Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Orlando 99, Charlotte 90
; Orlando wins the series, 4-0

I've spent quite a lot of time and way too many words that you'll never see trying to get to a clear and concise point. And instead of wasting all that time, I just should have mentioned the point.

Be afraid of the Orlando Magic.

I don't care how impotent Vince Carter looked, or how skittish Dwight Howard looked in this first round series. These were the Charlotte Bobcats that the Magic just swept; and the Bobcats - pardon me - are a bitch to deal with. Cleveland would not have swept. The Lakers wouldn't even have won. The Magic took them down in four games.

Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson? They're starting to get it.

Nelson tried to dominate the series, and Lewis started to treat himself as the nine-figure contract that he is, instead of a Matt Bonner-type. He actually took contested three-pointers, instead of waiting to launch wide open. And he should, which is sort of the point, because it's an effective shot that kills the opposing team. Lewis needs to continue hoisting, even with a hand in his face.

Jameer appears to have the right attitude, trying to attack as his teammates fell short, and nearly 24 points per game on 48 percent shooting against the Bobcats? Against the best, statistical, defensive team in the NBA? Righteous. And what we've been waiting for. Again, if Nelson were on a crummy team, we'd be rightfully terming him a B-level version of Deron Williams.

We went over the Bobcats earlier today, but what stood out to most was the team's unwillingness to drive to the hoop with Dwight Howard out with foul trouble. Well, were these people aware of the 7-foot athlete that tended to check into the center position with Dwight on the bench?

Did they see Marcin Gortat roaming and covering and changing things? The guy had two blocks in 86 minutes all series, and yet he patrolled that middle in a way that Howard could not. Dwight worked hard, and in spite of all the iffy calls that didn't go his way, he fouled a ton. Gortat contested without earning whistles.

The bottom line? This team lost its MVP candidate, and didn't miss a beat.

If Lewis and Nelson continue to play like this, and Howard and Carter return to the mean, the Magic are winning a championship this season.

***

Milwaukee 111, Atlanta 104; series tied, 2-2

The stereotype is true, and you can't make me believe otherwise. The tipping point? Charles Barkley is onto it. When he wakes up, you're nicked.

The Hawks can't win on the road, and nothing short of a second round ouster of the Orlando Magic would change my mind. Otherwise, as fantastic as this group looked in two games in Atlanta last week, you shouldn't be expecting much from the Hawks. Pity, because this team still has loads of potential.

That said, they've had three postseasons to figure this out, and they can't get to the bottom of discovering what it takes to compete on the road. Josh Smith, on Monday night, was the most egregious example. How he wasn't tossed from the game is beyond me. A couple of calls didn't go his way - some were bum whistles, some weren't - and he absolutely folded emotionally.

Milwaukee hit some tough shots, Carlos Delfino had the answer in the first half while Brandon Jennings had the left-handed answer in the second half, and the Hawks were done. Atlanta made it close, but they should be beyond making it close, at this point. Especially (here it comes) against a Bucks team playing without Andrew Bogut.

127-plus points per 100 possessions for Milwaukee, and this was a Bucks team that registered in the 80s a bunch of times during the regular season. These were tough shots, at times, but the Hawks should be defending much better than this.

Of course, they'll win by 20 in Atlanta on Wednesday, but what's the point? When does this team figure it out?

Severely disappointed in these Hawks.

***


Phoenix 107, Portland 88
; Phoenix leads the series, 3-2

Portland, as we felt in Games 2 and 3, just couldn't keep it up.

It had a hard time coming through with quality possessions offensively, and keeping up offensively was the only way Portland was going to win this series, because they're not a good defensively team. Phoenix missed shots in Game 3, but you knew right away that was an aberration.

And with Portland struggling to score (after a hot start that most of us missed because TNT refuses to put the beginning of overlapping games on TBS, as it used to), the Suns could run and when the Suns can run the fun is done for Portland.

This was a really, really, really slow game. There were just 83 possessions in the contest, which is nearly five fewer than the Blazers averaged during the regular season, and Portland was the slowest team in the NBA this year. It was just that Portland would take the life out of the ball on its own offensive end - several 24 second clock violations were committed - and the Suns just ran like hell once it got a stop (assuming it wasn't stopped by the 24 second buzzer).

So Phoenix had the game running at its own pace, even if that pace was about 12 possessions fewer than what it averaged during the regular season. Weird game, this.

39 combined points for Channing Frye and Jared Dudley; and I'd watch out for Grant Hill if I were the Blazers. He seemed pretty ticked off at his Game 5 performance, even with the win.

I'd watch out for the Suns, league, while we're at it.

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