Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Washington 108, Philadelphia 107

Washington's ball movement was good enough in this close win. The team didn't exactly break through any self-inflicted barriers on either side of the ball in its 13th game, but it did pull a win. Good enough.

Philadelphia was pretty miserable itself save for three people.

Thad Young worked 23 points on 19 shots, Sam Dalembert managed 15 and nine rebounds (with four blocks), and L. Williams was a beast. Especially down the stretch. Worked a screen and roll to perfection, dominated Gilbert Arenas'(notes) "defense" save for one possession. One that we'll describe in the next paragraph.

Lou finished with 26 points and five assists, and actually had a chance to win it. His pull-up three-pointer (a shot that, considering the circumstances, I don't even think Lou wanted to go in) with the buzzer droning rimmed-out, and the W's made a small step toward ... something.

***

Toronto 123, Indiana 112

Indiana really can't play defense.

Toronto really can't play defense, either.

Toronto really earned this win, offensively. They were great on that end. The way they worked, and passed, and finished? This could have happened against a top-notch defensive outfit.

Indiana didn't earn the win offensively, clearly. The team mainly scored because Toronto is awful defensively. Not a lot of people have figured out that Indiana is really awful offensively, too.

28 assists on 43 field goals for Toronto, who worked its way toward 74 first half points. 74. And it looked the part. If anything, we should be criticizing the Raps' for not hitting the century mark after the first 24 minutes.

The Pacers came back, the very next half. Danny Granger(notes) (36 points) started hitting from behind the arc, Jeff Foster(notes) moved his feet defensively, and the Raptors defended like the 30th-ranked defensive team that they are. What was surprising was that the Pacers played better offensively (the squad is 25th in offensive efficiency) than they're used to.

***

Golden State 111, Dallas 103

The simple exercise would be to tell you that the Warriors hate playing for Don Nelson, and that they gave their all for interim coach Keith Smart.

Telling you that would be simple, stupid, and lazy. Telling you that, would be the easy way out. Telling you that would be the truth. Stupid, frickin', truth. Keeps turning me into a typical sportswriter.

With just six players on hand, while playing its fourth game in five nights, the Warriors looked as fresh and as active as they've looked in years. The ball movement was spot on, heaps of extra passes, and Golden State worked a quickness advantage.

Actually, the Warriors didn't really blow past the slower Maverick backcourt. It just turned out that Monta Ellis(notes) (37 points, eight assists, four steals, 11 turnovers; seriously) and Stephen Curry(notes) (18 points, six assists) went nuts on the Dallas D. Anthony Morrow(notes) lined up for 27 points, the Warriors shot better besides turning the ball over, and the Mavericks seemed to get haughty just because Golden State wouldn't deign to shrivel up and breeze away by the third quarter.

Golden State played with a purpose. It ran plays, however simple. It worked to try and win runs. The team appeared to want to pull off a 16-7 run, in between timeouts. That's significant. And Keith Smart kept the pressure up, especially in that first half and with the Warrior "D" working on the other side of the floor.

You just don't see this kind of effort with Nellie splayed out on the bench. I hate endorsing what most would assume, it flies against my nature, but that's exactly what happened on Tuesday night.

***

Denver 101, New Jersey 87

Denver, at home, is way more than 14 points better than the New Jersey Nets.

Of course, because the Nets are supposedly due a win — not because they should be better than any team they play over 48 minutes, but "just because" — the Lawrence Frank death watch continues. Never mind the fact that you can't look at any game this season and honestly come through with a reason why the Nets should have pulled away. Even the Minnesota loss. The Timberwolves are better.

Unfortunately for Frank, people will continue to overrate Courtney Lee(notes) because he was on TV a lot last year, failing to understand that Courtney Lee just isn't that good. But he's healthy, now, and Mark Jackson knows who he is. So why aren't Lee and Devin Harris(notes) leading the Nuggets to victory?

Because this is an awful team. Because this lineup, this rotation, should be 0-14. Because you aren't owed any wins in this league. You actually have to go out and outscore the other team over a 48 minute span. And because the Nets are bloody awful, that hasn't happened yet. Why this is somehow Frank's fault escapes me.

Denver wasn't great. They turned in their worst offensive game of the season, but they also forced heaps of turnovers and struck early. Carmelo Anthony(notes) managed 27 points, and against a miserable team like the Nets, that's enough.

***



Oklahoma City 104, Utah 94

The Jazz definitely want half of Tuesday's 24 turnovers back. Some weren't forced. Some were still mistakes. They could have done better.

And there's the establishment excuse. However slim.

Otherwise, Oklahoma City was quicker and stronger and smarter in every regard. The Thunder's D held a fantastic offense to just 99 points per 100 possessions, and while the Jazz made a little run in the fourth quarter to bring the score somewhat closer, this was clearly a sound win for Oklahoma City.

25 assists on 37 field goals for OKC, and it showed. And those numbers were with a road scoring crew. The team spread the floor and finished well, with Kevin Durant(notes) giving you 28 points and a sneaky eight dimes.

The real movement was on defense, though, where the Thunder just seemed longer and rangier than the Jazz. Deron Williams(notes) had seven turnovers, Paul Millsap(notes) and Carlos Boozer(notes) had five apiece, and Utah really had issues drawing fouls, as well.

To me, it appears as if the Jazz are in a holding pattern, as was the case last year. Pity, because this team has the talent to secure home court advantage for a playoff series in the West.

***

Los Angeles 100, New York 90

Do I have to tell you why the Lakers are better than the Knicks?

Yeah, kind of. It's my job. Stupid college fund for the kids.

Los Angeles was quicker, taller, longer, and smarter. It moved the ball expertly, it caught the Knicks off guard in the first half and third quarter, and it worked with a purpose. It also defended well, and closed out on shooters. The Lakers put up 25 assists on 40 field goals, and it absolutely felt that way. The ball movement was that good. That's typical, for El Lay.

The Knicks stunk, in every regard. Even when they dominated the Laker reserves in the fourth quarter to make this a 10-point loss (why the hell does Kobe Bryant(notes) have to be on the floor to close out a home game against the Knicks, Laker reserves?) they still looked astonishingly bad.

90 points per 100 possessions for New York, the team couldn't handle Los Angeles on the glass (the Lakers pulled in 15 offensive rebounds), and the Knicks couldn't take advantage of Los Angeles' pitiful 25 turnovers. The Lakers out-rebounded the Knicks 60 to 36. Decisive.

Also, while I'm just about his biggest fan, Andrew Bynum(notes) gets away with more three second violations than anyone else in this league. I'm not saying it's the secret to his success (what does that earn him ... maybe two points per game?), or that he did it much in this win. If at all. Just telling you that he lingers quite a bit, and the unabashed way that he lingers might influence referees.

Good for him. It's worth it, to see a center who can walk and chew gum at the same time.

We've a BDL Hump Day Chat! at 3 p.m. Eastern this afternoon, stop by to ask about.

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