Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Los Angeles Clippers 98, Memphis 88

Los Angeles outscored the Grizzlies 33 to 7 in the fourth quarter. That's a bit of an advantage.

This was Memphis' game, for so long. O.J. Mayo(notes) and Zach Randolph(notes) weren't scoring for most of the contest, because they didn't have to. The whole team was playing smart basketball. It was still rather undeveloped, mostly simplistic basketball, but it was inspired, active ball. Something that has been a hallmark for this team, all year. Lionel Hollins really has these guys wanting to win, rather than wanting to pad.

And Marc Gasol(notes) was all over the place. He finished with 26 points, five rebounds, three steals, and three blocks. The Grizzlies had 81 points, a ton, entering the fourth quarter, and what seemed like a well-earned 16-point lead.

Then Memphis lost by 10, 12 minutes later.

How? The Clippers turned the pressure, forcing the Grizz into a series of turnovers. Mayo missed all four of his shot attempts, Mike Conley(notes) missed two three-pointers, and the whole team couldn't hang onto the ball. Six turnovers in the quarter alone, as the Clippers were all over the place.

Al Thornton(notes), mostly, in the half court. Eric Gordon(notes) (29 points, in his first game back) in transition, picking up loose balls and dashing to the other side. Baron Davis(notes) didn't shoot his team out of the game, he made Jamaal Tinsley(notes) his creature on the other end, and the Clippers got good minutes out of Chris Kaman(notes) (in the fourth, only) and Craig Smith(notes).

Even though he was playing well early in the contest, it's clear that Tinsley is way, way out of shape. At the very least, he's not up to basketball speed. Davis hounded him the entire game, forcing Memphis into slow starts to begin possessions, and Tinsley into five turnovers in 29 minutes in what was otherwise a fine game (12 points, seven assists, three steals).

Gasol wasn't great in that fourth quarter (1-3 shooting, two turnovers), but he couldn't get the rock to save his life despite playing nine minutes. Unfortunate to see, but the Clippers really had the pressure up.

The Clippers also rebounded over 41 percent of their misses, owning the glass, and Marcus Camby(notes) (14 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, one turnover, three blocks in 35 minutes) was all over. Good, active, play from DeAndre Jordan(notes) in limited minutes as well.

***

Phoenix 113, Toronto 94

For years, the thrust behind what sheepishly constitutes the Phoenix defense has been a willingness to back off and let teams shoot over the top of them.

Because the Suns have always been smaller and thinner than most of their opponents, this helps to contain penetration, which could lead to easier interior buckets. It also often leads to teams shooting the lights out against Phoenix, but that's the chance you take when you (as has been the case for the last five years) stack your team with iffy defensive players.

The ideal remained the same on Sunday, and it's safe to say the Raptors certainly failed to make Phoenix pay. Safe to say, of course, unless you're telling it to someone who is violently opposed to the idea of a rhyme scheme.

Toronto hoisted 20 three-pointers in the win, and missed 19 of them. Goodness. These were good shots, more or less, from what I saw. Sometimes Murphy's Law takes over, even if you're the third-best three-point shooting team (40.1 percent entering the game) in the NBA.

On the other end, Phoenix's ball movement, especially in delayed transition, was typically brilliant. Lots of extra passes and wide open lanes, which the Raptors typically concede. The Suns chafed at Toronto's slowish game in the second quarter and tried to handle scoring on individual terms, but with more stops and more long rebounds in the second half, the Suns piled up 63 second half points, making the pace of the game (96 possessions overall) an uptick from what Toronto usually prefers.

Grant Hill(notes) and Jason Richardson(notes) started a few breaks with nine rebounds apiece, and Steve Nash(notes) had 20 points and 16 assists because he's awesome.

***

Detroit 94, Atlanta 88

Every other time the Pistons missed a shot in this game; they pulled in an offensive rebound as a result.

Think about that. Every other miss resulted in Detroit getting the ball back for another try. Where, if they missed on that try, they would get the ball back for another try every other time. More than every other time, actually, as the Pistons managed an offensive rebound rate of 53.3 percent.

This has been a problem for Atlanta all season, defending that glass, and a strength for the Pistons all season. Of course, the Pistons' offense has been pretty disappointing this year, injuries and new faces have contributed to that, which allow for all the offensive caroms. But we've also been watching teams in New Jersey, Charlotte, and Chicago miss six out of ten shots, nightly. They're not pulling these boards in. And that's why we use percentages, not totals.

On top of that, though it wasn't the prettiest or most efficient win, Detroit really seemed to have a sound offensive purpose. No wasted possessions, even if 11 of them ended in a turnover. Chucky Atkins(notes) ran a good show in Ben Gordon's(notes) place, Rodney Stuckey(notes) had the ball in his hands a lot but mostly as an off guard, and Will Bynum(notes) brought the usual 19 points and scads of scowls off the bench.

Going deeper, Jonas Jerebko(notes) had his second consecutive fantastic game, playing lockdown D (Joe Johnson(notes) had 10 points on 19 shots), pulling in 11 rebounds (five offensive) and turning the ball over just once in 42 minutes. He needed 13 shots to score 10 points, but after a 22-point outburst in Detroit's last game, that much is passable.

Ben Wallace(notes) was the star, though.

18 rebounds, 11 on the offensive glass, and great (not too enthusiastic, which had been his problem since leaving Detroit in 2006) help defense. Kwame Brown(notes) also played good help D, save for one notable whiff from the weak side, Jason Maxiell(notes) went one for two (one airball) on perimeter jumpers, some kind of record, and Atkins somehow seemed a plus despite registering a -4, missing six of seven shots, and only coming through with one assist in 19 minutes.

Atlanta's perimeter types don't rebound, and they're going to have to if the Hawks want to keep trotting out two tweeners at center and power forward. Would I like to see more than 17 combined rebounds in about 76 minutes from Josh Smith(notes) and Al Horford(notes)? Sure, but I'd really like to see more than nine combined rebounds in 140 minutes from Joe Johnson (especially), Mike Bibby(notes), Jamal Crawford(notes), and Marvin Williams(notes).

***

Orlando 114, New York 102

Don't look now (actually, look), but the Magic have won seven of eight with Rashard Lewis(notes) back in the lineup. And seven of those games have come without Jameer Nelson(notes) in the lineup. Stacked, I tell ya.

The Knicks leaked out and picked up some good looks from behind the arc, and this was a close game until the third quarter, but it was also Orlando's game. He still can't shoot free throws, at all, but Dwight Howard(notes) managed 24 points on only eight shots with 16 rebounds, two steals, two blocks and just one turnover. Lewis had 26, he was big in Orlando's deciding third-quarter run, and Mickael Pietrus(notes) continues to get more and more active on the defensive end.

After entering the game shooting 25.4 percent from the floor, Chris Duhon(notes) made five of six (83.3 percent), and Nate Robinson(notes) had 24 points which are not represented in the box score linked-to above because for some reason it cuts out at the three quarter mark.

***

Boston 93, Miami 85

You know Kevin Garnett(notes). He's not exactly Shaq. He's not exactly Darryl Dawkins. The man enjoys a good turnaround jumper. He likes to face up.

So understand where most of that 11-12 shooting mark came from. A white-hot jumper. That ain't easy. 24 points in 34 minutes for KG, who pulled in eight rebounds. No turnovers.

Dwyane Wade(notes) still missed more shots than he made, 11-23 overall, but he picked it up after a pretty crummy week. 27 points for Wade, who looked good while adding six assists, but Boston was too much to handle.

Rajon Rondo(notes), especially. I think Mario Chalmers'(notes) defense has improved this year, the non-steal division, but Rondo had his way on Sunday. 13 points and 11 assists with just one turnovers in under 31 minutes. Kendrick Perkins(notes) also impressed with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks. OK, maybe he didn't "impress," but that's good, right? Kind of starting to expect 14, 13 and three rejections from him.

Eric Reid of the Miami play by play staff referred to Brian Scalabrine(notes) as "the former Net," which I suppose is like referring to Gerald Wallace(notes) as "the former King." It's been over five years, mate.

***

San Antonio 97, Philadelphia 89

Stay active, Sixers, but it's hardly going to matter if you don't make any shots.

Playing without Lou Williams, the 76ers just have too many possessions going to players who don't do much with those possessions. So you'll see Rodney Carney(notes) take 10 shots to score five points, Jrue Holliday take nine shots to score six points, and Willie Green(notes) take 17 to score 17.

This isn't to say that Green and Carney can't contribute, or that Holliday won't get better. But you will get as many games like this out of Green and Carney as you will 13-shot, 18-point outings. They're just inefficient players to the end, and yet their really only skill is shooting and trying to score.

Also, Jason Kapono(notes)? Stop taking those two-point leaners. You're not Rashard Lewis. You're not Peja Stojakovic(notes). You're that three-point shooter that you hate. Now, you might not like that image of yourself, but that's how you're going to help a team win.

The Spurs made 10 of 18 from behind the arc, and always seemed an extra pass away from a good look. Manu Ginobili(notes) had eight points and three turnovers in his first game back, Tim Duncan(notes) had five assists, three blocks, and 22 points in 30 minutes, Matt Bonner(notes) had 16 points on only eight shots (guess how, Jason?), and DaJuan Blair came through with the requisite two turnovers in 16 minutes, but also 11 points, 10 rebounds (seven offensive) and three blocks.

***

Sacramento 112, New Orleans 96

OK, I know that his team won, that he's squeezed quite a few wins out of the Kings this year, more than expected even with Kevin Martin(notes) in the lineup, and that Beno Udrih(notes) (seven points, one assist, one steal) came through with a nice third quarter after replacing Donte Greene(notes) a few minutes in, but how does Sacramento coach Paul Westphal sit Sergio Rodriguez(notes) for the entire third quarter?

How does he not play him alongside Udrih - as he did in Sacramento's 31-19 second quarter - after Rodriguez managed 11 points, three assists, and two steals in the second quarter? After he dominated the Hornets?

Tyreke Evans(notes), by the way, scored four points on three shots with one assist and three turnovers, and the Hornets outscored Sacramento by four.

Sergio Rodriguez, by the way, had 13 points and two assists in the fourth quarter, as the Kings pulled away.

Makes no sense.

Good win for Sacramento, overall. 24 points, five assists and zero turnovers for Sergio, the team did a passable job at limiting New Orleans penetration, and Jason Thompson(notes) stayed out of foul trouble. The result was a nice 22-point, 14-rebound affair with just two turnovers in over 45 minutes of play.

New Orleans played well enough to win offensively save for Marcus Thornton(notes), who missed 11 of 15 shots and didn't earn a free throw in 27 minutes of play. Sorry to single out the rookie, but he hurt the team on that end.

Also, Paul Westphal? Season ticket holders should charge you one dollar, per person, for every game that you continue to start Kenny Thomas(notes) (four fouls, two points, three rebounds in just under 20 minutes).

***

Houston 100, Oklahoma City 91

23 offensive boards for Houston in the win, they seemed quicker - geez, how many times am I going to write this in 2009-10? - to every loose ball, and stayed patient and active on the offensive end while trying to anticipate angles and look for the best shot possible.

In spite of Trevor Ariza(notes) (7-23 shooting, missing eight of nine from behind the arc) continually trying to shoot his team out of the game, the Rockets made up for his miscues and Luis Scola's(notes) absence (Scola was whacked in the face by Etan Thomas(notes) just 22 seconds into the game) by finding Carl Landry(notes) and David Andersen(notes) inside.

Aaron Brooks(notes) didn't rack up huge assists, but he was the difference while penetrating the Thunder D. Five steals and 22 points for Brooks, as well; Aaron also made all three of his long range attempts.

Too many three-point attempts went awry for Oklahoma City, they missed 14 of 15 overall with only Serge Ibaka(notes) (!) connecting. That's just too many possessions, in a game against any, to waste with nothing to show. Speaking of which, the 19 turnovers didn't help, nor did the 46-35 rebounding disadvantage.

***

Minnesota 106, Denver 100

I'd like to tell you that I though the Nuggets were going to win this game by 45, after that first quarter, and that I was shocked to see Minnesota come back.

I haven't really been impressed with the work Kurt Rambis has done this year, sadly, Al Jefferson(notes) hasn't been himself, too many crummy shooters are taking too many shots for the Timberwolves, while Kevin Love(notes) still has yet to play his first game. And yet, even with Denver up 40-25 after the first quarter, this still felt like it could turn into a game if Minnesota decided to make a stop or seven, and if Carmelo Anthony's(notes) shot dried up.

Rare occurrences, I submit, but Anthony shot 5-14 over the last three quarters (sitting out nearly nine minutes in the second quarter seemed to change things for him; toss in halftime, and he's essentially on the court for about three minutes spread out over 50 in real time), and the Nuggets scored just 60 points over the final 36 minutes.

Here's the difference for Minnesota, and why this is still a bad, bad team. Rodney Carney, Damien Wilkins(notes), and Corey Brewer(notes) combined to shoot 24 of 39 in the game, finishing with 58 points. 58 points on 39 shots.

Now, they came into that game averaging 25.6 shots per game, making about 9.9 of them. Scoring about 24.3 points per game. 39 shots to score 58 points, or 25.6 shots to score 24.3 points? Which one sustains?

Fine win for the Timberwolves, these are good guys and I'm glad they pulled out a conquest for the first time since the season's opening week, but I don't see J.R. Smith(notes) and Chauncey Billups(notes) combining to miss 10 of 12 three-pointers next time they play. Good defense, but you know how little this means.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 106, New Jersey 87

The New Jersey Nets are the worst team in the NBA. They have a couple of good-to-great players, but also are forced to give way too many rotation minutes (even with those good-to-great players healthy) to personnel that should be on the end of the bench, playing twice a week. Not starting. Not acting as the sixth or seventh or eighth men.

And the team is forced to bestow second or third-option status to players who just aren't meant for anything beyond a role as a rotation player.

Topping it all off, the team designed to lose as many games as possible this season then lost a good chunk of what was good about its rotation for most of the year. And because of that, they fired their ... coach? Why did they have to fire anyone? Weren't they supposed to lose?

I'm done. If you want anything else, read Dave D. As should be the case in every conceivable instance.

The Lakers pulled away early, using a 13-0 run in the first quarter to put the Nets away. Kobe Bryant(notes) had 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four turnovers, two steals and a block in under 29 minutes (you'll just have to guess how far under), Pau Gasol(notes) had 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and it could have been worse.

It's games like these - and not, luckily, against the great teams - where the Lakers look like they don't have enough shots to go around.

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