Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Portland 103, Oklahoma City 95

A great game that was close until the final minutes, though Portland seemed in control throughout.

And don't let the Thunder fool you. Oklahoma City play by play man Brian Davis wanted us to keep perspective as the Thunder lost its fourth game in five attempts, and while nobody had OKC fighting for its 50th win in the last week of the regular season in their preseason previews, that doesn't mean we can't criticize the Thunder for falling off the rails defensively over the last few weeks of the season.

Portland earned this, though. Especially Marcus Camby(notes).

The whole point of these recaps is to give you something that the wire recaps and box score cannot tell you, and I'm here to tell you that Marcus looked every bit as good as that 30-point, 13-rebound, three-assist line would have you believe. He even showed well on pick and roll defense, and contested shots he didn't block. Camby was excellent.

The Thunder was fine, offensively, but it allowed too much penetration, and didn't anticipate Portland's sets very well. On top of that, Kevin Durant(notes) (30 points overall) struggled mightily in the second half for the second straight game, and Russell Westbrook(notes) is shooting 39 percent in April and looking much, much worse than that stat would suggest.

The main issue was defense, though, as the Thunder gave up nearly 120 points per 100 possessions to a team playing without its best offensive player (Brandon Roy(notes)). Andre Miller(notes) was always moving, finishing with 22 points and seven assists.

***

Orlando 118, Indiana 98

A whole lot of extra passes from the Magic, and that's how you beat a team that's a few strides away from being good. Orlando was never really challenged.

The Pacers, as it's been all year, mixed bad shots and bad offensive decisions with no decisions defensively and poor rotations. Orlando looked like it was playing five-on-four, all game, and the Pacers never seemed to have a major problem with that.

Dwight Howard(notes) had 12 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four blocks in only 26 minutes. Indiana had nothing going for it offensively.

***

Miami 107, Philadelphia 105

The defense let up for Miami on Monday, and I can't blame them. These guys have been overachieving on that end for months, and they still managed to pull out a win because Philadelphia has been underachieving on both ends all season.

The Heat were rather jumpy, and often fell victim to the extra pass or unseen curl, but the Sixers weren't guarding anyone, either. Dwyane Wade(notes) led the Heat with 30 points on 19 shots, while Carlos Arroyo(notes) (15 points, seven assists) was a little troublemaker for the Heat offensively. Udonis Haslem(notes) has been underrated all year, and he ended up hitting the game-winner in the final couple of seconds off of a Wade feed.

Starting Philadelphia forwards Jason Kapono(notes) and Elton Brand(notes) combined for 39 points, usually off of good movement off the ball. The 76ers had 35 assists.

***

Charlotte 105, New Jersey 95

The Nets made this contest round out as somewhat competitive in the second half, but Charlotte was always in charge, I know what that last line sounded like, and I don't rightly give a rip.

The Bobcats were able to get to the baseline and the paint, and the defense was sound for Charlotte. Nobody really stood out, though it's pretty clear that Stephen Jackson(notes) will enjoy having just one game between now and the weekend.

Twenty-one points, 13 rebounds, six assists and four turnovers for Terrance Williams, who did well to attack the rim as much as he did. This was the last game for the Nets in the Meadowlands, and I'm sure the Happy China and Foot Locker down the highway, in that one strip mall with the guy with the hat, are overcome with grief.

***

Toronto 111, Detroit 97

Truly not taking away from Toronto's effort — the Raptors had their collective backs against the wall and played like it in the win — but Detroit is so awful. So terrible, defensively.

So terrible, offensively. Really, truly bad. For some reason, the bad D stood out on Monday, which makes sense when you see that the team's 97 points doesn't look so bad once you factor in a slow pace (just 87 possessions).

Andrea Bargnani(notes) looked every bit the guy those 33 points would suggest, tossing in jumpers with perfect rotation all game long. Meanwhile, the Raps continually looked for Amir Johnson(notes) on the break or after he set a screen, and the results (with Ben Wallace(notes) trying to guard several people at once, with the exception of his man) were what you'd expect. The former Piston scored 26 points.

Jose Calderson had 11 assists and zero turnovers.

***

New York 114, Washington 103

Washington wasn't talking on defense in the fourth quarter, as the Knicks turned a 10-point deficit into an 11 point win. The Wizards also seemed a few shots away from chirping at themselves offensively, I think certain players wanted to play hero more than others, but it hardly mattered as Danilo Gallinari(notes) poured in 24 second half points, and the Knicks truly worked their way toward a strong victory.

That's 24 points all day, by the way, for Danilo, who obviously struggled in the first half. David Lee(notes) had 26, and the whole scene wasn't anywhere as nutty as I thought it would be in what was really the final game of an extended rebuilding era. It was just a nice win for a good group of characters, working in front of a home crowd that could have taken a game like this (against a pitiful franchise like the Wizards) the height of ridiculousness.

Apologies for taking this way too far, but it was just like any other home closer that we've seen from any number of lottery-bound (or, at least, playoff-missing) teams. And that's what Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas never got. That New York can rebuild. That they can miss the playoffs, on purpose; even if the Knicks (attempting to sign Jason Kidd(notes) and Grant Hill(notes), wary of Utah's ownership of their lottery pick) really did try to make the playoffs. You know what I'm on about.

That the Knicks fans know basketball. And to continue to try and shoot for 44 wins is an affont to their knowledge of the pro game.

On Monday, they may as well have been the Kings, or the 76ers, or the Timberwolves; but with an actual win to speak of. And that's OK.

***

Atlanta 104, Milwaukee 96

Good, quick decisions for the Hawks offensively in this win. Every time I switched over they were quickly moving into sets or finding teammates in sound scoring positions. Good finishes, too, as evidenced by Marvin Williams'(notes) 18 points and Joe Johnson's(notes) 31 points on 19 shots.

On Milwaukee's end, Brandon Jennings(notes) missed nine of 11 3-pointers. And while all the misses I saw were good looks, the kid has to know when to pull back. He's just not there yet, even if Atlanta switches on everything and he's visualizing C.J. Watson's(notes) face on every defender's head.

On Milwaukee's other end, the Hawks were just able to walk all over that paint. The Bucks are giving up way too many paint points, but I don't think we can expect otherwise from this team. Andrew Bogut's(notes) out, and that's all there is to it. Milwaukee scored 109 points per 100 possessions and still lost, and that just didn't happen when Bogut was around. The defense was too good, back then.

***

San Antonio 133, Minnesota 111

The Timberwolves have been the worst, most despicably underachieving team in the NBA this year, and after taunting us with what should have been a competitive game in the first half, the Timberwolves relented and let the Spurs walk all over them over the last three quarters or so.

Spurs reserves, mostly. This wasn't just San Antonio's second-tier piling up the good numbers in garbage time, this was the SAS second team taking it to the Wolves' prime. And then their second team, which is awful.

Though Sasha Pavlovic's 16 points will probably be enough to secure him a partially guaranteed contract next season, because there are too many bad NBA GMs for him not to have a job.

Thirty assists and over 130 points per 100 possessions (yikes) for San Antonio, which just had an open shot or lay-in whenever it wanted. Tim Duncan(notes) had 16 points and six boards in 19 minutes.

***

Denver 123, Memphis 101

I suppose Zach Randolph(notes) was due for a meltdown. And I actually thought this and wrote this before finding out that he'd been tossed from this game, as I switched elsewhere seconds before he picked up the technicals that sent him on home.

A really frustrating night for Zach, who spouted off before the game about a Pau Gasol(notes)-level contract extension, and then spent the better part of the contest missing chippy after chippy. All sorts of "easy" misses for Randolph, who would then commit frustration fouls as a result. Or plain, regular fouls. Then he got his fifth and I wrote him off. Then he wrote himself out of the script.

And while it's an easy answer, from what I saw, it was the right answer. Kenyon Martin(notes) was everywhere. He rotates, he contests and he runs up underneath you when you jump for a short shot. He's just a fantastic defender, if a bit of a prat.

Poor rotations, those frustration fouls, and those technical freebies added to the totals, but Denver was earning trips to the foul line from the get-go. The first quarter felt like it lasted for an hour and a half based solely on those free throw attempts alone, and Denver made 32 in 39 tries. Memphis wasn't far off, swishing 27 gimmies, but those poor percentages from the interior made it so the Grizz couldn't keep up.

Four guys (Carmelo Anthony(notes), J.R. Smith(notes), Aaron Afflalo, Nene Hilario(notes)) scored over 20 points each for Denver, but Chauncey Billups'(notes) 3-for-11 mark worries me. He shot 38 percent in March, and is at 39 percent in April.

***

Dallas 117, Los Angeles Clippers 94

No resistance from the Clippers in this loss. None. Dallas got out to an early lead and the Clippers wanted nothing to do with playing this game. I watched nearly all of it this morning and it was a pitiful performance.

The Mavericks had 37 assists.

***

Houston 117, Sacramento 107

Gotta give it up for Kings fans. Though it was pretty uneasy for an impartial observer to take in, the Sacto crowd went nuts at the idea of Tyreke Evans(notes) averaging 20 points, five boards and five assists on the season. So much so that the second quarter of this game felt like a fourth quarter of a season-closer on Wednesday, mainly because Evans was a point away from securing those averages with just a couple of minutes left in the first half.

This game wasn't meant for me, though, so I can't poo-poo. I can say that, as much as Evans (and Andres Nocioni(notes), even) took advantage of Kevin Martin's(notes) iffy defense on one end, the Kings had no answer for Martin on the other. Thirty-nine points on 20 shots for the Rockets guard, and Trevor Ariza(notes) even had the stroke going for two significant stretches, finishing with 29 points and making more than half his shots for the third straight game.

That might not seem like much, but Ariza made more than half his shots just three times in November and December combined (29 games).

Kyle Lowry(notes) (14 points, 11 assists) was as good as that line would suggest, and the Kings just weren't staying in front of anyone.

 

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