Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Los Angeles Lakers 95, Milwaukee 77

Kobe Bryant(notes) is clearly dealing with finger issues. And Sunday's first half performance was a little damning in my eyes.

I didn't see much of Friday's Lakers loss to Portland, where Bryant needed 37 shots to score 32 points (while Brandon Roy(notes) famously needed just 11 shots to score the same amount of points), but I was walking around the house on Saturday thinking that, yeah, I could see Kobe believing that these were good shots, within the offense, and the coin just flipped to the wrong side more times than not.

That, even given a bit of history as a (needed at times, mind you, with his old teammates) chucker, that Kobe could have had his heart in the right place.

Sunday, in that first half? Heart wasn't in the right place. Not running the offense, ignoring better options, not necessarily taking bad shots but ... put it this way — Kobe knows better.

He knows that offense, he knows what's needed, and especially on a night where Andrew Bynum(notes) is defending like mad, running the floor, and finishing offensively, Kobe Bryant should not be taking 14 first half shots (making just one) with a shooting hand that isn't working.

Over his last four games, Kobe is averaging a 9-28 night. Man, stop shooting. We respect you, we respect the way you play through pain, but you have a team now. And that team needs to run a five man offense.

The Bucks, as happened a month ago against the Cavaliers, just could not buy a jump shot to save their  life. And that's all they were attempting to buy, as Andrew Bogut(notes) was continually ignored (rejected once by Bynum, and missing four shots in five tries). Brilliant defense from the Lakers in the win.

***

New Orleans 115, Washington 110

Washington's turnover issues hurt — the Wiz turned it over 12 times in the first half alone and on a fifth of their total possessions — but it was the sieve-like D that really handed New Orleans this win. No shame in NOLA's game, they earned this win, but the Wizards were just giving it up all over the place on Sunday.

The Hornets entered the game averaging just under 106 points per 100 possessions, 21st in the NBA, but Tim Floyd Jeff Bower's group put in over 122 in the win. Washington mixed it up; the team didn't close out well, it didn't pay smart attention on when to help (or when it was helping too much), and the Hornets were just able to splash in jumper after jumper.

New Orleans could just walk into those jumpers, too easily. I know Chris Paul(notes) isn't usually tossing in two of four three-pointers in a game (though he is averaging over one a game this season), but Devin Brown(notes) missed a few open ones (2-6), and things evened out. Meanwhile, the Wiz ignored James Posey(notes) (3-4) all afternoon. These aren't lights-out guys, historically, that you have to stay an inch away from at all times, but you can't give them this many open looks.

The Wizards had no trouble scoring, Antawn Jamison(notes) continues to just destroy teams (32 points on 21 shots), but the team continues to be pretty rudderless on the court. Randy Foye(notes) played well (23 points on 17 shots), but he missed Nick Young(notes) wide (very wide) open in the corner in a play with 90 seconds left while trying to force a terrible reverse shot. A Young three would have cut the deficit to three. Instead, Foye missed, a ticked-off Young tried to force his own bad shot a possession later, and the Wizards were finished.

New Orleans is just getting it done, at this point. Six in a row (tough wins against not-so-tough teams, but wins), and it turned the ball over only 10 times in a pretty up and down game (94 possessions). Marcus Thornton(notes) had 15 quiet points in 18 minutes off the bench, and that "quiet" part is pretty hard for a rookie that drives a lot to pull off.

***

Los Angeles Clippers 94, Miami 84

Miami could not handle the interior play of the Clippers in the loss, Chris Kaman(notes) was able to get whatever he wanted in the post (the jump shot, not so much), and Baron Davis(notes) was continually able to find cutters and finishers borne out of pick and roll options.

The defensive play of the Miami bigs was so bad that Jamaal Magloire(notes) was drafted to play just under 21 minutes in his ninth game of the year, and unlike his 20-minute turn in a win over the Hawks from last week, these weren't garbage minutes. Mags was counted on to make a difference, not unlike the A-Team in those NBC public service announcements from 25 years ago, but to no avail. Murdoch, he wasn't.

14 assists for Davis, 22 and 14 boards for Kaman, good spacing from the Clippers throughout.

***

Boston 114, Toronto 107

It felt like sort of a fait accompli, heading in, that the Raptors had no chance against Boston. That the C's just match up too well against Toronto, which had won eight of nine with the only loss coming to Doc Rivers' team.

And I was thinking about this before the game, as good as the Raptors can be, the Celtics should do pretty darn well against this team. And any other team. Boston played 14 games in the playoffs last year without Kevin Garnett(notes). They took an NBA Finalist to seven games in the second round without KG. And this was before Rasheed Wallace(notes) came to town.

(And that was thought of before Rasheed Wallace started hitting from all over on Sunday.)

Sheed went off. He went off on the refs, on Andrea Bargnani(notes), and hit from inside and out. Good on Sheed, but a lot of this was on Bargs. He seemed almost hesitant to follow Rasheed out to the three-point line (in the corners) as Wallace was making his rounds — as if Rasheed has faked hard on an overplaying defender and cut backdoor/baseline more than three times since the 1997-98 season. Come on. He's going out there to stick, and to shoot.

9-12 shooting for Wallace, 29 points. He had some in-between shots to start the game, which warmed his touch, and then he started raining from the outside (5-7). What a novel concept.

Holly MacKenzie:

"Asked about the 3-pointers he took and whether he gives Wallace the green light on them, Rivers didn't hesitate.

"Always," he said."

(Annoyed grunt.)

The guy entered Sunday taking five a game (mostly off the bench) and shooting 28.7 percent. I know this might be a bit of a fluke in a career that has seen Rasheed shoot 34 percent from long range, but there's a select few in this game that I want with the green light from long range as it is, and those guys are in the 40s in their career and in this season. How you can have a green light to a guy shooting five a game (in less than half a game) and making 29 percent is beyond me.

I'd chalk that up to the usual bit of coach tough-speak, which you usually get from these guys even though you know they feel the opposite. But the way Rasheed's firing them up this year, I think I'd be off in that guess. I think we'd have to take Doc at his word, and not be too happy about that.

Good thing Doc's such a great coach in other areas.

Good thing Rasheed should inch closer to his usual percentages as the year moves on.

Good thing the Celtics are so loaded (if KG comes back ready to remind) that it might not even matter.

Rajon Rondo(notes) was Mr. Extra Pass early with 13 assists total, 10 boards, and 22 points. Four steals and three turnovers as well. Ray Allen(notes) had a few good three-pointers rim out and finished with 16, while Kendrick Perkins(notes) always seemed a step away from completely falling over, but still worked his way toward 16 points scored mostly in the post. Four blocks, but four turnovers. Kendrick, if you see two people guarding you, someone's open. Don't try to shoot.

Toronto hung in there despite being bested in every category, Chris Bosh(notes) was nearly unstoppable at times with 31 points, but they just couldn't get the stops. Good comeback, though, after going down nine points in the first three minutes of the contest.

***

San Antonio 97, New Jersey 85

So, at one point in this game Ian Mahinmi(notes) goes up for a block (wait, Ian Mahinmi's in the game?), nails the Net attempt, runs the floor, and working as a trailer, Ian Mahinmi (who was in the game) collects the pass and finishes on the break.

He didn't win the game for the Spurs, but ... well, it's the middle of January, in the long NBA season. Story arcs are hard to come by. Ian Mahinmi, the forgotten Spur, was the hero. The damned hero. (Spits.)

15 points and nine rebounds (with that block!) off the bench for San Antonio, who had trouble pulling away from a plucky Nets team until Mahinmi (who was in the game) took over.

As mentioned, the Nets did hold serve for the first two and a half quarters before it was revealed that New Jersey just couldn't match the Spurs basket for basket. By then, Manu Ginobili(notes) was pulling off his typical Manu stuff off the bench (21 points on 11 shots, you know, the stuff that just doesn't seem mathematically feasible), and New Jersey's shots were connected fewer and fewer times.

Six turnovers for the Nets in the loss, which is pretty impressive considering Devin Harris(notes) sat out and Rafer Alston(notes) was bought out last week. And by "impressive" I mean "to be expected."

The backcourt of Keyon Dooling(notes) and Courtney Lee(notes) didn't have the greatest shooting night (combined, 6-21), but it did combine for zero turnovers in over 73 minutes. Nicely done.

***

Cleveland 106, Portland 94

In the second minute of the fourth quarter, LeBron James(notes) caught what was easily the worst pass in the history of Western civilization, pulling in a misguided one-hand lob from Mo Williams(notes) with his head above the rim and arms outstretched. Nobody, in the history of the NBA, would have been able to catch that ball. At no point in this league's history has this combination of hops, skill, touch and timing existed.

James went off in the first half, scoring 31 points on all manner of shots. A lot of perimeter looks, which I usually don't like, but you can't deny the success rate. And, perhaps, as we get closer to the end of Western civilization, I'll be told why Andre Miller(notes) was left checking LeBron possession after possession.

The Cavalier star cooled off in the second half, Portland over played and doubled, and the assists picked up (eight, along with 10 boards) as the points tapered off (he ended the game with 41), and Cleveland won handily despite Portland scoring almost effortlessly (LaMarcus Aldridge(notes), finishing with 18 and 13 was nice in the run) in the third quarter. And despite Brandon Roy right-to-lefting his way to 34 points on 23 shots.

 

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