Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Behind the Box Score, where the Clippers can blow you out

Los Angeles Clippers 117, Houston 89

Awful defense from the Rockets in this loss, nobody gets a pass here (even Kyle Lowry, who was just plain beat), and the Clippers took full advantage. Sound ball and player movement from the Clips, who came in waves during this win. Los Angeles has its own issues defensively, but they were the more aggressive team and left the Rockets a dispirited bunch just minutes into the second half.

Twenty-two points and nine boards for Blake Griffin in the win, but he barely even played during that second half (32 minutes overall) as Chris Paul and Randy Foye took turns taking it to the Rockets. Houston has its issues defending the interior, but this was a team-wide bust on Wednesday from the outside inward.

What I'd like to see next is Los Angeles work this sort of magic on the road.

***

Denver 110, Sacramento 83

Unbelievable defensive lapses for the Kings in this loss. Just shocking, rudimentary stuff. No talking, no getting back, and obvious missteps. It was hard to watch and, frankly, I didn't deign to take in much of it. The 12 assist mark in the final box score for Sacramento is pretty telling as well.

Denver moved the ball, took advantage of leak outs both on made or missed Sacto baskets, and covered well enough defensively in the win. From what I saw, Sacramento remains boom or bust when it comes to one on one play, so Denver just managed to hold their own when it came turn for their respective charge to fire the ball at the hoop, and secure the rebound.

Also telling is the fact that no Nugget scored more than Al Harrington's 15 points, and yet the team dropped 110 points on the Kings with 60 percent shooting. 31 assists for the Nuggies.

***

Orlando 103, Washington 85

It does feel as if we could rubber stamp these Wizards recaps, but the onus is on Washington to create a new reality for us to work around. Until then, all the blown two on one fast breaks and goaltended free throw misses will lead us down the same path, referring to this team as a mess and pointing out that they continue to play a brand of ball that is less than cerebral. Toss in the fact that the group routinely plays the first game of the night and usually end up down double digits by the end of the first quarter, and you have a team that most of us have made correct assumptions about by the time the other 92 games on the schedule hit.

Ryan Anderson is averaging 19.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game after this win, in just 31 minutes per game, about in line with what those who have closely followed his pro career would have expected with his increase in minutes per game. Dwight Howard managed 28 points and 20 boards in the victory, and Washington's Nick Young really enjoys spinning into traffic.

***

San Antonio 101, Golden State 95

I'd be angry at Tony Parker too, if I were Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. He paired some bad decision making offensively with poor shot selection, bad defense, and a jerk move in running up underneath gimpy Warriors guard Stephen Curry as Curry took a third quarter jumper. Parker also played his tail off, though, and was a huge reason the Spurs hung on to win while featuring a small backcourt including Tony and T.J. Ford.

Ford finally squared those shoulders on his way to a needed nine points and eight assists in 19 minutes, and the Warriors could not overcome the loss of Curry (who re-sprained his ankle on a non-contact play a few minutes after Parker's run-under) in the fourth quarter. Monta Ellis tried his damndest, but his plan was an obvious one. Nobody would touch the ball, and he would either make an amazing shot, or see his attempt snuffed. It isn't as if the Warriors have a load of offensive weapons with Curry out, but that sort of hero ball barely works for Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose, so to rely on Ellis in that format is a bit much.

Though there were some bad finishes, the Spurs seemed to have the fresher legs in the win, and Tim Duncan's D was huge down the stretch. Good ball movement and spacing in the final take, relative to the Warriors or even the rest of the league.

***

Dallas 98, Phoenix 89

Depth and length won out for Dallas in this win, the team's bench completely outclassed a thin Phoenix roster, and the defending champs dominated the boards. Dallas made some missteps in its defensive rotations, the Suns still had their way when crossmatches took over and in some screen and roll sets, but by and large Dallas was in control throughout.

And when they weren't? That's why Rick Carlisle gets so many timeouts.

Eighteen points on just 12 shots off the bench for Jason Terry, the Mavs secured some good minutes from Ian Mahinmi, and Lamar Odom hit half his shots on his way toward 15 points.

Marcin Gortat had just two turnovers despite plenty of chances for charges and/or strips, and finished with 22 points and 10 boards in the loss.

***

Philadelphia 101, New Orleans 93

This was a fun game. Plenty of mistakes on either end, to be sure, but an entertaining back and forth that resulted in a needed 76er win. Elton Brand is continuing to round into shape, Spencer Hawes' strong fifth season continues, and Jrue Holliday had the liveliest legs down the stretch as the Sixers hung on.

Fourteen fourth quarter points and 23 overall for Holliday, who had arc on his jumper throughout even through the misses. Evan Turner was also impressive, he seemed a step quicker than he usually does, and the second year guard finished with 21 points in 30 minutes. Nice to see.

Eric Gordon had his moments in his home debut, but the scoring guard seemed a little winded on his way toward 22 points in 22 minutes.

***

Memphis 90, Minnesota 86

Too many turnovers and just enough blown chances to fall short for the Timberwolves in this loss. Topping that, Memphis played a heck of a game, valuing the ball and doing what it could in between the seemingly endless array of Kevin Love putbacks and scores.

Grizzlies play by play man Pete Pranica (a must-follow on Twitter, by the way) pointed out before the game that Tony Allen was getting an extra series of shots up, including (don't laugh) practice lay-ups. The reps helped, clearly, as Allen didn't miss in eight field goal tries on his way to 20 points. Memphis finished well in the paint despite the presence of (again, don't laugh) Darko Milicic, and Rudy Gay's hops seemed to be in order.

27 points and 14 rebounds for Love, who is having a brilliant year.

***

Chicago 99, Detroit 83

Detroit did well in spurts to keep this game close and keep Chicago on edge as they played the second night of a back-to-back, but the Bulls did better in sustaining focus and overcoming fatigue in the win. Chicago was clearly in need of a nap by the time the fourth quarter came around, and as a fan I wasn't very pleased with coach Tom Thibodeau leaving his starters in well after the game was decided in the fourth quarter (Luol Deng, who played 82 minutes in the two-night run, shockingly had no lift in this game), but the squad's ball movement and defensive instincts saw out a good win. That stuff comes from Thibs as well, so you have to live with both ends.

Good interior finishing and a solid all-around game for Detroit's Greg Monroe, who finished with 19 points, 13 boards and five assists, while Chicago's Carlos Boozer was the man down the stretch on his way toward 19 points in 28 minutes. Not before I texted and Tweeted Boozer a new one for his defensive lapses in the third quarter, but credit is due for a fine finish from Carlos.

***

Boston 89, New Jersey 70

The Celtics showed up for one quarter, the third, and that was enough to down a New Jersey team that might boast the words rotation in the NBA at this point. Other teams may lose more games than the Nets this year, but it's a credit to New Jersey's coaching staff and the hustle of their players that they're even in games (as was the case entering the second half, after an incredibly ugly first half of play) as it stands.

Brandon Bass hit a series of top of the key jumpers and Paul Pierce continued to round into form with 24 points and five assists in the win.

***

Charlotte 118, New York 110

Woj and Dan Devine's dismissals beat me to a better one-two punch, but it's worth pointing out again that this was an embarrassing effort from the Knicks. Yes, the team's roster has major holes, but that shouldn't preclude them from rotating defensively or talking to each other on the glass. Did the Bobcats nail shots that I and perhaps the Knicks didn't expect them to hit? Sure. Doesn't matter. Close out. Move your feet.

Credit the Bobcats, who took advantage of the open spaces and are working extremely hard under coach Paul Silas. Centers Boris Diaw and Byron Mullens combined for 43 points, eight boards and six assists in about 60 minutes of play, hitting for 18 of 23 shots, and D.J. Augustin kept his dribble and ran a sound show with 10 assists to zero turnovers.

The Knicks? The easy assumptions are true, they don't defend and they defer too often. The team doesn't value possessions as it should on either side of the ball, and this 2-4 start really makes sense if you watch the squad for more than 10 minutes at a time.

***

Miami 118, Indiana 83

LeBron James is just one big walking WOW at this point, but let's not discount the Pacers screwing up a bit in this loss. Indiana didn't make smart decisions with its ball movement, especially in the second quarter, and you just cannot make these sorts of mistakes against Miami. A 35-point rout … I'm sorry, but it's to be expected.

33 points and 13 assists for LeBron, who played way too many minutes (37) even with Dwyane Wade out with a bum foot. This game was over just a few minutes into the second half, and while James needs reps with his teammates and remains superhuman, the Heat still have to find ways to keep him around 30 minutes played every so often in routs like these.

Also, the Heat are scary. And they run a lot. Terrifying combination.

***

Toronto 92, Cleveland 77

Andrea Bargnani dropped 31 points, with seven rebounds and three assists. Fine. That's always been in him. It's the other things Bargs and his teammates are coming through with that continues to impress. The Raptors actually slide over, defensively. They move their feet and they talk. And this is all happening with the same personnel, by and large, that consistently revealed itself as a miserable defensive outfit under Jay Triano.

Is the change as simple as crediting new coach Dwane Casey? Well, yeah. These players are all a year older, always a good thing for a rebuilding crew, but the difference really is night and day. The hack-y thing to point out is that just about any team can look like the 1985 Chicago Bears against the Cavaliers, but I was watching mostly white jerseys in this game, and they were getting after it.

Marvelous Cleveland rookie Kyrie Irving came down to earth a bit, needing 13 shots to score 12 points in the loss, and Casey made us all laugh by pointing to issues with Toronto turnovers on a night when the Raptors only turned it over 11 times (a mark that would just about set an all-time record if held for an entire season).

The Cavaliers are going to have nights like these, but it nearly goes without saying that this is a team headed soundly in the right direction.

Thank you for reading.

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