Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Later this afternoon, around 3 p.m. Eastern time, we'll have a BDL Hump Day Chat!, if you wouldn't mind stopping by.

And, if you wouldn't mind clicking the jump, here's BtB:

***

Los Angeles Lakers 95, Oklahoma City 92; Los Angeles Lakers lead series, 2-0

Not sure what I'm missing.

In the first half, Kobe Bryant(notes) took 16 shots, making only six of them, and I didn't mind. But then I fire up the ol' Tweetdeck, and the guy's getting roasted for his shot selection, by writers I really admire.

Now, I've been killing Kobe all year for taking too many jumpers, and yet this first half didn't seem that awful. I would have preferred he try to find the willing Andrew Bynum(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes) down low, and a couple of those looks were pretty nasty, but why is it that I get roasted all year for killing Kobe's shot selection, and the one time he takes (and misses) a batch of good shots, everyone decides to agree with me at the absolute worst time?

Up to, and including, sigh, Charles Barkley. Who prefers blondes, by the way.

Mind you, I don't mind Kobe driving incessantly, either. Any penetration of the defense is a good thing, ask Tex Winter, who counts a drive and/or an offensive rebound just as important as a crisp entry pass to someone a few feet from the hoop. It's the jumpers. Those jumpers that we really shouldn't even see unless the shot clock has dropped below four seconds.

Kobe missed a few of those in the first half, but otherwise he was taking what the defense gave him. That is to say, as usually the case with Oklahoma City, not much.

The Lakers prevailed, though, mainly because Bryant absolutely took over down the stretch. He made a living at the line, while also connecting on a series of turnaround jumpers. All in all, despite missing 16 of 28 shots, this was a fantastic performance. I wish I could say the same about his backcourt partner.

Derek Fisher(notes) continues to get a free pass for his bad play, and it boggles the mind as to why. He missed eight of 10 shots, and I can't think of a single one that couldn't have been avoided. Derek wasn't forced into shooting, he just calls his own number a ridiculous amount of times. A fact made all the more criminal because of the abilities of the teammates he shares a court with.

In the third quarter Fisher looks off a semi-open Kobe Bryant with five seconds left on the shot clock to take his own three (it went in, he was 2-9 from the floor after the swish), and Doug Collins spends the next 30 seconds lauding him for being able to want to take a shot even after missing "ten in a row." Now, he didn't miss his first ten; but what about, in Doug's hypothetical situation, shots three through nine? Why are those OK once the averages come around and he finally makes one?

And what part of "veteran leadership" means looking off Kobe Bryant (Kobe Bryant!) for a shot that's just as long as the one you're about to take, when Kobe had hit his last two three-pointers, and you can't even find the rim? To say nothing of all the contested shots - in and outside of the arc - with over 15 seconds on the shot clock. I will never understand why this guy gets a pass. J.R. Smith(notes) isn't this bad, and he killed a guy.

The Thunder didn't give up, but they just can't shoot to save their lives. Replacing Thabo Sefolosha(notes) with Jeff Green(notes) in the fourth quarter was a mistake for OKC, Green (a converted power forward) was forced to chase around Bryant, and though Thabo was pretty rough from the floor (2-7), Green was even worse (2-11). And the "even though he misses, they still guard Green" ideal didn't really hold up.

Kobe hates Sefolosha. Hates him. Has hated him since Thabo was a rookie and he ate Kobe up in December of 2006. And Green just isn't a consistent enough three-point shooter to hope for the best with. It was a bum move.

Seven blocks for Serge Ibaka(notes). Eight turnovers for Kevin Durant(notes). 25 and 12 rebounds for Pau Gasol.

And despite two close losses, and a home win against the Lakers already in their pocket from the regular season, the Thunder will have to play nearly another perfect game in Oklahoma City if it wants to take a contest or two. The Lakers are that good, and it appears that they're interested in working at this point. They might not always be interested in the smart decision offensively, but they're working.

***

Atlanta 96, Milwaukee 86; Atlanta leads the series, 2-0

It is as simple as the Bucks missing Andrew Bogut(notes). They played one or two-possession games all season against Atlanta with Bogut around, and even worked a close loss to the Hawks without him. But Atlanta has Milwaukee sussed out at this point. The Bucks lost by 10 on the road on Tuesday, and while that score might not represent how one-sided this game was at times, you can't tell me that a 7-footer dominating the lane defensively and giving Milwaukee options offensively wouldn't have made this a closer affair.

Instead, we still got Carlos Delfino(notes) trying to guard Josh Smith(notes), Kurt Thomas(notes) helplessly trying to stop Al Horford(notes) from acting his age, and the Hawks just getting whatever they wanted. Meanwhile, Brandon Jennings(notes) refuses to set his feet and square his shoulders on 26-foot jump shots, and the Bucks never really threatened.

21 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and two blocks for Josh Smith, and I don't know how it looked to you, but it never really felt like this guy was doing anything different from what he usually does. It really just felt like, "yeah, Josh Smith. That's Josh Smith."

I don't like taking away from his performance, but that's sort of what he does. Sometimes, when the opportunity presents itself, he gets to do it more often than in other games. He's Josh Smith, and he's that good.

20 and 10 with three blocks for Horford, while Joe Johnson(notes) had a ho-hum 27 points on 23 shots. The Hawks are in gear.

***

Phoenix 119, Portland 90; series tied, 1-1

Portland wanted nothing to do with this game, and it showed. The team couldn't be bothered to concentrate or bring it on consecutive possessions, and the Suns walked all over them. Pity, because the Suns are there for the taking.

29 points in 30 minutes for Jason Richardson(notes), who scored in just about every way possible.

88 possessions in this game, compared to 92 in Game 1. Don't let them tell you that Phoenix upped the pace. They just scored in transition more often.

***

Boston 106, Miami 77; Boston leads the series, 2-0

I'm not going to rip on the Heat. This team does not have fifth seed talent, even in the miserable East, and it's had to play way, way over its head just to compete this year. Sure, the team was overrated a bit due to the easy schedule it was allowed to finish the regular season with, but Miami earned its record. It absolutely earned it through hard work and diligent patience, possession to possession.

And Boston's better. Way better. This was a 29-point defeat that felt like a 49-pointer.

Boston fans so, so lucked out in getting to see Glen Davis(notes) start in place of Rasheed Wallace(notes). Rasheed doesn't end up on the floor, at all, whereas Davis didn't nothing but move, move, move for the duration of his time on the court. Got on the floor, plenty of times.

I've actually liked the way Rasheed has played over the last two games, though the results have been pretty crummy; but Davis is a different animal. And this is coming from someone who goes out of his way to not mistake activity for achievement.

That said, 23 and eight rebounds for Davis, and in looking at the box score after the game, I had no idea his stats were that good. Zero turnovers, too. The bulk of my appreciation for Davis came on the defensive end, where he covered so well, showed expertly on screen and roll, and got after loose balls. Maybe I was too focused on the five shots (out of seven misses overall) of his that were blocked, but the 23 and eight line just didn't register in game, though I thought he was huge in this win.

Also, Ray Allen(notes) (25 points on 13 shots) is still very pretty at basketball.

It was a complete and utter blowout. Boston refuses to guard anyone but Dwyane Wade(notes), they'll essentially send two and a half defenders at the Heat's All-Star every time he calls for a screen or attempts to drive, and the results aren't pretty. A 76.5 points per game average for Miami in the series, and I don't really need to normalize that for pace for you guys. It doesn't get any better.

The only way Miami takes a game in Florida, and in this series, is if Boston relents. And because Boston has spent half its season relenting, I fully expect the Heat to take a game in Florida, perhaps two.

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