wonder if they've seen the same player that I have. Especially when the noise comes from Chris Webber(notes), who never met a late-game situation he didn't want to skulk his way out of.

This isn't to say that Orlando can't make better decisions with the ball. This isn't to say that the team's play-calling, late in games, with that supposedly "heady" point man in Rafer Alston(notes), doesn't stink. It does. But given the choice of Dwight Howard tossing up lefty runners, or Rashard Lewis(notes) being guarded by Glen Davis(notes) or Paul Pierce(notes) ... I'll take the latter.

And you know what? I'd be wrong in that regard, as well. Lewis played the second half of the fourth quarter, missed two three-pointers, and badly missed an attempt inside the arc. He also turned the ball over. He was no help, and he's one of this league's highest-paid players.

Nobody was any help, as the Magic collapsed. Dwight Howard had six points, two of those coming at the free throw line, but he also had just one rebound in 12 minutes of fourth quarter play. Hedo Turkoglu(notes) played well, and had four assists, but after a fantastic first three quarters, Alston was useless down the stretch, failing to the run the offense and missing all three of his attempts from the floor. So much for, "he hits them when he has to."

Listen, there's no point in trying to tell you that Howard doesn't deserve more touches. He does. Dwight is absolutely right, in his post-game comments. As are the observers that demand a change. But he's not some late-game panacea, waiting to happen. He's hardly a quarters one-through-three panacea, waiting to happen. Because I've seen him with the ball in his hands, when he isn't working in the tip-in category, and he just doesn't have it. There aren't any moves, there. Not yet, at least.

And while the age-old answer to that is, "just get him the ball, because the defense will collapse on him and free up easy shots even if he isn't hitting his own hooks," naw, I'm not buying it. Not against the champs. No way. You're not in Memphis, on a Thursday, in December. Nobody's collapsing for the sake of collapsing. You have to earn it, in Boston, in May. That's been the case for over 50 years.

Prove me wrong, Dwight. I wish you would. And I wish the Magic gave you a chance to prove me wrong. At this point, however, I'm blaming this more on Lewis, his inability to hit what he has, and the team's inability to go through a guy who actually has moves.

The Celtics earned it, by the way. Ray Allen(notes) and Paul Pierce were pretty useless in that first half, but the team worked its way back on the heels of strong half-court play from its reserves -- Stephon Marbury(notes) had 12 points on 10 shots -- and Glen Davis continues to be a scoring threat (22 points on 16 shots, zero turnovers, seven rebounds in 42 minutes), even if he was a little too eager in that first half. Raging animal.

Boston's starting backcourt of Rajon Rondo(notes) and Ray Allen had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (six), but the helpers worked their way around that, and Orlando's real issue was defense.

Yes, it'd be nice if Orlando helped itself offensively, but the team scored 21 points in the fourth after managing 22, 23, and 22 points in the first three quarters. Sounds about right.

Meanwhile, the C's dropped 33 after hitting for only 59 points entering the final frame. It always boggles my mind how commentators continually bring up offense when the losing team gives up 33 points in the fourth quarter of a slugfest. Whiff, whiff, whiff.

Los Angeles Lakers 118, Houston 78 (Los Angeles leads series, 3-2)

Well, I've seen this game 1.67 times, but I'm not sure I can tell you anything new. Los Angeles is way, way better than the Rockets (as presently constructed), the Laker concentration was there, and Houston didn't really have a chance. Sue me if I play too quickly.

The thing that struck me about the Lakers, early on, was the team's spacing. Compared to Game 4, it was night and day. The team had proper passing angles, the offense was set to stun, and the result was a 124 points per 100 possession mark. That's against Houston. That's like dropping 55 points on the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Kobe Bryant(notes), in particular, was jaw-droppingly good. Hanging in the air, focused on the rim, tossing in shot after shot without having to toss it in from 20 feet. So, so brilliant. 26 points on 19 shots in only 31 minutes. So many smart, heady, early decisions within that Triangle offense. He may not have dropped 50, but that was as good as basketball gets. Thanks for that, Kobester.

And the defense was superb, but I don't know how it couldn't have been. If the Lakers bring the effort, against a team missing Yao Ming(notes), you can't help but hold the Rockets to a nasty night. 82 points per 100 possessions for Houston. That's awful, even for a team missing two of its best offensive players.

Also, Ron Artest(notes)? He's turning into Rasheed Wallace(notes), minus the indifference. 4-15 shooting, four turnovers, nine points. Nine points on 15 shots. Pathetic. Truly, truly awful.

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