Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Los Angeles Lakers 120, Utah 91

As a fan, few things get me going more than a great night out offensively for the Los Angeles Lakers. With the spacing in place, the ball whipping around, Kobe taking it to the post and hitting turnaround bankers, and the occasional throw down from Andrew Bynum(notes)? Pau Gasol(notes), doing it all? And then you bring Lamar Odom(notes) off the bench? It's a wonderful thing.

And yet, you couldn't walk away from this one feeling depressed about the Utah Jazz. This is a team without a clue in the first half of games (14-43 shooting on Tuesday), and it clearly is lacking in confidence. This is a team that takes one-second-on-the-shot-clock shots with 15 seconds left with which to work, and I can't for the life of me understand why. C.J. Miles(notes), sure, he looks like he's eaten too many Twizzlers before the game. But Deron Williams(notes) and (especially, on Tuesday) Al Jefferson(notes)?

It was all over, baby blue, after that. No chance for a comeback, even from the NBA's most-celebrated comeback kids. 34 assists on 44 field goals for the Lakers, as an evenly-paced third quarter (both teams dropped 27 points) scuttled all hopes for a desperate fourth quarter surge from Utah.

***

Charlotte 94, Sacramento 89

Yin and yang work from the Bobcats and Kings in this game. Though both teams struggle to put points on the board and wins in the right column, Charlotte has been feasting of late by playing smart basketball and doing what it has with a limited rotation. Sacramento just takes bad shots and hopes for the best. And every time it felt as if the Kings were about to close out Charlotte's early lead, a forced turnaround jumper or needless crossover and 20-footer put an end to that momentum.

And it was a big hole to dig out of. Kwame Brown's(notes) early work (the guy finished with 13 points and 18 boards, good workin') gave the Bobcats a double-digit advantage heading into halftime, and the Kings certainly weren't going to win it back shooting 36 percent and missing 11 of 12 three-pointers. Tyreke Evans(notes) and DeMarcus Cousins(notes) were once again the main culprits (8-26 shooting), but guards Beno Udrih(notes) and Donte Greene(notes) also combined to shoot 6-23, so there was a lot to go around.

Also, I'm convinced that Eduardo Najera(notes) sets more proper screens in 15 minutes of play than some big men do in a year.

Wins like this are why Charlotte is a game up in the playoff race, clinging to that eighth seed. Father and son Silas have this crew working its tails off.

***

Dallas 112, Los Angeles Clippers 105

Don't dismiss the two obvious factors: Eric Gordon's(notes) absence, and yet another massive fourth quarter from Jason Terry(notes). But believe me when I tell you that the Dallas interior defense was really what set it apart in this game, and especially in the second half. Tyson Chandler(notes), Brendan Haywood(notes), and even Dirk Nowitzki(notes) used their length to sway both penetrating guards and wings, and both Blake Griffin(notes) and DeAndre Jordan(notes). Hands up, feet set, watch the opposing bigs miss a bank shot.

Gordon, lost with a bum wrist for 3-4 weeks, was badly needed in this loss. The Clippers needed someone from the outside to draw attention both on the break and in transition, and though Randy Foye(notes) worked hard (I had to laugh as I even saw him go left, in the third quarter), and the Clips still put up over 116 points per 100 possessions (they were hitting everything from outside in the first half), just 43 second half points helped Dallas complete the comeback.

And JET went off. Fourteen points in the fourth quarter, including a game-clinching three-pointer in the corner in the final minute. Not sure why the Clippers weren't talking, and left him even as they had help for a driving Jason Kidd(notes) on the strong side in front of the basket but I just realized that these are the Clippers that we're talking about and I don't really know how to end this sentence so I'll just stop it abruptly and bring up someone we all love and cherish.

Blake Griffin was working hard underneath, but up against 7-footer after 7-footer, he had a rough go over things. Still, "rough go of things" meant 22 points on 16 shots with 11 rebounds and four assists, so that has to be a warming notion going forward. And Griffin did not like being taken out of the game with four minutes to go. Did not like it at all. And while the Clippers came back with him on the bench and made this a two possession game, and though they play again tonight ... I'm still not sure how I feel about the move.

Twenty-one points on 5-5 shooting and 11-11 marksmanship from the free throw line from Tyson Chandler, alongside superb defense. And Jose Juan Barea(notes) (25 points off the bench) was the drink-stirrer all night for Dallas.

***

Boston 112, Cleveland 95

I haven't seen a second of Basketball Wives, but I'm pretty good at jumping into judging character without having actually done the work needed to properly judge a character, and I can see what they're getting at with this Tweet.

Cleveland just doesn't have a basketball team, right now. But before you pin the recent woes on the loss of Anderson Varejao(notes) and others on this massive losing streak, understand that this team was defeated and shoe-gazing well before the injuries set in. That's what happens when you build your entire season around SpiteFest 2010, that home game against the Miami Heat in early December, and you get blown out on your home floor.

Boston moved the ball. It worked that complicated offense, its usual worry against lesser teams, and it took in easy buckets with either extra passes or straight shots in both delayed and typical transition. And it had Cleveland on the ropes early, though you had to appreciate the way Cleveland (J.J. Hickson(notes), especially, kept plugging away). 29 assists on 42 field goals for Boston. So that's, what ... 25 assists? Not bad.

All-around goodness from Boston in the win, nobody really stood out to me. Twelve points, 17 rebounds and four blocks for Hickson in the loss.

***

Denver 120, Washington 109

They're just undisciplined. And while I understand that Flip Saunders' rep hasn't exactly been trending upward over the last four years, I don't know what any coach could do with this mess.

The Washington Wizards can shoot their way into wins. The team has enough raw talent and instinct on that end to keep teams on their heels defensively, and they'll even make the extra pass sometimes. But defensively, this team has no hope, no clue, and no interest. And it's the last of those that leads to the first of those. The middle of those can be helped, but do the Wizards care enough to listen to Saunders and then actually go out and execute? Initial findings say "no."

Fine offensive outing for Denver, let's not pin this all on the blow-bys and bum moves from Washington on that end. The team shot 12-23 from long range while scoring in the paint in transition, and you're going to have a hard time beating a team that is working expertly on those two angles. Nene continued his All-Star level play (he doesn't have a chance of getting in, but it's worth pointing out) with 21 points, nine boards, and a block, while Al Harrington(notes) hit six threes off the bench.

Andray Blatche(notes) and Nick Young(notes) combined for 51 points but, whoops, Ty Lawson(notes) just ran by them again.

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