Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Memphis 95, Los Angeles Lakers 93

This Kobe Bryant(notes) thing is almost at a boiling point. And because there are various shades of gray here that you have to have your big boy pants on to understand, you have to first consider the fact that I've been watching Phil Jackson work his particular brand of offense since 1989. And work it properly since 1990. Zing.

Kobe Bryant is shooting too much. He's shooting too much for his team's ability, he's shooting too much considering his own physical shortcomings, and he's shooting too much for this team's offense to be successful.

Kobe Bryant is a brilliant basketball mind and fantastic competitor who also nearly willed a dog-tired Los Angeles Lakers team (who plays in Massachusetts one day, and Tennessee the next?) to a road victory against a formidable Grizzlies squad that was really up for their particular game o' da year. He was a Marc Gasol(notes) double-team away from winning or tying it himself in the final seconds, as well.

Kobe Bryant also scored 44 points on 28 shots, a potent night for anyone, much less someone working with nine fingers and all sorts of other ailments.

But he's shooting too much. You can't point to that particular night's shooting percentage and call this a smart deal, not when the Lakers are only managing 101 points per 100 possessions against a rather putrid Memphis defense. Not when the Lakers are currently ninth in offensive efficiency, when they should be first (even with Derek Fisher(notes) around, even with Pau Gasol(notes) missing games) by a long shot.

The ball has to move, others need to be made dangerous, and other options have to be explored. Scoring 44 points on 28 shots is great, but you can't have Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum(notes) combine to take just 10 shots in 56 minutes. Or, 18 fewer than Bryant in 16 more minutes. That's ridiculous.

And Kobe knows better. In just about every given basketball instance, he knows better. All the greats have known better, and ignored those better instincts to do things his way. Bird did it. Jordan did it. Jerry West did it. But that doesn't make it right. And you can't make it a habit. It has to be an occasional dalliance with the very, very wrong.

Not a consistent theme, and that's what Kobe's been on about for the last two months or so. We appreciate the grit, the all-world season at an advanced age and on the best team in basketball. We love all these knockout game-winners he's been throwing in. We know that even if Kobe keeps it up, it might not matter. The Lakers are too good.

Things are starting to turn, though, and it's up to Kobe to stop it. If you're a daily reader, you know I've been warning about this for a while. He has to let up, he has to involve his teammates, and he has to run the offense. This team is too brilliant for things to be this Kobe-centric; because he's not waving off Chris Mihm(notes) anymore.

The Memphis Grizzlies went out and earned this win. Los Angeles had tired legs, yeah, big deal. The Grizz took it. Memphis got to the offensive glass, it got to the line (it wasn't exactly super-successful at the line, 22-32, but it bettered Los Angeles' output), and the bench was borderline passable for once.

Rudy Gay(notes) had 25 points and only four rebounds, mainly because Marc Gasol (13 and 11) and Zach Randolph(notes) (22 and 17) grabbed everything else. The Grizzlies are five games above .500 and should be proud of that, but they're also tied for eighth in the West. There cannot be any letup.

***

Boston 99, Washington 88

The Wizards were complaining about the officiating following this loss, and while I wasn't exactly around to see every no-call, they probably had a point. Don't let it take away from the fact that the C's executed much better offensively down the stretch, enough to where one guy thinks that an evenly-called game wouldn't have changed the outcome.

Boston had a 25-10 advantage in the fourth quarter, and somehow it felt more steep than that. Caron Butler(notes) and Antawn Jamison(notes) managed to miss all eight of their field goal attempts in the final frame.

Rasheed Wallace(notes) posted up a few times successfully, and only took one three-pointer, on his way to 14 needed bench points. That's why we're angry with him.

***

Milwaukee 97, Miami 81

The Bucks finished the night scoring 111 points per 100 possessions, which is pretty astounding considering just how bad they looked in the opening minutes, and how bad their shooting stats were as a result. Milwaukee missed its first 10 shots, then completely and utterly turned it around without much hassle or reflex, shooting 37-63 (59 percent) the rest of the way.

Andrew Bogut(notes) did an excellent job of finishing in the lane with either hand, the Milwaukee perimeter was a little too wide open at times after a screen, and by and large the Heat just took the game off defensively. That's a surprise, given this team's start to the season, and how well they competed against Milwaukee in the early going.

But those Bucks — when the wheels come off, they really come off. Good thing they came back, otherwise Scott Skiles may have taken a temperance hatchet to all of South Beach sometime late Monday night.

***

Phoenix 109, New Orleans 100

New Orleans could not get the stops down the stretch. The Hornets didn't close out very well and let Phoenix's ball movement get to them. It was a spirited effort, however, in Chris Paul's(notes) absence.

He turned the ball over four times, but this was a good showing for Amar'e Stoudemire(notes), who tossed in 25 and grab 12 rebounds. Robin Lopez(notes) was also able to finish in the lane (18 points) accurately.

The Hornets were led by Marcus Thornton(notes), who Byron Scott didn't want to play, with 25 points. And because someone is legally required to have double-figure assists in New Orleans' offense, Darren Collison(notes) managed 14 dimes. Byron Scott didn't want to play him either.

***

Denver 112, Sacramento 109

Scoring 22 points on 17 shots is pretty solid, but this game was a little distressing. Kevin Martin(notes) made only 5 of 17 field goals, and he just doesn't look like himself right now. And you can't blame Tyreke Evans(notes) for this, because the Kings rookie was out for this loss with a bruised hip.

And while Martin made 2 of 4 shots in overtime, he had a crucial turnover late (19 all day for Sacto), and Omri Casspi(notes) (who helped spearhead a late charge from the Kings in the fourth quarter) didn't attempt a shot.

The Nuggets continue to play well without Carmelo Anthony(notes), and Kenyon Martin(notes) continues to rebound at a rate he's never approached (12 caroms on Monday). Anthony Carter(notes) had a nice run with the ball off the bench (five assists, zero turnovers) and the Nuggies won despite an atypically poor shooting night from Chauncey Billups(notes) (6-25).

***

Utah 104, Dallas 92

This Dirk Nowitzki(notes) thing, nearly as nasty as the "Kobe Bryant thing," is getting serious, for serious, yo.

He played nine and a half fourth quarter minutes on Monday night and didn't attempt a shot, only taking two free throws. Mainly because the Jazz used a smaller, quicker defender (Andrei Kirilenko(notes)) to effectively turn Dirk into a slowish small forward. Dirk still got his 28, and it was his 26 through three quarters that had the Mavs in it to begin with, but his inability to sustain with AK hounding him handed this game to a Jazz club that continues to look good.

Real good, as in 117 points per 100 possessions and huge on the glass. Paul Millsap(notes) had 25 and nine boards as Carlos Boozer(notes) popped another potassium supplement on the sideline, and Deron Williams(notes) racked up 18 points, 15 assists, and seven rebounds alongside two steals.

There are few coaches who I'd trust more to work around this nagging Nowitzki issue than Rick Carlisle, but for now the Mavs are in a tough spot.

***

Portland 98, Charlotte 79

For a Portland team working without Brandon Roy(notes) to drop 118 points per 100 possessions on one of the better defenses in the NBA, a defense that only gives up 102 points per 100 after this contest? It might be one of the better team-based performances of the season.

Might be. Charlotte looked at once distracted and fatigued in this loss, the Blazers continually had them fooled on simple give and gos, and the Bobcats just didn't up for the competition on Monday night.

The Blazers were. The Blazers always are. This team just doesn't want to go away. Fifteen points and nine rebounds off the bench for Nic Batum, who played stellar D and wears a funny shirt under his uniform. Andre Miller(notes) had 10 assists, and it really was a team game. Nobody really stood out; the Blazers just took it to ‘em.

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