Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Los Angeles Lakers 108, Chicago 93

Joakim Noah(notes):

"To me, the most amazing thing about it is you're out there competing hard, and these guys are hardly breaking a sweat because they're so comfortable running their offense. They look like it's very easy."

Does the talent help? Of course. Have I seen bench units dominate starting units using the triangle offense, without breaking much of a sweat? You bet.

It's the system. And the system is what sets Los Angeles apart. You try stopping a play, mon frère, when there is no play.

The Lakers just dominated Chicago in this win. They moved the ball, attacked the offensive glass, used superior spacing, and saved the real effort for the defensive end. Which, as you've probably realized by now, isn't really needed for a team like the Bulls.

97 points per 100 possessions for Chicago, which is reallyreallyreally bad, but it felt like a proper extension. Meanwhile, the Lakers just moved the ball and finished around the rim when it could.

Which is why someone like Pau Gasol(notes) could come through with 24 points and 13 rebounds in his first game back. Was he foaming at the mouth? Was he slapping the backboard, trying to make a point?

No, he just filled in the open spaces. That's what all the Lakers do, if their heads are on straight. And this is what takes them heads-on-straight and shoulders above the rest.

This was a practice, for Los Angeles. They killed Chicago on the offensive glass to start (Taj Gibson(notes) finished with seven rebounds in 18 minutes, but he was pretty bad to start the game), they moved the ball, and they closed out on shooters and obvious VDN-styled "plays." Chicago's defense tried, but these are the Lakers. They're better than you.

12 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, four turnovers, four steals, and two blocks for Joakim Noah. The guy never gives up. And Derrick Rose's(notes) touch - if not his hops and strength and quickness - returned for that second half. Doesn't matter. The Bulls are the Bobcats, offensively, plus way too much hype.

You can't hype the Lakers enough. Go ahead. Try. I'll nod along.

***

New Orleans 110, Phoenix 103

This game was on national TV, a lot of you saw it - did anyone get the feeling that the Phoenix Suns couldn't give a rat's tail about this potential win?

Maybe it was the low-level decibel meter on the Hornets' home floor, maybe it was Kevin Harlan's Lawrence Tanter impersonation, and maybe it was the too-obvious storyline (revenge-seeking Hornets toss out well-meaning rookies looking to do well for the man who drafted them), but this whole game was a snooze.

And it shouldn't have been, but there were so many missed defensive chances by the Suns, that it just felt like a walk-through.

Apologies for demeaning the Hornets, there is enough talent on this roster to beat a team like the Suns at home even without Chris Paul(notes), but I can't help but get the feeling they had help.

That said, let's appreciate the aggressive tone.

Emeka Okafor(notes) (13 and 12) had seven offensive rebounds. Darren Collison(notes) needed 15 shots to score 15 points, but he also penetrated the defense and had five assists. David West(notes) scored only six points, and yet Peja Stojakovic(notes) (as we've seen several times this year) went off due to truly porous and inattentive defense.

25 points for Peja, who continually lost Grant Hill(notes) and others, which makes no sense. All you have to do is stay with him. Don't help on penetration, don't help on screen and roll, don't help on an extra pass. Stay with Peja, and he's useless.

But he wasn't, because (as we've seen several times this year), once Peja gets a few open looks, everything else seems to open up.

13 rebounds, for Stojakovic? Can't explain that. Grant?

The Suns? They gave up nearly 120 points per 100 to a team without an MVP-level star, and with David West scoring six points. Phoenix really could have run away with this one, and we really should be worried about this team's defense. It's worse than it was during D'Antoni's run, not as bad as it was late last year, but pretty terrible overall.

Quote:

"Darren and Marcus [Thornton] -- I don't know what to say about those kids," Peja Stojakovic said.

Can't blame you. Byron Scott couldn't even remember their last names.

***

Utah 90, San Antonio 83

It should be brought up, again and again and again. San Antonio is missing its second and third-best players. And unlike any other time in Tim Duncan's(notes) career, save for his rookie season, there isn't that much of a gulf between TD and the second, or third-best players. This isn't like LeBron James(notes) missing Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and Mo Williams(notes).

But, for the second night in a row, the Spurs hung tough. They turned the ball over too much early on, which didn't exactly them in, but the night still ended with San Antonio relying on players that weren't meant to have a huge rotation impact in 2009-10.

So, George Hill(notes) took another batch of big shots. I want to be high on George Hill, but he's gone up against some pretty poor defensive backcourts over the last two days, and he's averaged 16.5 points on 16 shots, with three assists per game, 1.5 rebounds, one turnover, and 11 total fouls. This guy is 23. There's room to grow, but this sort of production doesn't scream second coming.

The Jazz, meanwhile, found the people that were meant to flash to the ball, they finished properly, and while the defense wasn't great, you never got the sniff that the Spurs were in charge. Even entering that fourth quarter with a tied game.

Carlos Boozer(notes) took care of business offensively in the fourth quarter (that guy, I'm sorry, he still does some stuff defensively that is just ... odd), Paul Millsap(notes) had 20 points off the bench, and Andrei Kirilenko(notes) continues to look comfortable. Which makes me quite comfortable.

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