Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Detroit 97, New Jersey 93

Another heartbreaker for the Nets.

There was a gentleman in the first row who slammed what appeared to be a game program (because people still buy those, right?) in the final seconds as New Jersey blew another one, and while part of me is surprised at his surprise ("mate, it's the Nets, what'd you expect?"), another part of me is surprised that this entire franchise and it's fans still have a pulse at this point.

That isn't a slam, honestly.

I just don't know what it would be like to end such an overwhelming majority of these games on a down note like this, whether you lose by four or 40. Could you imagine feeling the ping of winning just four times in almost 10 months? What that does to you? What that does to a locker room? When you lose, in that locker room, you're not supposed to smile. You're not supposed to joke, and you're supposed to act as if the loss matters, a great deal. Even if it doesn't. And it's bound not to sometimes.

So imagine leaving work like that 43 times in 47 tries. Imagine the time spent between "work," going over game film of the latest loss, dealing with the next day's opponent, the guys that beat you by 22 last time. I just don't know how these guys deal with it.

We can act crass and cynical and say something like, "they get in their Mercedes and drive home to their penthouse, that's how they deal with it," but that doesn't make this funk go away. Nothing, with New Jersey, apparently does.

The Nets had a small lead late, but Detroit forced New Jersey into a pair of iffy jump shots while connecting on the other end. A bit of non-communication between Jarvis Hayes(notes) and Devin Harris(notes) defensively with 45 seconds left led to Tayshaun Prince(notes) throwing down an alley-oop on an inbounds play, and the Nets were more or less done.

A good showing from Will Bynum(notes) (10 points, three assists in under 17 minutes) in his first game back after about five weeks on the shelf.

***

Indiana 130, Indiana 115

Relentin' and regressin' for the Raptors on Tuesday, as they allowed the Pacers to run through a 48-minute layup line in what was Toronto's worst defensive effort of the season. A season that has seen them play some of the worst defensive basketball of any pro team I've seen in years, mind you.

Indiana just kept the penetration up, swinging the ball quickly, and getting either close conversions or trips to the line as a result. 50 points in the paint, and 33 made free throws in 34 tries. Earl Watson(notes) kept finding Pacers for three-pointers, and the Raps couldn't or wouldn't keep up.

Toronto scored well, and Andrea Bargnani(notes) dropped 34 points, but what's the use when you move your feet as poorly as this?

***

Cleveland 105, Memphis 89

I don't know if the Grizzlies expected a letdown, if they were cool with just splitting a pair between the best team in the West and the best team in the East. I know that Memphis is probably 16 points worse than a team like the Cavaliers on the second night of a back to back, regardless of who they faced on the first "back" in question; but I was a little surprised at how slow and shoddy Memphis looked coming out of the gate.

Credit Cleveland, though. Discrediting Memphis? That's up for debate considering the circumstances, but fully credit the Cavaliers for coming out and making the Grizzlies look slow and less than stellar offensively. Just under 90 points per 100 possessions for Memphis, a terrible mark for any team, a borderline-shocking mark for a great offensive team like the Grizz. Bow down to the CLE in that situation.

The Cavs weren't super-hot offensively, they turned the ball over 18 times and it wasn't as if LeBron James(notes) (37 minutes) had a cameo on the court on a night where Cleveland was seemingly up double-figures just after the tip-off, but James notched 15 assists playing without his primary perimeter assist target (Mo Williams(notes); eight of assists were to players right at the rim, four more were on shots within 10 feet), and the Cavs just looked fantastic defensively.

***

Orlando 99, Milwaukee 82

The Bucks just continue to ride that roller coaster, they were down a bit to start this one, then took it to the Magic for a good chunk of the first quarter, then before you knew it the Magic rout was on.

Milwaukee had issues defending Vince Carter(notes), he had the ball in his hands a lot with Jameer Nelson(notes) out, he got to the lane a few times and connected twice on three looks from three-point range. 10 boards and seven assists for VC, in a bit of a throw-back to the all-around game that a lot of people didn't notice him coming through with as a New Jersey Net.

I mentioned before the game that Milwaukee could keep things close if they could somewhat keep the free throw disparity between the two teams within reason, and as far as attempts went, Milwaukee's 19 to Orlando's 33 wasn't actually all that bad.

But the Bucks just made nine free throws, and you can't expect to compete giving away all those freebies. The team spread the floor, moved the ball, and shared the rock offensively. Which would be nice if you didn't have an amphibious seven-footer with skills down low. Once again, the Bucks went to Andrew Bogut(notes) early, and forgot about him as the game went on, while the perimeter guys got it up there. Bad basketball.

15 points on five shots for J.J. Redick(notes).

***

Los Angeles Clippers 90, Chicago 82

Most of the focus following this game is on Chicago's embarrassing performance. How the initial and help defense was pretty poor, and how the team relented offensively. But credit the Clippers. They were clearly angry from the outset, looking to right a season gone wrong, and even if it was only for one night, the Clippers brought the effort and intensity.

Sometimes too much intensity. Perhaps, in the case of Baron Davis(notes) glaring at refs after obvious fouls and/or turnovers he created. Have you no sense of decency, sir? Are you unaware that we've instant replay and several camera angles?

Didn't matter, because in spite of some iffy play from the Clippers (Mardy Collins(notes), in particular, doesn't make the best basketball decisions I've ever seen), Los Angeles earned this win. Marcus Camby(notes) was all over — four steals and four blocks and it felt like quite a few more — while Eric Gordon(notes) got to the rim several ways (delayed transition, half-court) and finished with 24 points on just 15 shots.

Luol Deng(notes) had Chicago's first 12 points, and 16 in the first 10 and a half minutes of the contest. A couple of hours later he scored a basket in the fourth quarter, and that was it for Lu.

***

Oklahoma City 106, Atlanta 99

"He's goooood." — Dominique Wilkins, on Kevin Durant(notes).

I'm inclined to agree. Durant was the man down the stretch, nailing crucial jumper after crucial jumper, as the Thunder pulled away. And while it was Oklahoma City's defense that usually wins games for the Thunder, and a pair of fourth quarter stops that the AP highlighted (rightfully) in its gamer, this was an offensive duel.

The slow pace hid it, but if you'd watched, you notice that both teams were just trading baskets, and trading fours when it came to perfect bouts of offensive execution. This was the Hawks being their usual selves defensively or the Thunder taking a night off. This was just a great, if not altogether explosive, game.

127 points per 100 possessions for the Thunder, and for comparison's sake, the Pacers (who scored 130 overall) had 125 points per 100 possessions against the Raptors on Tuesday. Durant was on, hitting 14 of 14 from the charity stripe, Jeff Green(notes) hit three threes that felt like a surprise every time (apologies, Jeff, it's just been that sort of year for you), and just six turnovers all night for OKC. Six turnovers. This is how efficiency happens.

Atlanta was no slouch itself, and while Joe Johnson(notes) absolutely caught fire during that second half, all it took were a few stray misses late to keep the Hawks at arm's length. Five turnovers for JJ, but also 37 points on 20 shots. I'd still take Durant's 33 on 18 shots, 11 rebounds, as many (three) assists, and two turnovers.

Fun game.

***

Houston 119, Golden State 97

Not a fun game. The Rockets identified Golden State's problems early (Golden State doesn't have many good players), and took full advantage.

Well, not "full advantage." The Rockets still turned the ball over way too much considering the, ahem, relative defensive intensity from their opponents. But with Corey Maggette(notes) out, the Warriors just could not keep up offensively. Despite, surprisingly, turning it over just six times on their end.

Chuck Hayes(notes) was all over the place for Houston, he had 13 rebounds in twice as many minutes and really helped and closed out well. Carl Landry(notes) had 24 points in 25 minutes and only took nine shots, and this was never really close for any extended amount of time.

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