Ball Don't Lie - NBA

San Antonio 103, Chicago 94

I can't tell you how chuffed I am that the Bulls have a player averaging 25.5 points per game, and shooting well from the floor (48 percent) on his way toward that mark.

This is where I get into trouble with my fellow Bulls fans, but I'm having a hard time caring. The goal for me is wins, not the development of Derrick Rose(notes) into some LeBron/Kobe/Paul/Wade-type star. And, I'm sorry, but Rose's mostly-brilliant play just tends to force you to remember the great things (because the way he scores, when he does score, is just so fantastic to watch) while you forget everything else.

The guy took one free throw, all game, and I watched every minute of this one and hardly felt like he was getting a raw deal. After two hot games from long range he's still below the league average on three-pointers despite taking nearly four a game, and his percentages on his jump shots overall (something that constitutes 71 percent of his looks overall) are terrible.

And yet, Bulls fans remember all those awesome makes, but forget how (at times in the second and third quarter of this game) Rose shot the Bulls out of the game. And then you get Ric Bucher (the guy that thought Rose would win the MVP last year) chiding us post game because we tend to use stats and reason and remember the misses as much as we do the makes.

I love Derrick Rose, and he has gotten hot this year when he squares his shoulders while declining to shoot across his body. But he also shoots the Bulls out of games, not because his shooting percentages from long range are so terrible (Dwyane Wade(notes) has the same problem), but because he doesn't get to the line enough to mitigate those streaky turns from 19-feet.

Sorry to compare him to the greatest ever, but why do you think Michael Jordan continually put up 31 points on 23 shots per game? He couldn't hit from long range, either (under 30 percent career, when the line was at its current place on the floor), but he got to the line. Rose can walk away from this game knowing that he made more than half his shots (15-27), but even with the 56 percent shooting percentage, 33 points on 27 shots isn't as good as it could be.

Yes, he's having to do so, so much with Carlos Boozer(notes) out. But unless he starts to get to the line more, he's not going to justify all these shot attempts. Bulls fans, I'm one of you. Sunny side up, and all that.

But this is a problem. You can't have a guy shooting one free throw for every four field goal attempts. There's no conspiracy. The refs don't hate us. He just doesn't play the NBA-styled game (that stupid game where you dive into the lane only looking for fouls, that icky game that Wade and Kobe play so well) well. That's to be admired, to an extent, but there's also a reason why the Bulls scored just 14 points in 14:34 with Rose on the floor late in the second quarter and throughout the third.

D-Rose busted a little ass single-handedly putting the Bulls back in the game in the fourth, but San Antonio's spacing and options were just too much for a Chicago team that was clearly tired by the end of it. Matt Bonner's(notes) +29 was spot on, because he penetrated slightly and provided spacing, while Tony Parker(notes) and Manu Ginobili(notes) were getting into the Chicago lane all night.

Derrick Rose wasn't the reason Chicago lost this game. San Antonio played too well, and Rose's teammates let him down by missing open shot after open shot. But we have to be careful, before launching him into that MVP strata.

***

Toronto 94, Philadelphia 86

I didn't have issues with Toronto's effort on Tuesday night. Though Andrea Bargnani(notes) came through with his typical nil rebounds in 49 minutes (something like that), the way the Raps were skunked by Washington seemed to have more to do with terrible instincts and limited relative athleticism. There was bad effort at times, sure, but unless you were a Raptor fan, you didn't walk away (and, really, you should have run away) from that game hating Toronto.

The good-enough effort returned on Wednesday, with a bit of an uptick, and this win was the result. While Philly scoured the rotation for consistent buckets, the Raptors just scored enough and went to Bargnani's two-handed touch enough to pull out the win. Bargs contributed 30 points, making just one three-pointer, and even pulled in seven rebounds. Sonny Weems(notes) continued his good play with 25 points and +17 in raw plus/minus on the night.

Evan Turner(notes) continues to look the part of someone who might not have the athleticism for this level, but that doesn't explain away the way he contributed in other areas in the loss: 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals.

I picked Doug Collins as my coach of the year not because I thought he'd do the best job coaching this year, but because I thought the media will fall victim to a nice story (Coach Collins running these guys to 45 wins or so) and vote him in. Still, while I didn't expect great things from Doug this year, I didn't think a 2-10 start was in the offing.

***

Miami 123, Phoenix 96

Yes, that's right. Athleticism. The way the Heat can out-run and out-jump just about every rotation in the league. The way it is quicker to the rim. The way that genetic lottery awarded three cherries to three of its starters, along with a good-enough consolation prize to two of the other starters (whoever they are).

Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) was one of the other starters on Wednesday, and while he didn't play a big part in the win (working under eight minutes), this is a good sign of things to come for the Heat. Also, Chris Bosh(notes) did what Chris Bosh should do against a flimsy team like the Suns, touching and pumping his way (that sounded gross) to 35 points. Dwyane Wade started slow but ended his night with 17 points, six boards and six assists, while LeBron James(notes) came through with an approximation of what we thought he'd average this year with 20 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds.

14 points on nine shots for Channing Frye(notes), but the Suns really didn't have a chance.

***

Boston 114, Washington 83

Speaking along those lines, Boston whupped on the Wizards, too.

The Celtics just rode that usually-exquisite spacing to 32 assists and 60 percent shooting. Worked the weak side while Washington's head was turned, and took in high percentage look after look after look. Without having to expend much energy with the ball in their hands offensively, Boston locked down on the other end, and the Wiz just couldn't compete at Boston's level.

All five C's starters scored in double figures, while Delonte West(notes) (12 points, five rebounds, and four assists) seemed to pick up where we'd hope he'd pick up.

Also, Andray Blatche(notes) came out of this league straight out of high school, and he still plays defense like he's in his first NBA season out of high school. You can't win consistently with this guy unless he's a sixth man or starter that sits the fourth quarter, and the rest of your rotation is made up of perfect defensively helpers. Not unlike Eddy Curry(notes), on the 2004-05 Bulls.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 103, Detroit 90

And speaking of exquisite spacing, the Lakers allowed themselves chance after chance to score where they wanted to, off a pass or post-up, and this game wasn't as close as the final score would indicate.

Kobe Bryant(notes) had 24 points in the first half (33 overall), Pau Gasol(notes) came through with 25 points and 12 rebounds, and while Detroit was stuck in a tough situation (that first game home after a long road trip is nasty enough, but against the defending champs), it's hard to see any team in the NBA beating the Lakers on a night like this.

Just five turnovers for Detroit. That's about it.

***

New Orleans 99, Dallas 97

Dallas may have fallen apart in the final minutes, but these two teams have put together two classic contests early in this young season, and I'd like to thank them for their effort.

This was more of a run-meets-run game for these two teams than the game on Monday was, a lot of 12-to-4 trade-offs as opposed to these squads matching bucket for bucket, but that didn't take away from the overall tone nor the excitement behind it. Sometimes it was Chris Paul's(notes) turn to dominate. Sometimes it was Dirk Nowitzki's(notes) turn to barely touch the net while dropping in an 18-footer.

I'm not passing this along to try to amp up the storyline, but at times in the third quarter, the Mavericks looked like a young troupe of over-actors in a bad horror film. Stuck in a forest, two of their mates already dead, freaking out at the sound of every cracked twig or howl from afar. Constantly wide-eyed and looking over their shoulder for whatever killer (man or beast) was in their midst. Not a joke. Watch the tape, because Chris Paul had these guys FREAKED. Look at the way he had Dallas' head on a swivel.

For good reason, and to no avail. He's Chris Paul, and he came through with the typical ho-hum 20 points (on just 13 shots) and 11 assists. Two turnovers, as the Hornets out-scored the Mavs 33-17 in the 12 minutes following halftime. I appreciated the way the Mavs didn't quit, though, in relying on Jose Juan Barea's(notes) penetration and Dirk Nowitzki's touch. This could have (should have, even though I had 10 games to flip through last night) gone to overtime, but Dirk (29 points, nine rebounds) blew some possessions down the stretch.

***

Oklahoma City 116, Houston 99

Houston had no chance against Oklahoma City. The team couldn't stick with the Thunder while on defense, and Houston does not have the horses offensively to match a series of scores with hoops of its own. The Rockets are hurt and lacking in depth at this point, and they seem to only be fitted with players who are either all offense/no-D; or the opposite.

The Thunder moved the ball well, but more importantly they finished expertly from all over. This was a semi-blowout from the start, and though I meant to watch more, there were closer contests on the tube and I only saw snippets of the Thunder pulling away.

21 points with nine free throw attempts, six rebounds and 12 assists for Russell Westbrook(notes).

***

Minnesota 113, Los Angeles Clippers 111

As is the Minnesota way, another pairing with a terrible team turned into a one-possession contest that was highly entertaining.

The Timberwolves nearly gave this one away by going away from Michael Beasley(notes) for seven consecutive possessions down the stretch before his game winning pull-up jumper, and the Clippers definitely gave it away with three turnovers in the final two minutes from rookies Eric Bledsoe(notes) and Al-Farouq Aminu(notes). Still, that's what happens when you start two rookies. You're looking toward the future, you put up with this stuff, and it usually pays off.

Fun to watch, too, even if you feel bad for the kids. Beasley was great with that pull-up, again, on his way to 33 points on 23 shots. And Kevin Love(notes) had 24 and 14 because he's Kevin Love.

It's almost as if you want these two teams to keep playing like-minded, terrible teams, so that they don't give up on a season that still has five months to go.

***

Utah 98, New Jersey 88

It's no fun to waltz into a road arena knowing you're likely outclassed. Then you have to deal with your best player coming out on the wrong end of call after call (though every Brook Lopez(notes) foul I saw was legit, they were still all tough whistles) and a go-to scorer seemingly not able to buy one despite solid looks (Travis Outlaw(notes) missed 11 of 12 shots), but the Nets hung in there.

These guys couldn't hang in there for the first quarter of a home game last year, much less something like this, and I have to give Avery Johnson his due for getting this team to care, and act professionally.

Utah still had New Jersey's number, though. Just 10 bench points on 5-16 shooting for the Jazz bench, but Jerry Sloan's crew had a "keep ‘em at arm's length" bucket whenever it needed it in the win.

***

New York 113, Sacramento 106

The Knicks didn't want to compete, early in this game, but seemed to all at once determine that they had nothing better to do on a Wednesday night, and started to run their sets properly. Got to their spots, followed through on shots, and nearly put the Kings away.

Sacramento came back. New York (Raymond Felton(notes), especially, geesh) just made too many mistakes in the second half for Sacto not to make a game of this, but nobody was going to make up for Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) and Danilo Gallinari's(notes) 54 combined points.

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