Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Golden State 132, Los Angeles Clippers 102

The Warriors came out on Wednesday night without their leading scorer, Monta Ellis(notes).

The Clippers came out without any heart, which makes sense, as they take their cues from their leader, Baron Davis(notes).

Put it this way, before we get into how terrific the Warriors were: Los Angeles gave up 38 points in the first quarter as Golden State just could not seem to miss. It was a bad display, but it almost smelled flukish. After matching Golden State's 26 points in the second quarter, there was at least a chance that a now-woken up Clipper team could inch even closer in the third.

Instead, they were worse. Way worse. Pathetic. 46 points for Golden State, as the Clippers just did not care. Didn't care. Didn't have anything to play for, apparently the paycheck isn't enough, and it showed.

Golden State? Stephen Curry's(notes) shooting elbow has been sliding closer and closer to where it should be all year (under that ball), and the result at this point is a white hot triple double featuring 36 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists.

With Ellis (and Corey Maggette(notes), the team's second leading scorer) out, Anthony Morrow(notes) and Anthony Tolliver(notes) combined for 55 points, as the Clippers just let Golden State have its way. I think so little of the Clippers as it is, and yet somehow this was still a distressing surprise.

Also, Chris Kaman(notes)? All-Star centers don't get doubled up on the boards by Anthony Morrow and Stephen Curry.

***

Miami 94, Atlanta 76

There's no point in telling you that this game was pretty, or even all that entertaining. It was just like the miserable first round pairing that we saw between these two squads last spring. That isn't to say, however, that we don't respect what the Heat have done over the last few days. We just wish it was a little more fun to watch.

It was clear, even when this was a nip-and-tuck affair (seriously, where do we sports scribes get these horribly awful clichés?) over the first three quarters that the Heat were really putting something extra into it defensively. Just as it was the night before against Houston, and even as the Hawks (a damn tough offensive team to hold down) were tossing in 64 points over the first three quarters (not bad for such a low possession game).

The effort paid off, eventually, in the fourth. Atlanta managed only 12 points as the Heat mixed up its defense, while the Hawks just looked tired and ready to call it a first half of the season. And you've got to wonder about Jamal Crawford(notes) and Zaza Pachulia(notes) (two Hawks who bailed out of the game)'s travel plans.

Daequan Cook(notes) had 13 fourth quarter points for the Heat, and this isn't a lame aside: I watch a lot of games, and I don't think I've seen him score 13 points all year for this team. Udonis Haslem(notes) (14 and 12) was fantastic defensively, and the Heat put up almost 115 points per 100 possessions despite hitting just seven free throws.

***

Toronto 104, Philadelphia 93

Royal Ivey(notes) has never, ever been good. I appreciate the way he's been able to stay in this league, bouncing from team to team despite his limitations, but he's having essentially a career-year this year, and he's still a third bench guard.

Elton Brand(notes)? A huge disappointment as a 76er, but even as a shell of his former self, he's still heaps better than Ivey. A 17.6 PER, to put it all together with a catch-all stat, and eight points on 4-6 (one miss was a good look, the other was a bad jumper) shooting in the first half. So you can imagine mine and EB's shock and wonderment as the Sixers went with Royal Ivey and a small lineup to start the second half.

The Sixers were down nine to start the third quarter, and ended up down 23 by the time Brand came back in.

The talk after the game was the usual, "if you're not into it, no matter who you are, I'll sit you." The problem with that was that Brand was into it. And it was a lack of an Elton Brand-type down low that made it so hard for the Sixers to score against a terrible defensive team to start the third.

The Raptors allowed Philly's D to turn this into a somewhat competitive affair late, but Chris Bosh's(notes) 23 and 12 led Toronto to the win. Reggie Evans(notes) made his debut as a Raptor, as the home crowd went absolutely ThunderNuggets as he approached the scorer's table to start, and took in a charge and three rebounds in five minutes before leaving the court for another 50 games.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 96, Utah 81

Man, the Lakers went hard in this game, just completely taking the Jazz out of what they wanted to do offensively. Playing without Kobe Bryant(notes) and Andrew Bynum(notes), Los Angeles struggled a bit offensively (Shannon Brown(notes), Derek Fisher(notes), and Ron Artest(notes) combined to hit just 8-28 shots), but really took it to what had been a white-hot Jazz team on the other end.

Just over 88 points per 100 possessions for Utah, and they'd entered the game averaging 110 per 100 which is seventh in the NBA. The Lakers out-rebounded them, held them to a low percentage from the field, forced turnovers, and Los Angeles' free throw defense was great as the Jazz missed 12 of 25 freebies.

Pau Gasol(notes) and Lamar Odom(notes) combined for 47 points, 30 rebounds, seven blocks, nine turnovers, and five assists. Just imagine a team like the Lakers with Gasol seeing the ball through his hands more often, and Kobe taking something like 16 or 17 shots a night, actually being set up once in a while? The Lakers weren't offensive killers tonight, just 104 points per 100 possessions, but they can be once Kobe and Bynum return, if they keep this mindset.

***

Sacramento 103, Detroit 97

Ugly start to this one, both teams could barely function in the first few minutes and struggled to net 20 points apiece in the first quarter, but once the benches got involved things got interesting.

Beno Udrih(notes) destroyed Detroit off the pine in both quarters, going to his right even, as the Kings just continually got into the paint. 22 points for Udrih, Kevin Martin(notes) had 26 points on 15 shots, and the Pistons just couldn't keep up. Not with that iffy help side defense (Jason Maxiell(notes)), and the team's four guards (Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon(notes), Rodney Stuckey(notes) and Will Bynum(notes); who was not that bad at 3-7 from the field) shooting a combined 12-50 (24 percent).

***

Milwaukee 97, New Jersey 77

I mentioned this in the post from last night - this felt like a typical Nets game. This team is always playing in front of sparse crowds, and with my action focused on the court (to say nothing of a heap of other games to watch), I didn't even notice that the crowd was barely a thousand strong until it was announced.

The Nets are just a pathetic organization that really should be playing better basketball than it is. I recognize how poor the overall rotation is, but this team could still be considered top-heavy. It just doesn't play like it.

Mainly because it doesn't give Brook Lopez(notes) the ball. Lopez was denied a good look by Andrew Bogut(notes) a couple of times that I saw, but he's too-often ignored while the team works for 20-footers for Yi Jianlian(notes).

You think there's a reason Yi seems to put up semi-passable stats (nine points in 32 minutes, that's not bad, right?) and the Nets keep losing big? It's because he's taking 14 shots to get those nine points, because all his looks seem to come on face-up jumpers from far away that you remember when they go in, and forget about when they don't. Hell, two of my 12 readers made a point to complain about this to me last night, and they're spot on.

Bogut was pretty bang on last night, too. His defense - contesting and moving his feet - was fantastic. He finished with either hand, he made passes, he played like Andrew Bogut. Why Scott Skiles doesn't make a point to let Andrew Bogut play like Andrew Bogut more often is beyond me. 22 and nine, four blocks, four assists, no turnovers. Missed his only free throw attempt.

Jarvis Hayes(notes) took two more shots in four fewer minutes than Brook Lopez. Come on.

***

Portland 108, Phoenix 101

Very impressed with what could be the most significant victory of the season for Portland, a road win over a tough Suns team that has been playing well, working without the usual litany of sidelined stars.

With Andre Miller(notes) faltering a bit since his 52-point explosion, Steve Blake(notes) moved into the starting lineup alongside Dre and played a fantastic game on both ends. 20 points and 12 assists, symptomatic of a Portland team that defended quite well - they gave up about 110 points per 100 possessions; but these are the Suns, and these are the Blazers, who don't usually defend well with this roster. Relative to what we're used to, this was an accomplishment.

The Suns couldn't string enough stops together to make a complete comeback, Portland always seemed to have an answer, hitting dagger after dagger. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) led Portland with 22 points, but I may have been most impressed with his defense. May have.

***

New Orleans 93, Boston 85

I can't recall seeing many games like this. At least not ones with the caliber of players that the Celtics and Hornets boast. I am not complaining, this game was very competitive and a whole lot of fun, but both teams combined for 45 turnovers.

45! Nearly one in four plays, in this entire game, resulted in a turnover. And that's not even counting your typical "[Tony] Allen drives, nearly loses it, picks up his dribble, 12 to shoot ..." craziness.

It was so much fun, though, especially with Darren Collison(notes) (who Byron Scott didn't want to play) dropping 25 points on a variety of odd-looking floaters. Nutty shots that Boston just had no idea what to do with, or how to defend them. Nine assists for DC, along with ... 10 turnovers! That's right, Collison was one assist away from the Shawn Kemp Memorial Triple-Double.

And Peja Stojakovic(notes). He only had 20 points, he used to average more than that, but he was dropping 20 as if it was no problem. The weird thing about that is, for the last few years, it's been quite the problem for Peja. But he was all over the place, while actually holding his own against Paul Pierce(notes).

Pierce had eight turnovers, missed seven of 11 shots, and the whole Boston team generally looked a step slow. They'd peel off the odd 7-2 runs every so often just to keep things close, but let's face it, this was New Orleans' animal.

***

Orlando 107, Chicago 87

The Magic just absolutely took it to the Bulls from the get-go, Chicago had no idea how to defend a spaced-out Magic team, and with Derrick Rose(notes) having to hit the showers early due to a bruised hip, the Bulls just didn't have the heart to compete on either end.

Loved the Magic's spacing. There was penetration, good open lanes, threats from all angles, and the results were what you'd expect. Nearly 118 points per 100 possessions for Orlando, against a Bulls team that is (somehow, sometimes, it seems) ranked eighth at defense.

22 assists for Orlando (on the road), seven players in double figures.

***


Charlotte 93, Minnesota 92

This game wasn't on the dish, so I didn't get to see any of it beyond highlights. The Timberwolves don't execute well, and Stephen Jackson(notes) doesn't need to be baited into long three-pointers that sometimes go in. That's my take.

Nazr Mohammed(notes) had 21 and 20 rebounds, and while you'd expect me (if you've been reading me for a while) to be happy, I'm not. OK, I'm a little happy. But not pleased, overall. The guy was a consistent disappointment from 2006-07 to early this season, and while this re-birth (he's averaging 8.5 points, six and a half boards with a block in only 17 minutes) has been fun to watch, he could have been doing this all along.

The game was decided on the last play, as the Timberwolves could not secure a defensive rebound and had to save the ball back to the Bobcats. Kevin Love(notes) was not on the court for that play, or the entire fourth quarter. Kevin Love had as many rebounds (seven) in 23 minutes as Ryan Hollins(notes) and Ryan Gomes(notes) combined for in 60 minutes, the Wolves were out-rebounded by 11, and Kurt Rambis is doing a terrible job coaching the Timberwolves this season.

Thanks for reading.

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