Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Denver 98, Oklahoma City 94

Chauncey Billups(notes) had his satellite dish fired up Tuesday night. Either that, or he had the game tape flowing on Wednesday afternoon. CB saw the way Deron Williams(notes) put a career-high on the Thunder in the win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday, and decided that it was about damn time for him to start driving, start making shots, and start putting up points again.

And with Carmelo Anthony(notes) knocking himself out (essentially; poor guy drove into Kevin Durant(notes) and got clocked) for a small chunk of the game, Billups' 31 points were badly needed. Actually, Melo was around for most of Chauncey's 31 — 15 came in the fourth quarter — but the Denver point guard's aggressive tone was a bit of a difference even when he was missing shots, and even early in the first quarter.

It got Denver interested. The Nuggets hadn't played for a while, and you got the feeling for stretches in the first that they wouldn't mind extending the time off. But with Billups setting the tone, the Nuggies now have three quality wins in April, and no reason to think that this can't extend over the season's final week.

Aaron Afflalo played brilliant defense on Durant in this win. He's not going to stop the guy (nobody is, really, save for Tony Brothers), but A-Aff did make him work for his 33 points (how weird does that sound?), and he played expert defense on a late-game attempt at a tie that Durant missed. By inches.

This is me lauding a guy, and Durant still nearly finished with 35 points (at least) and a game-tying field goal.

Twenty-four points and 11 rebounds for Anthony, who couldn't have been feeling all that great, while Russell Westbrook(notes) turned it over seven times for Oklahoma City.

***

Houston 113, Utah 96

Every bit of me wants to yell at the Jazz for not working through those tired legs or understanding that they were going to be a step slow (you make up for that with different play calls and a different shot selection than you're used to), but that would be incredibly daft on my part.

The Rockets are rolling, and they played a terrific game, but the Jazz were completely beat. You can't play basketball at this level since October, work a double-overtime game and 140 points the night before, travel and get into an airport at 4 a.m. (losing an hour), and then pick it up in time for an 8 p.m. tip-off. The Jazz were destined to fail, here.

And the Rockets made it easier by playing terrific basketball on both ends. Aaron Brooks(notes) had 28 points and five assists and he did a great job of mixing it up.

***

Golden State 116, Minnesota 107

We'll have more on Don Nelson next week. He's now won more games than any other coach in NBA history, and for that he should be congratulated.

This game wasn't much. Minnesota was without Al Jefferson(notes), it completely laid down for the Warriors from the beginning, and all GSW is doing right is acting like a glorified farm team.

Quite literally. They're showcasing these minor league players on a major level, proving they can play and contribute in this league, and how many of them will be back with the Warriors next year? Golden State works hard, it really does, but the franchise has to rely on these players because the Warriors have a coach who has put them in a situation that forces the W's to ... never mind. You know the drill.

Nellie likes being the underdog, but he also likes getting paid, and he also knows the game. And the last two go a long way toward this record. What goes the longest way toward this record? Nellie knows how to play the game, and I'm not talking his time spent in short pants.

Kevin Love(notes) had 17 points, 18 rebounds and three assists in a starting role. Stephen Curry(notes), working injured, had 27 points, seven steals, 14 assists and eight rebounds. Anthony Tolliver(notes) shot his way toward 34 points.

***

Detroit 90, Atlanta 88

Detroit's playing better, so I can't completely kill the Hawks, and the Pistons were playing at home. And while I didn't get to see a ton of this game, it appeared as if the Pistons were hitting tough shot after tough shot every time I clicked over.

Of course, nobody calls it a "clicker" anymore, and the Pistons only scored 100 points per 100 possessions, which is terrible.

The Hawks were worse, somehow, missing 15 of 17 3-pointers and shooting below 61 percent from the line. Meanwhile, Ben Gordon(notes) came alive for the Pistons (22 points, seven assists, four turnovers, three steals) and Austin Daye(notes) came through with 13 points and 10 boards.

Mike Bibby(notes) is very bad at defense. Joe Johnson(notes) did not play. Marvin Williams(notes) got all the looks he could handle.

***

Miami 99, Philadelphia 95

The Heat have the NBA's longest winning streak, mainly because Dwyane Wade(notes) is having the NBA's most unheralded year, and the whole team (not just Wade) gets after it defensively.

Jermaine O'Neal(notes) missed eight of 10 shots, but I liked the way he rotated, and Wade finished with 22 points, two steals and two blocks. The Heat made 10 more free throws than the 76ers.

***

Orlando 121, Washington 94

The Wizards take bad shots, and sometimes those shots go in. You don't think Nick Young(notes) is going to go one-on-five and pull up for the 19-footer, because it's a terrible move; but he does it and the shot goes down and now you're down a point after the first quarter. You can't really prepare for it, you just have to keep playing your game and be ready to pounce when the law of averages takes hold.

The Magic got their own offense together after that, but mainly the team's defense started producing some tangible results because the Wizards stopped being infuriatingly lucky. Also, 136 points per 100 possessions for the Magic, because they're quite good.

Mickael Pietrus(notes) had 16 points on nine shots off the bench for Orlando, hitting four treys and converting on a couple of nice interior plays. J.J. Redick(notes) continues to play well, while Andray Blatche(notes) (13 points on 19 shots) continues to play like a dope, with varying results.

***

Indiana 113, New York 105

As ridiculous a game as you could imagine. It wasn't like watching a video game because of the high score, mind you, it was like a video game because you couldn't believe either side was going to let the other side do that ... again. You're just going to let David Lee(notes) take his third 19-foot jumper in a row, even though he made the first two, eh? You're going to let him do that? OK.

The Pacers roared out to an early lead, and while a good part of me was trying to remind myself to credit the Pacers on Thursday morning while pointing out that the Knicks didn't have the size nor talent to compete, that just wasn't all of it. The Knicks weren't covering, Lee wasn't moving over, and it was a pathetic display.

And because the Pacers are at their best when displaying patheticism, the Knicks came back, the very next game. Then, somehow, the Knicks scored only 15 points in the fourth quarter. In no way will I credit the Pacer defense for that. New York is awful.

Danny Granger(notes) led the Pacers with 33 points, but he was just chucking off of one dribble all night (11-27 shooting).

***

Boston 115, Toronto 104

Another sound Toronto effort, the team's second in as many days, while losing yet another would-be go-to player to a smack in the face.

Hedo Turkoglu(notes) took a Tony Allen(notes) right to the middle of his mug — just a big Tony Allen right up in there — and he had to leave in the first quarter. Sonny Weems(notes) (21 points, 17 in the first half) helped keep Toronto afloat in the first two quarters, while DeMar DeRozan(notes), Antoine Wright(notes) and Jarrett Jack(notes) kept the pressure on throughout, but Toronto just can't stop anyone.

Not even the Celtics. Not even Michael Finley(notes), whose back is hurting and whose four 3-pointers give me no such excuse.

Major defensive issues for the C's, though. Nearly 116 points per 100 possessions for the Raptors, and they weren't doing anything special offensively.

***

Charlotte 104, New Orleans 103

A fun game, despite everyone screwing up all the time.

The Hornets laid down for the early bits. Chris Paul(notes) was announced as out for the season before the contest, and with nothing really to play for (even in a loss, NOLA's draft position isn't going anywhere), the team just couldn't help but sleepwalk its way through what looked like an easy Charlotte blowout.

Then Charlotte started turning the ball over every other time down court. Overall, the Bobcats turned it over on nearly a quarter of its possessions, and it was enough to let the Hornets start sliding in for lay-ups and good jumpers on the other end.

D.J. Augustin(notes) can't guard you, but you certainly couldn't guard him Wednesday night. And the second-year guard was huge for the Bobcats down the stretch, even after the Hornets took a lead. Stephen Jackson(notes) (29 points) had another great, efficient game (where the heck did this come from?), Tyson Chandler(notes) (17 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks) completely outplayed Emeka Okafor(notes), and Augustin's sound play in the clutch was made even nicer by the fact that, apparently, the kid is from New Orleans.

Also, Marcus Thornton(notes) (36 points) gets buckets.

***

Milwaukee 108, New Jersey 89

The Bucks' D rested in the first half, as New Jersey drove and shot its way toward 58 points, but the Nets managed just 31 points the rest of the way as everyone tried to get theirs.

The Bucks just tried to party like it was 2002, with Jerry Stackhouse(notes) and Kurt Thomas(notes) coming through with great games, and the defense coming around after what was probably a paint-peeling halftime speech from coach Scott Skiles.

John Salmons(notes) again led the way with 22 points, while the Bucks managed 116 points per 100 possessions a night after chipping paint off the rim against Chicago.

***

Dallas 110, Memphis 84

Nobody on the Grizzlies has any sound defensive instincts, at least among the players that played on Wednesday night, and when you couple that with a back-to-back situation and Caron Butler(notes) actually getting his elbow under the ball, you're going to get a comfortable Dallas win.

Almost 124 points per 100 possessions for Dallas, as Butler and Dirk Nowitzki(notes) combined for 45 points on 31 shots, turning it over once per player.

Phoenix 112, San Antonio 101

The Spurs were tired, sure, but the Suns took this. Forced turnovers, got in the passing lanes, made shots, made the right decisions and attacked the right places offensively.

San Antonio? It missed free throws, could have been better at hanging onto the ball (a fifth of the team's possessions ended in a turnover, though I'm crediting Phoenix with a healthy chunk of that stat), and it clanged 19 of 25 3-pointers. Could have played better.

Phoenix won this, though. The team was killer in the screen and roll in the first half, and all the turnovers they caused and 3-pointers they tossed in during the second half put the game away. The Spurs kept things relatively close, but every sniff of a three-possession game ended with an answer for Phoenix.

Jason Richardson(notes) played hurt, and scored 20 points. Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) finished like Amar'e Stoudemire, pouring in 29, and Steve Nash(notes) had 18 points and 12 assists with just one turnover; barely playing in the second half as Goran Dragic(notes) ably held down the fort.

Tony Parker(notes) had 10 points on 10 shots, but he's getting no lift, and looks nothing like even the career-worst TP that we saw before his injury. That said, the first round of the playoffs can take up to two weeks to complete.

Two weeks. Seven games in 14 days. The Spurs are made for that.

***

Portland 93, Los Angeles Clippers 85

The Clippers take weird shots, they take chances, they're super-talented, and Portland has issues defensively. So the Blazers couldn't totally put the Clippers away on Wednesday night, and I have no problem with that.

Actually, I'd like to thank the Clippers for playing as hard as they did, even if they didn't come through with the smartest game I've ever seen.

Portland can really put points on the board, though, and LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) just seemed to tower over everyone in this win. He had 27 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers.

Steve Novak(notes) played 13 seconds in the loss.

 

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