Ball Don't Lie - NBA



New Orleans 107, Houston 99

This game was a lot closer than the final score would have you believe, but believe every bit of Chris Paul's(notes) stat line. 25 points, 12 assists, and four steals for Paul, and while I didn't like the fact that he gave up on a few plays defensively, the man just dominated Aaron Brooks(notes). There's a lot of that going around, these days.

David West(notes) (5-14 shooting) started hot but tailed off for NOLA, and the Rockets went away from Kevin Martin(notes) too much down the stretch. The Hornets were +17 in the free throw make department, and they earned it. This team is playing fantastic basketball, and Paul remains on edge as ever.

***

Orlando 128, Minnesota 86

Probably the worst aspect of this decidedly pitiful showing from the Minnesota Timberwolves comes in the way that you feel that this might not even be the low point of their season. Sure, Minnesota might not be outscored by 33 points in 24 minutes of play again this year, but this doesn't feel like a low ebb. It just feels like what to expect.

We expect precious little from the Wolves, and on the flip side of that coin is the "championship contender" tag we've placed on the Magic. Toss the two together, and you get a game in which the contender out-scores the Timberwolves by 19 in the first quarter, and 14 in the second. I don't care how disparate the two clubs are, that's a remarkable achievement for both ends. Look at me, I'm remarking all over it.

Meanwhile, the starting center that Wolves GM David Kahn bid against himself to re-sign for three times the money that he would have earned on the open market -- TV's Darko Milicic(notes) -- has just four assists in five games (remember Kahn comparing him to Vlade Divac?), he averages seven fewer rebounds per game than Kevin Love(notes) in seven fewer minutes per game, and he's missed 24 of 28 shot attempts this year.

Dwight Howard(notes) came through with 18 points, 16 rebounds, and eight blocks in less than half a game. Also, Minnesota is less than half a team.

***

Charlotte 85, New Jersey 83

Interesting game at times, close game throughout. Charlotte's backcourt of Stephen Jackson(notes) and D.J. Augustin(notes) combined to shoot 3-19, but Boris Diaw's(notes) butt was manhandling Derrick Favors(notes) (and Troy Murphy(notes), but you knew that) all night (24 points, though he managed just three rebounds in almost 40 minutes of play), and Gerald Wallace(notes) overcame an ankle injury to come through with a 20-and-11 performance.

And, yes, Travis Outlaw(notes) looked off an open Anthony Morrow(notes) twice in the waning seconds to force shots in hopes of tying the game.

***

Philadelphia 101, Indiana 75

The Pacers came out with no heart on Tuesday, they were down 15 points after one quarter and 26 points after two, as the 76ers finally notched a go in the win column after four fruitless tries to start the season.

Elton Brand(notes) partied like it was 2006 with 25 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block (with zero turnovers), and the Pacers just couldn't string stops together long enough to break into that massive deficit.

Though I submit that stops aren't really the problem when you shoot 31.5 percent from the field.

***

Boston 105, Milwaukee 102 (OT)

A rough and tumble game, with a lot of counterpunches between two offenses that are often at once exacting and option-heavy without being all that good, and great defense throughout. Yes, both teams turned the ball over an awful lot, but up against these long arms, who wouldn't?

Boston won because of the usual: Paul Pierce(notes) was able to score efficiently either off a pass or in an isolation setting. Though this isn't fair to John, Milwaukee's hopeful counterpart to that was John Salmons(notes), but he struggled terribly on Wednesday and is shooting 27.5 percent on the season. Andrew Bogut(notes) (21 and 13) started to help once he stopped shooting with his left hand, and Kevin Garnett(notes) had a great game despite missing 10 of 15 shots (a lot of those were close spin-outs).

Glen Davis(notes), I'm serious, is about as disruptive a force as NBA players come these days.

***

Dallas 102, Denver 101

No Nene, no Chris Andersen(notes), and no Kenyon Martin(notes) for the Nuggets, and the Mavericks acted as you'd expect as a result. Worked the glass, took advantage of the fact that Al Harrington(notes) (always a terrible rebounder, especially on Wednesday with only two in 32 minutes) played a ton of minutes at power forward and center, and pulled out the win.

Denver could have had it. Carmelo Anthony(notes) is one of this league's best players in the final seconds, if not the best, and he rimmed out a face up jumper just before the final buzzer sounded. 15 caroms and 20 points for Anthony. Something called a Greg Forbes started and scored 12 points on 12 shots for Denver, and Dirk Nowitzki(notes) (ho hum) notched 35 and 12 for Dallas in the win.

***

Utah 125, Toronto 108

Toronto just seemed ready to lose from the outset. It's as if they knew they were outclassed by the Jazz going in, and their interest level reflected the actual separation in abilities relative to the two teams. Bummer, because this could have been a fun offensive game between the two squads for three quarters before the Jazz pulled away. Instead, it was over minutes after it began.

The Jazz were up 19 after 12 minutes (ridiculous), and this was never really a game. Deron Williams(notes) was apsatively brilliant throughout -- 22 points, 14 assists, and eight rebounds - Al Jefferson(notes) was finishing well all night, and the Jazz were just that much better.

Toronto didn't have to act the part, though.

***

San Antonio 112, Phoenix 110

Just your typical ranch stash. San Antonio and Phoenix play a fantastically entertaining contest throughout, with a fun pace and skills to spare, with the Suns unable to break through in the end. I'm aware that Phoenix walked all over the Spurs last spring, but they're missing their 25-a night guy from last season's roster, and the Spurs are much improved.

Four three-pointers from the corner for Richard Jefferson(notes), who managed 28 points on just 13 shots, and Tim Duncan(notes) came through with 25 and 17 (three blocks, and several more changed shots that I saw) because he's Tim Duncan.

Steve Nash's(notes) 19 points on 22 shots tell the Suns' story, he tried to take over but every shot seemed long or short. And Hedo Turkoglu(notes) (38 percent shooting on the year, nowhere to be found on Wendesday) is pretty awful. Hakim Warrick(notes) (19 points, mini-Amar'e Stoudemire(notes)) has to start for these guys.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 112, Sacramento 100

Kobe Bryant(notes) was just so astonishingly good in this win. LeBron James(notes) can pull off a line like Kobe's (30 points, 10 boards, 12 assists) with seeming ease, but it just never seems as engaging or as pleasing to the eye as when Kobe does it. There's precision and anger in what Kobe does, but somehow he manages to pull it off smelling like spring. Gorgeous to watch; what a player.

The Lakers just dominated in all aspects. Lamar Odom(notes) filled in the blanks, everyone was game for an extra pass and finish, and Pau Gasol(notes) was hot early and finished with 22 and 11 rebounds.

Sacramento competed, for spells, but the team falls apart defensively too often to hang with a team like the Lakers for 48 straight. Also, while he has the arc and the follow-through, DeMarcus Cousins'(notes) 1-4 line from long range needs to be the last we see of that.

***

Golden State 115, Memphis 109

Hamed Haddadi(notes) played, which was great. He's played four times this season, but this was the first I've seen of him, and he really can be a helper defensively.

Also, Monta Ellis(notes) is just a potent, beaming bundle of awesome at this point. The Warriors were lost with him off the court, and the Grizzlies were a loss waiting to happen with him on it.

39 points, eight assists, nine rebounds and three steals for Ellis. He's averaging 30 points and six assists on the year, shooting 55 percent, and the Warriors have won three of four to start the year. What's the difference between this year and last? Well, though I like the guy, believe me when I tell you that it ain't David Lee(notes).

***

Los Angeles Clippers 107, Oklahoma City 92

Oklahoma City had something like 23 points after 17 and a half minutes of play in this game, and they just couldn't muster the offensive chops needed to pull a game like this out. Eric Bledsoe(notes) (17 points, two blocks, eight assists) is getting some rightful dap from all corners right now because everyone (again, rightfully) hates Baron Davis(notes), and Blake Griffin(notes) continues to impress, but it was Eric Gordon(notes) that is absolutely killing it for Los Angeles.

27 points on 17 shots for the third-year guard, who is playing out of his mind.

Kevin Durant(notes) missed 18 of 24 shots, and all 10 (!) of his attempts from long range. I'm with him in assuming every one of those bombs is money as he rises up, but yes, he should have tried to get to the line more often in the loss.

***

Atlanta 94, Detroit 85

Josh Smith(notes) made 8-12 shots, and finished with 22 points. 11 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. And yet, these weren't the things that made him this game's most important player.

In fact, the other shoe might drop pretty soon, with Josh. He's started to take flat-footed three-pointers and long twos again, and while his percentages have been sterling to start 2010-11, I don't think I'm acting a pessimist when I tell you that this can't last.

But Josh deserves major kudos for his help defense in this game. He blocked two shots, but he changed five times as many in just the short stretches that I saw, and his work in the closing minutes of the first half helped the Hawks go into the half with a four-point deficit, as opposed to what could have been a 10 or 12-point deficit.

The Pistons, I'm sorry, but they're not playing terrible basketball. There is good spacing in this team's offense, they hit cutters and they get good looks as a result. But they also lose focus for long enough to fall apart offensively, and the team's roster just has no chance defensively. Pity, because John Kuester is really making a mark with this team's offense. It's not his fault they're missing shots.

Thank you for reading.

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