Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Sacramento 127, Memphis 116

Out of nowhere, both Sacramento and Memphis came through with an early season big-top blowout. Full of fun, huge hoops and fair play, the Grizz and Kings went at it hard from the beginning, pushing the ball and looking to find the open man.

Grizzlies and Kings, and the phrase "open man." I promise.

They didn't always get the rock ahead to that open man, but the effort was there. The Grizzlies even had more turnovers (21) than assists (17), and 17 assists in a 53-minute game is pretty poor, but the attitude was on point. For most of the game. We'll get to when it wasn't, later.

The Kings won, with just one starter in double figures, but ... how?

The Grizzlies kept it close, despite being outperformed in every conceivable area, but ... how?

Memphis had scorers everywhere, going at it in the face of a Sacramento perimeter defensethat was pretty porous. Sure, there were hands in faces at times, but to a lot of these Grizz, that hardly matters.

The Kings had Kevin Martin(notes) go off for 48 points, but the first four men off the Sacramento bench played significantly better than the other four starters around Martin (who sat for a total of 33 seconds in the 53-minute contest).

Desmond Mason(notes), somehow, is still out there. Sean May(notes), whose skills I adore, is still being handed starters minutes even though he has 15 pounds to go. Tyreke Evans(notes) hasn't figured out how to finish shots, or thoughts, on this level. And Jason Thompson(notes) had a bad night. He'll be back.

Spencer Hawes(notes), Omri Casspi(notes), Beno Udrih(notes), and Andres Nocioni(notes)? In reverse order, Argentina, Slovenia, Israel, and Real America. In every order possible, brilliant. Udrih was the spark; he ran the show and won the game. Casspi could have had 25 points had his teammates just done a better job of finding him. Noc, eh.

Hawes? Absolutely fantastic. Just killed it on either end. Nailed shot after shot, and teammate after teammate. Seven assists from a center, off the bench. Eleven boards, two blocks, 21 points. Great night out. The all-around rock that made the difference.

The person who put the Kings, son, in a place to make a difference? Kevin Martin, pulling off one of those Kevin Martin-styled lines.

Forty-eight points on only 27 shots. With a couple of 3-pointers that were in line, or rimmed out. And then one that flat-out missed. The other seven he took? Those went in.

Smooth, sinewy, cocksure and interested again. Welcome back.

***

The game was all Sacramento's, but Allen Iverson(notes) needs to be addressed.

He waited one game — one game! — before bitching about minutes.

This isn't proper journalism etiquette, but let's start with the coach's response quote, before the player's moan. Lionel Hollins?

"He hasn't even been with the team until just a couple of days ago. He's going to come off the bench. He hasn't played all preseason, hasn't played the three regular-season games (leading up to Monday's loss). He only practiced three days in training camp before he got hurt so there's no way I would trot him out there in a starting role."

Makes sense, righto? Not to Allen. Not in his first game in a Memphis Grizzlies uniform.

"I had no problems (with his bum hamstring). I had a problem with my butt from sitting on that bench so long. That's the only thing I got a problem with."

You insufferable twit. You're minutes removed from your first game of the season that's supposed to see you get it right, for the first time in a "professional" career that stretches back to 1996.

"I'm not a reserve basketball player. I've never been a reserve all my life and I'm not going to start looking at myself as a reserve. To answer the question, 'No, I'm not a bench player. I'm not a sixth man. Go look at my resume and that will show you I'm not a sixth man."

I've seen your resume. It's pathetic. An MVP, that Shaq should have won. Lots of scoring, and precious little growth since people learned they could make money off you.

Iverson made 5 of 9 shots, which is great for him, and pretty impressive for a player working in his first game of the year, while injured, on a new team. Sure, Udrih and Martin were trying to check him, but 5 of 9 is five of nine.

That said, as soon as he came in the game in the first half, the ball movement for the Grizzlies stopped. Dead in its tracks. And a giant Grizzlies lead became a close game, though Iverson was hardly singularly at fault for this.

And in the second, when he was hitting shots? He turned it over. He tried to help too much on defense, which allowed his man (Beno) to move into open spots for a made shot, or to initiate the eventual collapse of the Memphis defense with the start of the penetration. Iverson started fast breaks with bad misses, and caused a three-second violation by refusing to shoot with Zach Randolph(notes) (30 and 16) camped out in the lane.

Iverson was hurt, and it was his first game. But lots of uniquely talented NBA players have to play in first games, or through injuries, year in and year out. And they don't act all Alvin Robertson-y on defense and, well, all Allen Iverson-y on offense. They take a step back until the system makes sense. Until the wounds heal.

He was bad. Real bad. And that was before we heard the postgame reaction.

And this just continues to stink. The guy just doesn't get it, and it hurts. I don't like being the guy that rips on Allen Iverson all the time. I want to be the guy at the keyboard when everything turns around.

The Grizz got off to a blinding start. They were in the midst of blowing the Kings out of the water. They appeared to dig playing for Hollins. O.J. Mayo(notes) was looking for Rudy Gay(notes) and vice versa. Lots of eye contact and sincere high fives. I know it was against the Kings, but everything was going right.

Iverson hadn't even entered yet, and I was still thinking that it could be the pell-mell Grizzlies that would be the ones that could turn A.I. around. Not the dyed-in-the-wool Detroit Pistons with all that tradition. The Grizzlies. Because A.I. wouldn't want to ruin this. Yes, it's against the Kings; but he wouldn't want to ruin this fun, would he?

Doesn't matter. The only thing Allen Iverson has ever cared about is what's best for Allen Iverson. And that's a noble thing when the world is against you. You've got to do what you can to survive.

When the world is your oyster? It's just childish.

One game.

Charlotte 78, New Jersey 69

It's truly hard to describe just how miserable this game was.

It may have been the least amount of fun I've ever had watching a pro basketball game. I'm having a hard time coming up with a nastier experience. I've watched games while quite ill, in pain, hungover in an Applebee's, and in Orlando. Someday, I'll probably manage to do all five at once.

Hell, I watched Michael Jordan play against the Chicago Bulls. Several times.

But this one? This may have been the worst. And it was the lone early game on a gorgeous fall evening, comfy couch, solid sightlines, with Serotonin receptors sipping at a seemingly inexhaustible supply of whatever. No complaints about my surroundings. Many complaints about the play.

D.J. Augustin(notes) was the only thing that kept Charlotte from a six-point first quarter, and yet he was still pretty terrible in his opening stint. The shot selection across the board was pitiful. The defense for both outfits was sound and aggressive. I can't argue against that.

I can argue against a bum night from Brook Lopez(notes) (early on, at least), an injured Devin Harris(notes), a pudgy Boris Diaw(notes) and a possible ligament tear from Yi Jianlian(notes). That's how bad it was. I was ruing the absence of Yi's typical eight-point,4-of-11 shooting night.

Somehow, even with Charlotte's nasty outbreak, the Nets allowed the Bobcats to go on a 24-0 run. How you can allow a 24-0 second-half run to a team that limped its way to 33 points, I'll never understand, but then again you'll just have to learn to understand New Jersey's terrible offense. Charlotte's isn't much better. It's the worst in the league. Basketball Prospectus has these teams pegged as the two worst offensive outfits in the NBA this season. They looked the part.

The Nets finished by scoring 77 points per 100 possessions, which is appalling, and Charlotte bombed out at around 90 per 100, which is slightly less ... no, it's appalling. This game didn't set any post-shot clock records for offensive ineptitude — we had the lockout year to deal with after all — but this contest was just miserable in every regard.

There was Charlotte's PA guy working it, too. Gah.

***

New York 117, New Orleans 111

This was a fun one. The Knicks really brought a sound purpose to this contest offensively. I don't expect Larry Hughes(notes) (8 of 13) to shoot this well very often, or for Chris Duhon(notes), Al Harrington(notes) or even David Lee(notes) to continue to perform this efficiently in the face of what was pretty solid New Orleans' D; but permanence aside, it was an enjoyable trip.

The Knicks did well to turn Chris Paul(notes) into a passer in the first half of the win, though we suspect Paul was trying to prove a point or two, or save the legs for the second half. Whatever the plan, it worked for CP3; he scored 29 points after halftime while also finishing with 13 assists, just two turnovers and five boards. The guy was just unstoppable for long stretches. Against the Knicks. I'll stop.

And, as mentioned by Mike Gorman during the Celtics/Hornets broadcast on Sunday and Adrian Wojnarowski here, Paul is dripping with enmity for whoever crosses his path. This might be how he enjoys things, I don't know, but the man looks rather put off. Considering his lot, I would be, too.

Because it was the first Monday of the month, Paul had help. Emeka Okafor(notes) had 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as Clyde Frazier prattled on about much the Hornets missed Tyson Chandler(notes), and Peja Stojakovic(notes) had his second straight night of looking like an actual NBA-level player.

But Bobby Brown(notes) (averaging nearly nine shot attempts per game this season, making 28.6 percent of them) continues to be allowed to chuck. He did have more rebounds (four) than David West(notes) (three). And, for some reason, Ike Diogu(notes) remains glued to the bench while Hilton Armstrong(notes) (scoreless in nearly 15 minutes) flails around.

David Lee was the killer for New York tonight. He was scoring all over the court, driving or working an improved pull-up jumper on his way to 28 points. Mainly in Emeka's face.

Chris Duhon pushed a good game most of the night, and the overall Knicks ball movement was very nice. Twenty-four assists don't tell the whole story, as the Knicks shot heaps of free throws (24 for 28), constantly had the Hornets on their heels and only turned it over nine times in a 98-possession game.

***

Houston 113, Utah 96

Houston went into Utah, piled up 121.5 points per 100 possessions, dominated the offensive glass and basically pushed the Jazz around for 48 minutes.

Now, we know Utah isn't much of a defensive powerhouse, but where the hell did this come from?

Ah, yeah. It's that inexplicable Rockets run that you couldn't help but expect in spite of the absence of the team's two All-Stars. Take everything away, and this band still makes it work. They're essentially the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail ...


... except, in this version, the Black Knight kicks Arthur's ass.

Twenty-nine assists on 42 field goals for Houston tonight, and that was with another team's crew running the scorebook. The team made half its shots and almost 53 percent of its 3-point looks, but still managed to pull in 15 offensive rebounds. The team just looks ridiculously fluent, and the current core has barely been together a month. Amazing.

Four games in, I know, I should stop. But even if it all falls apart from here, it's been nice to watch. Fun to watch.

The team brings the "D", too, but we knew that about them. Pulling off this sort of offensive effort in Utah is something else entirely.

The Jazz just don't have it yet, and Deron Williams(notes) (6 of 20 shooting) has appeared to catch whatever Carlos Boozer(notes) brought to camp. Boozer missed six of his seven shots, and appeared to be pretty gun-shy save for the times he got to defend David Andersen(notes).

Nineteen turnovers for Utah, something you just can't do against a team like Houston that owns the glass, and suddenly loves to run. Aaron Brooks(notes) (19 points, nine assists in under 30 minutes of play) came through with a terrific floor game and bothered Williams on both ends all night.

***

Los Angeles Clippers 93, Minnesota 90

Both of these teams just have so many holes. I liked the enthusiasm from both sides, but both sides have a lot to figure out.

Minnesota's offense left it down the stretch. I credit the Clippers, they swarmed, and they worked well away from the ball — but most of the Clippers didn't really have anyone to guard. Love Ryan Hollins(notes), and he played fine ball, but you still take your chances leaving him. You take your chances and try to let Ryan Gomes(notes) beat you. And if Corey Brewer(notes) is up for shooting, then by golly, let the man shoot!

Brewer missed 15 of 21 shots, mostly low-percentage long-rangers. It was pretty brutal, and I guess you have to take those looks to keep the defense honest as the clock winds down, but ... no, you don't have to take those. Five steals, two blocks, six assists for Brewer — a player who improved by leaps and bounds over the summer, so much so that the team picked up his third-year option yesterday — but 14 points on 21 shots just isn't going to work.

Al Jefferson(notes) is rounding into form, but his legs aren't all the way back, so he's susceptible to double-teams. Still, 24 points on 16 shots. And ye he should have had more than 16 shots. Los Angeles, mainly, was the culprit.

The Clipper bigs continue to bring it. Twenty-five and 11 for Chris Kaman(notes), and until the shots start to fall flat, keep pulling up, large man with mustache. Five blocks (putting him over 2,000 for his career), 15 boards and eight points for Marcus Camby(notes).

Baron Davis(notes) has made exactly one-third of his shot attempts so far in 2009-10. He did make some nice entry passes to Kaman, especially in the first half, but this thing isn't turning around any time soon.

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