Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Houston 125, Denver 123

One of the best games of the season. I don't know why I was able to handle both Denver and Houston's sometimes (very) iffy defense and not Sunday's Portland/Toronto mess, but this close one was thoroughly enjoyable.

Then again, why shouldn't I have dug that?

How one could not love Carmelo Anthony(notes) going at it, in what was usually a one-sided affair, with Shane Battier(notes)? Fantastic.

The how'd-he-do-that stylings of Aaron Brooks(notes), still able to get shots up and in despite them always seeming contested, always seeming like his body isn't squared or set to even lay it in? Weird and fun and fun and weird.

The return of Kevin Martin(notes), all unorthodox and getting to the line (10 makes) and 29 points on 16 shots?

Luis Scola(notes) appearing to have a hand in seemingly every big play down the stretch, maybe because he did have a hand in every big play down the stretch? He had 23 and 11 and just two turnovers in 39 minutes despite the presence of that turnover-causing Denver frontcourt?

Kyle Lowry(notes), making a difference? David Andersen(notes), looking like a swell teammate?

Johan Petro(notes), active as ever. Chauncey Billups(notes), as cerebral and crafty as they came on this night especially, but not when it came time to saving fouls? Chris Andersen(notes) without a headband?

Great game. Anthony went off, scored 45 points on a series of tough looks and long bombs, but the Rockets just managed to put a great run together full of stops and scores on the other end to pull it out.

I won't say this decided things, because it was bad on either end, but I rarely enjoy a game Kenny Mauer calls. He just seems to miss so much, and it carries over to his second and third in command.

Also, while Trevor Ariza(notes) made 5-of-9 shots, some of those misses were terrible. It's like Rick Adelman always has to have a player on his team he can't say "no" to shot-wise; be it Latrell Sprewell, Jason Williams(notes), Ron Artest(notes), Ron Artest or Ariza. Ron Ron gets mentioned twice because he was on two of Adelman's teams, and because his shots were so bad bad.

***

New York 94, Philadelphia 84

Another sad, little performance from the 76ers late, missing three-pointers and free throws all over the place, while an amped-up Knicks team decided collectively that the extra pass and winning might be fun. And that, horror of horrors, that extra pass might actually have something to do with leading to the winning, which leads to the fun.

Toney Douglas(notes) had 20 points and seven assists to three turnovers in a starting role, while Danilo Gallinari(notes) helped make up for Eddy Curry's(notes) absence (out with a sore calf) with 21 points and two rebounds in 41 minutes.

Jrue Holliday, 19, had another fine performance with 18 points (50 percent shooting), eight boards, six assists, three turnovers, three steals and a block. Andre Iguodala(notes) struggled mightily (probably got overconfident with Curry out) and missed 17 of 22 shots, including all seven three-pointers (just ... stop ... shooting), and half of his eight free throw attempts.

***


Utah 112, Washington 89

Utah was playing its fifth game in seven days, but it was Washington that looked to drag a bit, just 48 hours removed from playing all the way back home in D.C., the final end of a rare back-to-back-to-back. In fact, the Wiz play tonight, and though the Nuggets are on the final end of a back to back, I wouldn't exactly pick Washington to cover. Tonight's game, in that Denver air, will be Washington's ninth in 16 days.

As it often is with Utah opponents, the Wiz were no match for Utah's extra pass. And, at times, you could see the Jazz get to choose between two or possibly three highly efficient shots as the Wizards lagged behind.

Wes Matthews (2-for-4 shooting three-pointers, 8 of his last 11 from long range) was passed-over a few times. Wes, by the way, looks like he can't wait to put it up. I can't believe a guy that doesn't bet and who doesn't own a fantasy league team is going to give advice on both fronts in one recap, but I'd move Wesley to the front of your rotation if you own the guy for Tuesday night. The rookie looks like he can't wait to hit another corner three.

Andray Blatche(notes) had 24 and 6, but he still looks like a rookie out there when the double comes and/or the play breaks down. Still, can't wait to see how he handles this attention (now that we know he can handle these minutes) as we move forward.

***

Boston 119, Detroit 93

I'll tell you what, even against a terrible team like the Pistons, coming out strong a day after getting whupped in Cleveland (and having to fly home to Boston, losing an hour, a day after losing an hour; geez, the Celtics must think it's still Thursday) is pretty sound. Paul Pierce(notes) led a strong early charge to take the heart out of the Pistons. Assuming they could do anything against the Celtics with even a boatload of hearts.

Gross.

Detroit actually racheted up the offense as the game went along, it got to the line and started to get into sets a little quicker as Boston backed off, but the first half deficit of 29 points was, yeah, a bit too much to overcome. As hinted, the Celtics overplayed like mad and forced Detroit into breaking plays, and took oppurtunistic advantage on the other end.

Seven guys in double figures, 62 percent shooting, 44 percent from behind the three-point arc, 34 assists, and nearly 140 points per 100 possessions for the C's in the win.

Mike Finley is averaging 8.6 points on 64 percent shooting in under 14 minutes per game as a Celtic. He's averaging more points per minute in this completely useless sample size than Manu Ginobili(notes). Where did that come from?

***

Los Angeles Lakers 124, Golden State 121

I don't like it. I wish he'd take his team's struggles a little more seriously, but I do agree with Kobe Bryant(notes) when he tells us that this game means absolutely nothing because it won't represent anything that the Lakers will see in the playoffs.

And while I didn't like the team's offense - mainly those 24 turnovers - I can't get past the fact that the Lakers put up 123 points per 100 possessions while turning it over on nearly a quarter of their possessions. Do you know how hard that is? That's like winning an F1 race with, well, half the total of arms that most people are born with.

Stephen Curry(notes) had 29 and nine assists with zero turnovers, and ... and this stuff doesn't mean anything. These are all fine statistics, peruse them if you want, but they're more or less worthless. Can we fly the Celtics into Los Angeles? Can we do that again?

***

New Orleans 108, Los Angeles Clippers 100

The Clippers are so ridiculous, so nutty, so laughin' when you're down nine in the fourth quarter, so full of weirdos that pass up open shots to take odd shots while doing weird things on each end of the floor while likely making all sorts of excuses in the huddle or while running (sometimes) back down the court. If a certain season-ticket holder had any hair on his chinny-chin-chin, he'd actually report on a few things and give us a book for the ages on this mess.

Not Kevin Arnovitz, mind you. A book from him on this hell would be absolute heaven. Actually, let's make that happen, and not give the first guy any ideas. Don't tell anyone.

The Hornets made three free throws all game, got to the line just five times, and won comfortably in the latter stages of that fourth quarter while putting up over 116 points per 100 possessions. Why? Clippers!

Bad D, bad decisions on offense, ruining a damn good performance from Baron Davis(notes) (18 points and 17 assists, though he still tried and missed three three-pointers). Chris Kaman(notes) was bothered by Emeka Okafor(notes) into switching from one hand to the other and then back again, and was just 3-for-15 from the floor. Eric Gordon(notes) missed nine of 12 shots and played bad defense, and the Hornets just played the full 48.

Twenty-four points and seven assists for David West(notes), who really had it from long range, as did Morris Peterson(notes). I thought about mentioning this Monday, after Mo-Pete had a solid game, but sloughed it off to chance. But he's averaged 15 a game, hitting half his threes, with six boards and 4.5 assists over his last two. Not much, especially considering his minutes, but quite a bit when you consider that Peterson has been one of this league's worst starters this year.

Darren Collison(notes) had 18 points and 14 assists and played the full 48. Literally.

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