Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Utah 109, Los Angeles Clippers 99

Carlos Boozer(notes) acted as if he was playing on a nine-foot rim on Tuesday, as the Clippers could do nothing to stop the forward, who was smarting from an All-Star snub. Clippers' center Chris Kaman(notes) got the replacement call Sunday instead of Boozer, and don't think this didn't add fuel to the fire.

The Clippers had this game, you know. It couldn't stay in front of Ronnie Price(notes) to start the fourth quarter, it relied on poorly-conceived shots on the other end, and Boozer just would not stop dunking on people. 34 points on 17 shots for Carlos, he managed 14 rebounds, six offensive, with four steals, four assists, and two turnovers.

When Deron Williams(notes) started his little "I won't shave my beard until we win five games in a row"-thing, I was kind of worried, because I didn't know if a team like the Jazz should be fretting over winning five games in a row. I didn't know if it was good enough to do it, and I was OK with that. Nine wins in a row later, it's clear that Utah is ready to challenge the Nuggets for the role of the Western Conference's true number two. It just seems like everyone on this team is playing exceedingly well, all at once.

***

Cleveland 104 New Jersey 97

Freed from Del Harris' glare, the Nets played like they should play more often, actually connecting on shots and playing up to their talent level even without Devin Harris(notes). I wonder if that's related. Either way, while the Cavs were never threatened, this game was always close. New Jersey played well.

Of course, the team's starting point (Keyon Dooling(notes)) guard and small (Jarvis Hayes(notes)) forward combined for zero rebounds in 70 minutes, and the Cavaliers are the Cavaliers. 32 and 11 assists for LeBron James(notes), as Cleveland notched nearly 127 points per 100 possessions.

***

Detroit 93, Milwaukee 81

Another run from the Bucks where they just fell off the face of the earth, offensively. Nine points in the first quarter, and in a contest this slow, that was certain death as Detroit's offense actually showed up.

Milwaukee rebounded with 29 in the second period, but this thing was more or less over by then. This was an 82-possession game, so that 12-point disparity needs to be reflected on properly. This was a blowout.

18 points on 12 shot attempts for Ben Gordon(notes) in the win.

***

Philadelphia 119, Minnesota 97

Minnesota might be the slowest-starting team in the NBA, it constantly handicaps it's chances at winning by coming out of the gate ultra-terrible, and Tuesday was no exception. This game was over early, and credit Philly for piling on. 30 points in the first quarter for the 76ers, 43 in the second frame. Dunks and jumpers and running and 13 steals and an utter humiliation of a Timberwolves team that should be a lot better.

Just three minutes in the blowout for Marresse Speights, which seems a bit off.

***


Denver 127, Dallas 91

Dallas got into Denver late the night before, and the Mavericks were obviously tired, but ... no. Denver skunked them because Dallas showed no interest in closing out properly on shooters, or attempting to defend the paint in Erick Dampier's(notes) absence.

Nene Hilario(notes) had 21 points and eight rebounds on 8-9 shooting, the ball was moving, the Mavericks were not (seriously, fight through a screen; take two steps and get your arms up), and Denver shot 61 percent.

Dallas countered with a rather "meh" effort offensively. It got to the line a ton, which was nice, but it had absolutely no running baskets because Denver would not miss. 135 points per 100 possessions for the Nuggets.

***

Atlanta 108, Memphis 94

The Hawks didn't run the Grizzlies out of the building, but they sure filled it up on Tuesday. Hawks were hitting from all over, with Jamal Crawford(notes) leading the way from a long way away. Five three-pointers for JC, who tossed in 28 points in 27 minutes. All five starters were in double-figures, as well, as the Hawks piled up 25 assists (on the road, no less) by continually finding little seams in what Memphis was trying to do defensively.

Memphis did try defensively, from what I saw, but this team is fading as it's becoming harder and harder to make up for that pitiful D with lively O. The Grizzlies got to the line just 12 times, and while the Hawks should be credited for that, there's no reason a team as potent as Memphis should be doing that at home.

***

Miami 99, Houston 66

Kind of makes sense that when you flip Houston's number around, you get Miami's number. Or is it the other way around? Whoa.

Houston was as bad as Miami was good, as the Rockets missed shot after shot (fine D by the Heat, but no team is that good), and the Heat just appeared incapable of missing two shots in a row. Five blocks for Joel Anthony(notes), lots of contesting hands on those fadeaways and perimeter looks, and a banged-up Rockets team played as if it was ready to limp to the finish line.

27 assists on 41 shots for the Heat, with six players in double figures.

***

Sacramento 118, New York 114 (OT)

"Somehow our spirit is all messed up." - Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.

Well, yeah. Tyreke Evans(notes) is going to do that to a lot of teams for the next 15 years, but it is true that the Knicks are reeling in a way that doesn't have much to do with how brilliant Evans is. The last possession of regulation, with the game tied? It was nuts. Chris Duhon(notes) is passed the ball, he's easily the worst Knick on the court, and he doesn't pass it to anyone else. Just dribbles, aimlessly, for most of the 22 seconds, before launching a semi-step-back three-pointer shot from 25 feet that made it nearly 21 feet.

I haven't seen dribble-dribble-dribble nonsense like that since the heyday of Steve Francis(notes), or Travis Best. Problem was, those guys made shots, occasionally. Duhon missed eight of 10 shots on Tuesday, all six from three-point range, and he's shooting below 35 percent on the year.

Tyreke Evans makes the NBA 35 percent better, by the way. The Kings guard was unstoppable down the stretch of a game that the Kings were seemingly out of, scoring at will as he put the entire Knick D on skates. It was a slow night to start for Tyreke, he scored 27 points on 26 shots (10 makes at the rim), but he'll figure out when to press and when to pull back as he gets older. 10 boards and six assists, too. Donte Green had a great game, scoring 24 points on 12 shot attempts.

Wilson Chandler(notes) scored 35 points for New York, but this team is in clear need of a few days off. An injured Nate Robinson(notes) (hamstring) managed just 11 points on 4-15 shooting off the bench.

***

Oklahoma City 89, Portland 77

I know the Trail Blazers are missing quite a few familiar faces, but for Scotty Brooks to have a team this young playing defense this well? The Thunder are quite the story. Under 87 points per 100 possessions for Portland.

22 turnovers for the Blazers, murder in a slowish game like that, as that represented nearly a quarter of the team's possessions. Oklahoma City already defends like mad, and you're going to hand them the ball one in every four times down the court?

Portland came through with some good D of its own, but James Harden(notes) had a nice little run in the third quarter to help OKC pull away, with Kevin Durant(notes) watching from the bench. Durant was defended damn well by Martell Webster(notes) to start, but eventually got his 33 in the end, destroying Portland's Nic Batum (who should have the length, quickness, hops, and willingness to defend Durant) late.

This guy is a special player. We're really lucky to be able to see a player like Durant blossom into something this fantastic.

***

Chicago 109, Indiana 101

I never really like what Indiana does defensively, there are always too many turned heads and Chicago had all sorts of lanes to the hoop on Tuesday. Of course, the Bulls are terrible on offense and it didn't matter much until the fourth quarter, when they put up 33 points. Even with that added to the tally, Chicago's 108 points per 100 possessions seems rather weak when compared to Indy's actual defense presence.

I did like what the Pacers were doing offensively, they were just missing shots, especially in that fourth quarter. Just 15 points over the final 12 minutes. It was an ugly game, though Chicago should be quite pleased with the way Kirk Hinrich(notes) (17 points) and John Salmons(notes) (21 points) got out of their shooting and/or scoring slumps, and the way the should-be power forward Luol Deng(notes) (21 and 11) continues to be a double-double contendah.

***

Charlotte 94, Washington 92

Both teams put up respectable offensive numbers (about 107 points per 100 possessions), and the game featured a spirited finish with Raymond Felton(notes) hitting a clutch jumper, but both these squads looked absolutely beat in this game. That's probably why they have these breaks near the mid-point of the season.

17 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and three assists in all 48 minutes for Gerald Wallace(notes), while Stephen Jackson(notes) had 22 points and 22 glares at the refereeing crew. Charlotte - what does he do? - employee Michael Jordan sat courtside and wore a jaunty cap.

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