Ball Don't Lie - NBA

New Jersey 90, San Antonio 84

I'm rightly chuffed about this, and I think you should be, too. New Jersey will not break or tie the record for most losses in an NBA season.

The Nets are a terrible basketball team. A squad that has had to deal with injuries and a rebuilding year and circumstances they truly have no control over. This should be a team that struggles just to stay within 20, every night.

But every NBA season sees a couple of those teams, and those teams always seem to find their way into, usually, at least 15 wins. Maybe less, but usually more.

For some reason, the Nets never backed into those accidental wins that other teams seem to come by. Those forgettable (if not forgiveable) losses that other teams seem to come through with during the drudgery of an 82-game season. Sometimes, these W's just happen.

They never seemed to happen this season for the Nets, though. Even as the team won its 10th, you still got the feeling they should have won more. I guess they'll have a chance to win more, because they still have two weeks to play. Two more weeks of the Izod Center, people! Getcha popcorn!

The game? Your assumption is probably correct. It was pretty fun to watch, but it wasn't the greatest thing. The Spurs were clearly tired, a lot of those jumpers were short rimmed, the bank wasn't open, all that. San Antonio actually gave up the baseline, and as a result, the baseline 3-pointer a few times defensively. That's their play.

The Nets played better, and they got an older team on the second night of a back-to-back. This was the sort of win they should have picked a few more times this season, but didn't for whatever reason. Now, both in this game and in the record books, they just get to be like every other crummy team. And that's an accomplishment. No records, this year. And good for them.

Brook Lopez(notes) had 22 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers in the win. He was terrific on the other end, as well. And all season. The guy deserved better, in his second year, but hopefully you've noticed how sturdy this future star has been.

***

Toronto 103, Charlotte 101

The Bobcats really looked fractured in this loss.

They were complaining to the refs, legitimate complaints, they were breaking plays, giving up too much defensively, and generally acting a bit scary as they enter their first postseason.

The problem with that, is that this won't be the team's players' first postseason. Gerald Wallace(notes) might be a neophyte, playoffs minutes-wise, but he was the only guy really bringing it on both ends Monday night. Stephen Jackson(notes), Boris Diaw(notes), Tyson Chandler(notes) and Larry Hughes(notes) have extensive playoff experience, and they were all acting a bit daffy in this loss.

The Raptors had 31 fourth quarter points, 117 points per 100 possessions, and that's just a ton for Charlotte to give up to any team, especially at home. Credit the Raptors for staying within their offense, 22 and 11 for Chris Bosh(notes), Hedo Turkoglu(notes) and Andrea Bargnani(notes) combined to hit 6-of-11 from the 3-point line, and the Raps are a full game ahead of Chicago in the playoffs standings.

***

New Orleans 108, Los Angeles Lakers 100

Faced with yet another team that was looking forward to this game more than any other game they've played all year (as defending champs should probably expect, you know, in game 74), the Lakers phoned it in against the Hornets. And because this is the NBA and just about everyone is good, the Lakers were caught with the L.

Terrible defense, poor perimeter decisions for the Lakers, who missed 22 of 29 3-pointers and shouldn't have been taking anywhere near that many with Pau Gasol(notes) on the floor. Gasol and Kobe Bryant(notes) combined to shoot 21 of 39, but the rest of the squad shot just 32 percent while offering pretty pitiful defense.

Not to discredit the Hornets, but you have to go with the "man bites dog"-stuff, first. The Hornets made quick decisions with the ball, they never let up offensively, and ended up dropping over 121 points per 100 possessions in the game. This against a Laker team that was consistently in the top three in defensive efficiency for the first four months of the season.

Not currently, mind you. The Lakers have been dropping a bit, though it perked up over last week, now they're fourth and in danger of falling further. And, sure, the overall offense was good on Monday thanks to Pau and Kobe, but I don't trust Kobe and Derek Fisher(notes) making the right decisions in that offense at all, sadly, to say nothing of people like Ron Artest(notes) or Shannon Brown(notes). Kobe and Derek are the guys who are supposed to get it. Not shoot 12 3-pointers (making three) between them.

Chris Paul(notes) dashed his way to 15 and 13, David West(notes) got his typical 20, James Posey(notes) is still alive and hit three 3-pointers, while rookies Marcus Thornton(notes) and Darren Collison(notes) combined for 35 points. That'll work.

Fantastic win for the Hornets. Something to reflect upon as the team attempts to figure quite a bit out this summer.

***

Dallas 109, Denver 93

Listen, the Nuggets aren't going to win many (any?) games with Chauncey Billups(notes) and Carmelo Anthony(notes) combining to shoot 6-for-30, least of all a game against Dallas, in Dallas. But that doesn't excuse this team's poor defense, the bad rotations, and what you could only assume was bad on-court communication. I'm looking forward to watching this one again, let's just put it that way.

As mentioned, Billups and Anthony missed 11 and 13 shots, respectively, with Shawn Marion(notes) using his length and Anthony's impatience to his favor. And, as you may have seen, Dirk Nowitzki(notes) just picked the Nuggies apart.

He missed 10 of 17 shots from the floor, but he made 4-5 3-pointers, 16 free throws in 17 attempts, and consistently found teammates with what were good assists. Ten of them, alongside 10 boards (Dirk had just 12 double-figure rebound games entering March, and he has five double-figure nights in March alone), and 34 points.

The Mavericks made 12-of-22 3-pointers, and it's become clear that the second seed in the West will either go to Dallas or Utah (a half game in back of Dallas) this season.

***

Utah 103, New York 98

Both of these teams came out white-hot to start the game, the score after one quarter saw Utah with 44 points and the Knicks with 30, and the Jazz came back to earth soon after. Kind of expected the Knicks to, as well, I'm guessing. New York wasn't into that.

The Knicks hit tough shots. Utah wasn't playing its best defense, but the Knicks were playing quite well offensively, attacking and executing very well. It was cool to see this team give a fight when it didn't have to -- I know these are millionaires and all that noise, but the Knicks are now officially out of the playoffs, and they're on the road playing a team that will own its (likely) top 10 draft pick next season because of a trade made over six years ago.

New York got more and more three-point happy as the second half moved along, the Jazz D picked up, and natural order was restored. But not before Al Harrington(notes) and David Lee(notes) finished well, Tracy McGrady(notes) had a nice reverse, and the Knicks gave Utah a little scare.

Even after a game like this, Utah should be giving the rest of the league a scare. It's just a game down of Dallas for that second seed, and as much as I dig the Mavs, I think they're the better team.

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