Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Miami 90, Washington 76

This is why you sit games out.

And this is why heroes aren't created in November on a Tuesday night.

Gilbert Arenas(notes) had 21 points, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals on Tuesday night. He also missed 13 of 20 shots and turned it over 12 times. Twelve TIMES. Shawn Kemp-styled, stuff.

(The Miami Heat also had 12 turnovers total, while we're at it.)

Kemp's turnover-driven triple-doubles weren't as passable as Arenas' near-T-D-T-D, because he didn't have the ball in his hands as much as GA, but Arenas hurt his team. From what I saw, his play was as bad as his line. The man was obviously suffering through a calf strain, and though I understand Gilbert not wanting to let his team down after missing just about two full seasons of play, he should have sat this one out.

The whole game was a chore to watch, as it was last week when these two hooked up. Dwyane Wade(notes) was fantastic with 41 points on 29 shots, but he took a ton of free throws (12-13, overall), and, yeah. Bit of a bore.

Loved Washington coach Eddie Jordan's Flip Saunders' inclusion of Andray Blatche(notes) into the starting lineup, the versatile forward has been one of Washington's best players all season, and he responded with 13 points, 10 boards and five assists in 39 minutes. Brendan Haywood(notes) also had a strong start with 13 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks before tailing off late.

The Heat have started off well, but I agree with Kevin Pelton in thinking that Erik Spoelstra's squad (while the effort is there and the in-game moves have been sound) will eventually fall back to earth.

***

Orlando 93, Charlotte 81

This will probably be a recurring thing with the Bobcats. This team isn't going to give up too easily. The squad is probably chuffed at the notion of being Larry Brown's hand-picked lot, and while that may not see the team past 20 wins or a 90 points-per-game average, they are working hard for LB.

And when teams relent, when they take stock in an early lead and pull off the throttle a bit, the Bobcats can come back. Provided those tough, inefficient shots that they take (because the team is so poor at creating easier, efficient shots) go in.

On Tuesday night, in a 30-point third quarter, those shots went in for the Bobcats. Otherwise, they scored 51 points. Guess which quarters the Magic showed up for.

Orlando relied on good ball movement and sound spacing to pull out to a quick and apparently insurmountable lead. Vince Carter(notes) returned to score 15 points on 16 shots, and while this does still feel like a work in progress, I'd much prefer to work through the consistency issues the Magic are having than just about any other roster in this league.

Charlotte missed 15 of 17 3-point shooting, and you just can't expect to win in this league securing six points from 17 total possessions, to say nothing of the breaks these long misses start.

Also, Charlotte's Nazr Mohammad came through with 11 points, five rebounds, three blocks and just one turnover in 17 minutes of play, so that's about it until February.

***

Denver 90, Chicago 89

Not the prettiest game, but you have to give credit to the defense on both ends. The Bulls entered the game eighth on D and actually improved. The Nuggets entered the game 21st in defensive efficiency, and definitely improved. The Bulls managed to score just under 98 points per 100 possessions and, sadly, also improved.

Denver was able to worm its way into the paint often, and was a bounce or two away from making this a pretty comfortable seven- or eight-point win. Not the team's finest hour -- Carmelo Anthony(notes) needed 22 shots to score 20, Kenyon Martin(notes) needed 15 to score just as many and Earl Smith III missed eight out of nine attempts in his first game back from being suspended for going to jail.

The Nuggets also did well not to send the Bulls to the line. Chicago attacked, make no mistake, but the Nuggets backed off and forced Chicago into tough shot after tough shot. Derrick Rose(notes) looked much better, pouring in 22 points, dishing five assists, blocking two shots and passing on turning the ball over a single time in 39 minutes. But to me, the biggest worry regarding this Bulls loss is just how awful Kirk Hinrich(notes) has been offensively this year.

He's not alone in turning the Bulls into one of the league's worst offensive teams (again). Ben Gordon's(notes) 20-plus points per game are in Detroit, and John Salmons(notes) has "replaced" (HOW CAN YOU REPLACE SOMEONE WHEN YOU WERE ON THE TEAM AT THE SAME TIME AS HIM?!?) Ben's production with a 13.4-point, 33 percent shooting run through the season's first seven games.

Hinrich, though, has been pretty awful as well. He's averaged 8.4 points on 35 percent shooting and about a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. His defense has been fantastic, no complaints there, but Hinrich is killing this team off the bench.

The contest came down to a back and forth that saw Chauncey Billups(notes) toss in a game-deciding free throw before purposely missing the second with .6 of a second left in the contest and the Nugs up one.

And though Joakim Noah(notes) (12 points, 21 rebounds, two blocks) immediately called a timeout as he grabbed the rebound just inches away from the rim and Brad Miller(notes) tossed in a miraculous one-footed heave from 21 feet as the buzzer sounded, there's no way two men can combine to rebound the ball, call a timeout and shoot the ball after a catch in .6 of a second. Even if they are both 7-footers who enjoy getting baked.

Chicago just lost a tough one to a very good team, they're 4-3 overall, and they're playing defense again. But they won't have a chance in hell at making the playoffs if Salmons and Hinrich flirt with single-digit PERs all year. To say nothing of Gordon's other "replacement," Jannero Pargo(notes) (he contributes nothing but shooting, and he's shooting 33 percent).

Also, Brad Miller uses the word "critter."

***

Portland 93, Memphis 79

Apologies for talking down to you, dear reader, but when bad teams play very good teams, the bad teams have to get just about every possession correct in order to keep up. And all it takes is one bad stretch or two for the 9-2 and/or 10-3 run to rear its one-sided head, and there's your win. And there's your loss.

Portland continues to get better defensively every time out, impressive considering the teams this squad has played, and as expected Greg Oden(notes) has had quite a bit to do with this. I don't go to raw plus/minus often, especially given just a one-game sample size, but the fact that his +16 ranked just behind Andre Miller's(notes) +18 and LaMarcus Aldridge's(notes) +18 in nine and 15 fewer minutes speaks volumes. Even when he isn't getting the calls, and he wasn't on Tuesday, he helps.

Oden had 14 points and six boards with two blocks and no turnovers in 22 minutes. LMA brought the boards, 12 of them, along with 16 points on 12 shots. Portland also used little bits of good play from here and there -- Martell Webster(notes) at the line, Rudy Fernandez(notes) with a needed bucket, some guy named Brandon Roy(notes) had 20 points and seven assists -- to pull away.

The Grizzlies shot 37 percent and were bad on both ends. Bad decisions, mainly. Too many bad habits to overcome this early.

***

Dallas 121, Houston 103

This is how it's going to be for Houston. The team is talented, I'm not passing off an early 4-3 (and nearly 5-2) record as some bit of luck. But the team also creates its own fortune in a way that's somehow different than the 29 other teams out there that are creating their own fortune. The Rockets have to work hard, and they have to hope that a lot falls into place.

The work was there, in this loss, but the shots dried up after a while. Good shots, too. Even as Dallas stormed back from what seemed like a blowout loss of its own to turn it into a blowout win, the Rockets were still getting fair looks more often than not.

But the Mavericks just rolled, from beginning to end. And, once they improved their transition defense and closed off the middle just a little bit, the semi-rout was on.

Fun game, though. Houston was flying from the outset, even off made baskets, sending Aaron Brooks(notes) (22 points but just one assist, with poor defense) and Kyle Lowry(notes) (12 points and five assists, but five turnovers). In the end, Dallas just seemed longer. And better. Not attempting to be flip, just the truth.

Jason Terry(notes) had a couple of calls go his way, but he was super-efficient and had an answer basket ready several times in that second half. JET had 24 points on only eight shots. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) had 23, and while he missed nine of 15 shots, I also probably saw four or five spin out. Those were good looks that just didn't end the way they should have.

Erick Dampier(notes)? Tough, active game. Lots of tips, lots of good, non-fouly, movement off the ball. With it up in the air, mainly, as Damp finished with 14 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks. Josh Howard(notes) still looks gimpy, 14 points on 14 shots, and while Jason Kidd's(notes) defense wasn't all that and a big of chips, Jose Juan Barea(notes) talked to the hand with 14 points on nine shots and five dimes off the bench. Great game for JJB.

The Mavs had a 46-37 rebounding advantage and shot 55 percent while making seven of their 12 3-pointers. I'd tell you this game was closer than it was, but that's not really the truth. Dallas dominated for the final 28 minutes, but Houston got some licks in early.

***

Sacramento 101, Oklahoma City 98

A competitive game, I'll give it that. Not the easiest watch because these teams are just so young.

The game featured 71 free throws, divided almost sharply down the middle by both sides in terms of attempts, and so many mistakes. Not the most turnover-prone outing, mind you. It was a normally paced game with 36 combined miscues, but just too much the usual "I don't think that's the shot the [team name] want at this point," combined with physical play.

Spirited play, though. Kevin Durant(notes) missed 14 of 23 shots, including a good look at a game-tying three as regulation ended, but he swished 18 of 18 from the line to finish with 37 points. Jeff Green(notes) filled in the blanks without needing many plays called for him, but he only pulled in five rebounds in 35 minutes on a night where the Thunder were out-rebounded by 15.

Nobody really stood out for the Kings because the whole team was active. Some saw more of a payoff for that activity, as Jason Thompson(notes) (21 points, 14 rebounds, seven offensive caroms, five turnovers) and Tyreke Evans(notes) (still awful with the shot selection, but 20 points on 16 shots, eight rebounds, eight assists, five turnovers) tended to make a difference.

For some reason, a close, enthusiastic battle between two young teams just wasn't much to behold. Never mistake activity for achievement, I reckon.

And not to wee all over the Kings' parade -- they did beat the Jazz -- but they've also beaten the Thunder, Warriors and Grizzlies this year. All at home. Great work so far, but it's early. Keep it up, Turks.

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