Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Cleveland 102, Oklahoma City 91

It's wonderful to see LeBron James' backcourt helpers (Delonte Williams, and Mo West, I believe they're called) essentially both average 19 and four assists in about 33 minutes of play in a win. The man has deserved that for years, instead of the seven points and six assists Larry Snow and Eric West used to give him.

And improved contributions like these are probably why LeBron is throwing out hints about signing a contract extension this summer. But he won't, and he shouldn't. He might stick around in 2010, but there's no point in extending a contract without knowing who is going to be around for 2010-11. Keep the pressure on Danny Ferry, LeBron, and make sure he stays creative and works to surround with a team that you deserve.

James gave 31 and seven assists in almost 43 minutes on Sunday against the Thunder, who just seem to alternate bouts of playing horribly offensively and so-so defensively with so-so offense and horrid defense. More of the latter in this one, though the Cavs have made much better teams look pretty horrid defensively in 2008-09.

Active game from Thunder rookie Russell Westbrook, who finished with 24 points and 11 assists. He also had five turnovers, and looked as if he was pretty close to about five more, but he'll figure it out eventually. That kid has cared all year, and it's been fun to watch.

Boston 124, New York 105

We shouldn't rip on the guy too much, because he's not at Rajon Rondo's level, but I'd forgotten how overrated Chris Duhon had become defensively before Sunday night.

Duhon's a smart guy who does what he can with his limited athleticism, but because of his iffy offensive gifts (before this season, at least), we tended to regard him as a lockdown defender when he was, as it stands, a hard-working but ultimately quite slow defensive point guard. Average in the end.

Rondo killed the guy on Sunday, finishing with 26 points on 14 shots. Though Rajon's jumper is much improved this season, I'm not sure if he took a shot outside 42 inches from the hoop (especially in the third quarter), while finishing with six rebounds, five assists, two steals, and only one turnover in the win. Boston's 18th straight win. 18 in a row. 18-0. No static at all.

Dallas 97, Washington 86

As it's been for a few weeks, Washington's effort in the loss was admirable. Caron Butler (18 points in about 44 minutes on 16 shots) looked Caron Butler-ish at times, and Darius Songaila (5-5 shooting) had himself a little hot streak off the bench, but this team just doesn't have any firepower. And they're overmatched defensively. Against anyone.

Jason Kidd missed all seven of his looks from the field, not the greatest week for that guy, but Josh Howard (17 points in 27 minutes, though he didn't pull in a single rebound) continued his nice little run, and Jason Terry continues to run everything. 25 points on 18 shots in 32 minutes for JET.

Also, James Singleton (a Maverick, you should know) had 13 rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench. And it showed. Not a quiet board in the bunch, plus a soundly finished alley-oop off a feed from Kidd. Nicely done.

Atlanta 85, Detroit 78

Not the best watch, to be honest, considering the talents of both teams. The Hawks mainly impressed, but they should have won this by a lot more, and there's no point in expecting much from Detroit anymore. The Pistons just continue to give hard work a lick and a promise.

0-6 on Sundays, thus far, for the Pistons. Combine that with an 0-15 year for the Lions, and you don't have to tell me why Michigan fans don't like Mondays.

That was lame, but the Piston effort has been pretty lame thus far this season on Sunday. Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace -- and this is no joke -- seemed to take turns passing on acting as weak side help defenders for the other guy at times during the loss. One guy would take the time to close out on a Hawk, the Hawk would blow by, and whoever's turn it was to not be around would not be around.

The Hawks declined to turn it into a blowout by passing on passing at times, taking poor shots that sometimes go in but rarely work well. And ... I'm just going to stop ripping right now. Mike Bibby (five three-pointers in the second quarter, 27 points overall) played nicely, and Rodney Stuckey (20 points) did well on both ends.

Going to start ripping again. Rasheed Wallace went down into the post and scored a bit in the second half, but ticked me off by chirping as if he'd just won the NBA Finals (as opposed to keeping a Sunday afternoon game in Atlanta during December game close) after each shot, and Rip Hamilton was a whiny little mope before being ejected in the fourth quarter. Hamilton's ejection may have cost Detroit the game, so, veteran leadership. Yay.

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