Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Orlando 93, Atlanta 76

Precious memories. I'll never forget where I was on the night that the Orlando Magic started playing defense again, and if you weren't around to see it, the rebirth was quite the show.

After allowing the Hawks to score 51 points in the first half, every member of the Orlando rotation put on a defensive clinic in that second half, overcoming a 12-point deficit to Atlanta on its way toward thrashing the Hawks by 17 overall.

Dwight Howard(notes) was fantastic (22 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, five turnovers, four blocks and a steal), moving his feet and protecting the rim (showing, actual blocks, good closeouts, smart contact with arms fully raised), but this was a true team effort.

Everyone dug in, and the Hawks didn't have an answer. Sure, some of the jumpers that fell in that first half dried up, but every screen and roll was met with menace, any bit of penetration was quickly made up for by the Magic D, and the result was a 25-point second half. 25 points. And these are the Hawks we're talking about.

With all those stops in hand, and an iffy offensive rebounding night for the Hawks, the Magic offense was able to ease into its own in the second half. Going through Dwight Howard helped, and though Jason Williams(notes) didn't score in almost 27 minutes (a night after going off for 25 points against the Heat), Anthony Johnson(notes) came through with a knockout 17 points off the pine. In 21 minutes, with no turnovers. Spread the floor with long range shooting, and drove. Anthony Johnson. Didn't see that coming.

Or, I did, actually. It was just really, really slow.

Not sure what the Hawks could have done better. There's a lot to love about this team, but the Magic are really this good. Even without Jameer Nelson(notes).

The Hawks had trouble getting to the line, only seven attempts, and that really was their downfall. Yes, they missed 12 three-pointers, but hitting for 21 points on 19 possessions used up by three-pointers is solid enough. Perhaps they could have tried to find Al Horford(notes) a bit more, made Dwight Howard work. I do know that finding Zaza Pachulia(notes) in both screen and roll and under the hoop didn't really work out all that well — Zaza managed to miss six of nine shots against Howard and Marcin Gortat(notes).

Also, it's November. There is so much to learn from a game tape like this if you're the Hawks. So many counters to figure out, so many ways to try and pick apart what was a suffocating Orlando defense. No matter how great the D is, it can always be taken advantage of. There are always holes. Go find them.

***

Utah 105, Chicago 86

There's so much wrong with the Bulls that it's hard to know where to start. The team doesn't seem to understand that they are constantly shooting themselves out of games because of the continued insistence on pulling up for low percentage 20-footers, shot by players who aren't all that hot to trot shooting-wise.

Now, for all we know the team's coaching staff could be putting the team through the ringer every time it turns in another jump shooting contest, but let's face it — if this was any sort of insistent priority for Chicago's coaching staff, are the players that stubborn and/or daft that they refuse to listen?

Or, perhaps it's safe to assume that the ears of these players aren't ringing enough. That the overmatched coaching staff might be telling them to be aggressive in generic terms, but not enough to make any real difference. As it stands, the team plays some of the least-cerebral basketball in the NBA. It's these coaches' job to teach, and while players are certainly to blame in a lot of cases around this league, this sort of inefficient, uneducated basketball usually isn't all on the shoulders of these players.

Chicago also lost by a ton for the fourth straight game in a row to another Western powerhouse. Yes, they're supposed to lose, but they're also supposedly to play smarter (and, by extension, "better") than this. Because right now? I'm aware of the rotation holes, but this is some awful, awful basketball.

Utah, meanwhile, is really playing well. Screening well, slapping at things defensively, working great counters on the offensive end, and anticipating well defensively (not that this is hard when Chicago lopes into yet another guard-around screen).

Chicago had no answer for Carlos Boozer(notes), who was quick with the shot when someone like Brad Miller(notes) didn't want to get out, better with the footwork when Taj Gibson(notes) hustled his way into yet another poor defensive showing, and smart off the ball when Joakim Noah(notes) got caught overplaying on the perimeter.

28 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and — get this — three blocks for Boozer. That's two weeks' worth for him.

With all the long rebounds, Chicago started quite a few defensive possessions crossmatched, and Utah took advantage. 29 assists on 45 field goals, it felt like a lot  more, as the Jazz shot 60.8 percent from the floor. It was a clinic, one you'd like to see maintained. Utah is just two seasons removed from working as the best regular season offensive team in the NBA, and there's no reason they can't get back up there.

On the other hand, I've no idea how Chicago has won six games at this point.

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