Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Utah 104, Houston 95

This was a nasty, physical, fun game. I taped it to watch in full later, and was quite thankful that I was able to fast forward through the slower parts; because while there were only 46 free throws attempted during this contest, it felt like there should have been twice as many freebies afforded. To say nothing of all the in-bounds plays.

43 turnovers, over 20 for each team. Inspired, brutal, playoff basketball from two teams that know each others' plays. Had a timeout been awarded after every defensive rebound, sure, the Jazz and Rockets would have shot 90 percent. But without the dead ball call-ups, this was a clutch and grab affair that reminded of mid-May. And I'm always grateful for anything that reminds me of mid-May.

Mehmet Okur(notes) finished well from all over the court and Aaron Brooks(notes) took some terrible shots after not being guarded for most of the first half, but it was Paul Millsap's(notes) dominance over Carl Landry(notes) that turned the tables for me, and likely the Jazz.

With Carlos Boozer(notes) bitching after every play, it took Millsap to put the Jazz over offensively - 20 points, 12 boards, two blocks. That would have been enough, but the guy absolutely lorded over Landry defensively, holding him to four shots, holding him to one make, holding him.

Shane Battier(notes) took ten shots and scored three points, while Trevor Ariza(notes) nearly made Okur cry in the second quarter with a Dwight Howard(notes)-styled "dunk."

Walk into Houston and pull out a win. Nicely done, Jazz.

***

Miami 105, Philadelphia 78

One team has a purpose, and the other's given up. The Heat have been pretty dogged in their defensive determination over the last month or so, and I don't get the same whiff that came with Miami's initial hot start to this season defensively, a whiff that smelt of "fluke." The squad really moves its feet, contests shots, and boards after the miss.

Of course, the 76ers hate each other right now, Eddie Jordan is playing the eight-figure guys in the waning moments of a 30-point loss to prove some point, and the whole team is waiting for the trade deadline hammer to come down. This team is in a bad way, and it needs to be obliterated.

***

New Jersey 103, Charlotte 94

The Nets were clearly up for this game, they made mistake after mistake and allowed the Bobcats a thousand different reasons why they should have come back to win it, but for some reason Charlotte just could not string a series of good possessions together.

Brook Lopez(notes) was in foul trouble early and bowed out of the game in only 30 minutes, but Kris Humphries(notes) and Josh Boone(notes) (who secured a game-changing offensive rebound late) helped make up for BROOK's absence, and the Nets managed 113 points per 100 possessions on the road against a stellar defensive outfit.

Gerald Wallace(notes) contributed 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks after a slow start, but the Bobcats were more than willing to let New Jersey work as they wanted to on Tuesday.

***


Boston 95, Sacramento 92

This was a great game. The shooting figures weren't great, the overall offensive efficiency makes it look like the dud of the night (it was, actually, on that end), but this was competitive from the outset, and I appreciated the way both the Kings and Celtics (especially) stuck with it in a type of game that I usually see team after team pass on sticking with after the first quarter.

The Kings lost this late because Omri Casspi(notes) and Jason Thompson(notes) missed on all four free throw attempts in the final two minutes. Things shouldn't be that simple, but in a game where both teams matched each other miss for miss, this was thing that turned the tide for Boston. Otherwise, the C's and the hair of their chinny-chin-chin and all that. You grok.

Rasheed Wallace(notes) scored 17 points on 5-9 shooting, and missed three of four three-point attempts. Somebody tell that to him on the plane, today, please. He's get the ball in the post, he'd just turn and shoot, and the ball would go in. Because he's tall, he's long, and he can shoot. Why this guy fancies himself a Jerry Lucas-type is beyond me.

17 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists for Tyreke Evans(notes). Kevin Martin(notes) (11 points on 10 shots) was on the bench during crunch time. It doesn't have to be like this. Martin might be traded in the next day and a half but, trust me, it doesn't have to be like this.

***

Detroit 108, Minnesota 85

Minnesota doesn't take care of the ball, it doesn't appear to have any sort of cohesion on either end, and it starts a center who picks up one rebound in 19 minutes of play. And it's not as if Ryan Hollins(notes) was guarding the rim expertly in this one. Hell, I saw Ben Gordon(notes) get an and-one in this contest, which kind of makes up for the time I slept through Halley's Comet appearance in 1986.

The Pistons worked, I was going to tell you that they really moved the ball but then I saw the team's 37 assists on 46 field goals, so I suppose I'm obligated to tell you that they really, really moved the ball. That stat might be a bit of home scorer's table cooking, but it sure felt like a 37-assist night. And no joke, Detroit is a team that sometimes fails to register 37 field goals. It was a bit of a blowout, especially in that second half.

Kurt Rambis has the Timberwolves terribly underachieving.

***

Oklahoma City 99, Dallas 86

Yeah, I'm not sure Caron Butler(notes) should have been starting in this game.

The guy clearly didn't know the plays - who would? - and for some reason Dirk Nowitzki(notes) and Jason Kidd(notes) had to act the buddy instead of acting to get this guy off the court.  Not going to pin the loss on Butler, though, because the Thunder earned this one defensively.

Fantastic defense, as you'd probably guess from Dallas' 32 percent shooting, as all those Maverick short jumpers seemed to have a hand in face. James Harden(notes) was a shooting spark off the bench, Kevin Durant(notes) had 14 rebounds and three blocks (it honestly made a difference, he also needed 28 shots to score 25 points), and the Thunder (nine turnovers) just acted the part of the steely veteran.

Caron Butler managed 13 points on 16 shots with four turnovers. In case you're wondering, Mavs fans, he's not usually like that. Excluding this season, I should point out.

***

Phoenix 109, Memphis 95

It wasn't a blowout, Memphis kept things somewhat-close and the Suns starters had to hang around until the final minutes, but Memphis seemed really out of sorts. Mike Conley(notes) had 11 assists in the loss, but he could have fooled me, and I had a hard time figuring out whether or not Zach Randolph(notes) had regressed terribly, or if he wasn't getting any help.

It was the Phoenix bench that put this game out of reach, Goran Dragic(notes) and Jared Dudley(notes) played well in limited minutes, and Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) overcame a slow start to manage 21 and 10.

***

Chicago 118, New York 85

I'm not going to tell you that Chicago turned a new leaf, a lot of these made field goals were the same shots (long two-pointers) that have killed the Bulls offensively all year, but they did whup a little Knickerbocker ass on Tuesday. That's always good for my own personal emotional economy, though I can understand why you might not give two rips.

New York decided, early on, to put an emphasis on guarding the "no one" in a screen and roll situation, and the Bulls just had all the open looks they can handle. Mind you, this team has had plenty of open looks this season, and watched as those 19-footers went wrong, but the stroke was pure on Tuesday.

29 points in 27 minutes for Derrick Rose(notes). He even managed six assists, though they were of the Derrick Rose/quite obvious/guy's not a natural passer-variety. Kirk Hinrich(notes) had great game with 14 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.

***

Portland 109, Los Angeles Clippers 87

With a couple of other close ones on the tube, I didn't watch much of this game, and I'm still fairly confident in my take. The Clippers don't care. Portland got out to an early lead, the Clips made a small run to keep it around the low double-figures, and then they faded. Baron Davis(notes) shot 3-11, had five turnovers to two assists, and missed all of his five three-point attempts. He should be taking five three-pointers spread out over three games, with his history, and he takes five in the first game after the All-Star break. He doesn't get it.

Brandon Roy(notes) is hurting, though. The Blazers just picked up a 7-footer with skills for nothing that was going to help this year, but the team's real backup point guard (Roy) is not looking good.

Martell Webster(notes) was hotter than Deschanel from deep, 7-11 on the night.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 104, Golden State 94

It was the Warriors who pushed and prodded and forced the Lakers into a competition they didn't want anything to do with. The Lakers are better, even without Kobe, but Golden State gave us a game.

Why was it close? The Lakers tend to take some bad shots, here and there. The veterans, especially. And Pau Gasol(notes) wasn't converting early on. Golden State's Anthony Morrow(notes) had a fine night, 23 points on 15 shots, stepping into good looks while the Lakers (why?) weren't paying attention. Stephen Curry(notes) had an awesome/awful night; pulling in 10 rebounds, dishing eight assists, missing 16 of 21 shots, picking up terrible calls as Derek Fisher(notes) acted a fool.

Fisher's flopping act has long since ceased to be charming. He's not using performance-enhancing drugs or playing in a dirty way that inhibits his opponents' ability to create, but it's a "win at all costs" style that I just can't get behind. I grew up learning from Jordan, who would cheat his own mother at checkers, but Fisher just enervates. Not a fan.

Shannon Brown(notes) had it going from just inside the three-point line, 27 points in the win.

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