Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Phoenix 116, San Antonio 104

It was borderline shocking to watch the San Antonio Spurs play as if they'd never seen a pick and roll in their lives. As if they hadn't make a habit of shutting down that go-to play (or, at least, putting into a sometimes-workable box that they could deal with overall) for the better part of a decade.

But there the Suns were, just shooting over the top of San Antonio, especially in that first half.

Channing Frye(notes) gets a pair of three-pointers because Manu Ginobili(notes) fakes help but then decides to not leave Grant Hill(notes) at the top of the three-point arc (wha?). Tim Duncan(notes) doesn't show properly on Steve Nash(notes). George Hill(notes) doesn't fight through anything. The Suns, as brilliant as they are, against the Spurs (who I know have been pretty average this year defensively), drop 67 first half points.

Now, my jaw dropped when I found out the Pacers nearly did that to the Wizards over the weekend. But the Suns to the Spurs?

San Antonio was actually down 20 points a few minutes into the third quarter when coach Gregg Popovich pulled his entire starting lineup save Tim Duncan, and though replacements Hill, Ginobili, and Matt Bonner(notes) struggled in the first half, the lineup (with Roger Mason(notes) Jr., who did not struggle in the first half, nor in the second) actually got it down to a five point game entering the fourth quarter.

Popovich's offense failed him after that, despite the coach desperately working to find a lineup that flowed. Just 20 points in the final 12 minutes, a killer against a team like Phoenix.

25 points, 13 assists, and six turnovers for Nash. Goran Dragic(notes) has perfected that corner three-pointer and managed 19 off the bench. Frye had 15 on 10 shots. Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) managed 28 and 14 with three steals and turned the ball over just once in over 41 minutes.

***

Portland 99, Sacramento 89

All sorts of impressive from LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) in this win.

He scored 29 points, 19 of them in the second half, on a number of different moves and feints. Used to that. Fantastic offensive player.

It was the drive, though, that had him putting it down in the second half that had me happy. Better? Five assists, for one of the least-willing post passers in the game (that isn't to say he's selfish, so stop it, that's just to say he thinks himself out of passing or handing the ball off quite a bit), and nine rebounds in what was a pretty slow (85 possessions) game.

Then there was Brandon Roy(notes) dropping 25 with 10 assists (five boards, five turnovers), and that's about all Portland had.

OK, that's too easy. Jerryd Bayless(notes) had another good, quick game with 14 points in 24 minutes off the bench,

Perhaps Sacramento's shot allotment (Andres Nocioni(notes) and Donte Green combined to miss 12 of 17 attempts from the field) could be tweaked. They need to find a better way to clear obvious lanes for a rookie like Tyreke Evans(notes) when opponents overplay. This sort of thing won't come naturally to Evans, because he's never had to read NBA defenses before. The team and the coaching staff have to help with this.

Also, I'd like to only briefly mention LMA's sore ankle, if I could. The thought of another Blazer going down, for any stretch, is just numbing at this point.

***

Cleveland 99, New Jersey 89

The team made a lot of shots, but man did these Cavaliers look out of sorts in this win. A step-slow defensively on seemingly every other play, and too many turnovers.

This is all relative, though. The Cavs turned it over on 17 percent of its possessions, which isn't the end of the world; and while New Jersey's 89 points in a slow game might deceive (it was about 109 points per 100 possessions, which would rank them about ninth in the NBA overall, up from the team's 30th ranking), it wasn't as if the Nets were matching Cleveland shot for shot.

For the whole game, at least. Just an odd night, but one with a clear victor. That's what I attempted to get at, like, six or seven times there.

Over 58 percent shooting for Cleveland, who took in a pair of 7-9 shooting nights from Shaq and Big Z, and 13 points on eight shots from Mo Williams(notes). Good thing, because the Cavs were off from behind the arc (30.8 shooting) and at the line (missing 10 of 27), along with those 14 turnovers.

But LeBron James(notes) took over down the stretch, finishing with 23 points, six boards, seven assists, six turnovers, and two steals. Those six turnovers look even worse when you factor in how slow this game was, by the way.

Rafer Alston(notes) had one of his once-a-month games with 4-7 shooting from long range and 20 points overall, while Brook Lopez(notes) tried his best with 22 and 15. The Nets just didn't have the firepower to keep it up, especially with Devin Harris(notes) struggling (22 points on 18 shots, as many assists as turnovers) and then ejected (he didn't mean to grab Jamario Moon(notes) by the neck and head, but it happened, and you have to excuse a player from the proceedings when that happens).

***

Charlotte 94, New York 87

For formatting reasons, we have to start with this point.

Fantastic all-around game from Gerald Wallace(notes) - 21 points on 14 shots, eight rebounds, five assists, three turnovers and four steals. Also, in deciding to slam GW's presence on the top rebounders board (for whatever reason), NBA TV's Chris Webber(notes) decided to call Dennis Rodman "6-9," which leaves him off by about three inches.

Mind you, Chris Webber has alternately been listed at 6-10 and 6-9.

Knicks/Bobcats? Just a terrible basketball game.

There were nice signs. It was good to see the Bobcats continue to compete under Larry Brown, but LB's team was only really in it for the final quarter. The Knicks rarely seemed to give a rip. It's a cliché to toss out, but it really did feel like nobody wanted this game for the first three quarters. And I had to talk myself into flipping back to it every time.

37 turnovers, all day, for both teams. Both outfits combined to shoot 10-40 from three-point land, with the "40" (and not the 30 misses) being the most damning part. Stop shooting, please.

Stephen Jackson(notes) overcame a poor shooting start to score nine in the fourth, with a rebound, a steal, and three turnovers. Raymond Felton(notes) had six in the final frame along with three assists, including two key lay-ins late. The Knicks just struggled as a series of free agents to-be couldn't hit shots, scoring only 13 in the final period.

***

Miami 115, Toronto 95

It's a simple game at times. And when the Toronto Raptors aren't hitting consistent jump shots, the team will struggle even against middling outfits like Miami. And until the Raptors stop playing historically-bad defense, they won't just struggle, they'll be blown out.

That was the case on Tuesday, as Toronto's offense fell flat (100 points per 100 possessions, no good). Marco Belinelli(notes) missed all seven of his attempts from the floor. Hedo Turkoglu(notes) missed eight of 11, including three of four from long range (the Raptors were 2-11 overall from out there), and while a guy like Andrea Bargnani(notes) hit a good percentage (6-13 from the floor), it hardly matters when he's only nailing two-pointers and not getting to the line (2-2) much.

Toss in a pathetic backcourt extravaganza (3-12 shooting from Jarrett Jack(notes) and DeMar DeRozan(notes)), with Jack playing the anti-Jose Calderon(notes) offensively (one assist, five turnovers), and you have all the makings.

Toronto's defense didn't "fall" at all. They can't guard anyone. Couldn't guard Michael Beasley(notes), who swooped his way to 28 points with 11 rebounds, letting a so-so team overall dominate them on the glass (especially the offensive glass) and shoot over 51 percent.

Pointed, enthused work from the Heat tonight. Good to see. Not sure why Carlos Arroyo(notes) went nearly from the waiver wire to starting, but it worked.

Oh, and Beasley?

"I think it's been long enough for me playing average. I'm just kind of mad at myself for not stepping out of the box. I'm kind of angry right now."

Love to hear that. More, please.

***

Houston 107, Detroit 96

The signs were there in the preseason, and thankfully they've sustained - Chase Budinger(notes) is going to be a fantastic player.

16 points and 12 rebounds, five assists, in his first NBA start, replacing Trevor (16.7 shots to score 17 points per game) Ariza in the starting lineup after Ariza's one game suspension.

Houston got out to an early lead and just held serve by playing good enough defense, keeping things even on the glass (not the easiest thing to do against Detroit), and getting to the line constantly while holding Detroit (San Antonio-style) to just 13 attempts (eight makes).

23 points and 10 assists for Aaron Brooks(notes), 19 points off the bench for Carl Landry(notes), 23 and eight rebounds for Luis Scola(notes).

Tracy McGrady(notes) played in the first quarter, oddly looking more out of shape than we saw him a month ago, and lofted a 20-footer that missed and a three-pointer that went in. If he's helping any team this year, it will be because he gets hot on somewhat contested shots from far, far away. He's not going to be getting to the line much, or driving. This isn't something that helps offenses, by the way.

The man worked his butt off and deserves credit for getting back this early. In his eyes, he could have played a few weeks ago, and that's after a surgery that would usually wipe out the entire 2009-10 season for most. But I can't help but be honest.

Rodney Stuckey(notes) missed 17 of 24 shots, and the Pistons missed 17 of 21 three-pointers overall.

***

Los Angeles Lakers 96, Chicago 87

An odd game. The Bulls kept up their usual batch of "no chance in hell" offensive play, but for long stretches the Lakers decided not to defend, so Chicago stayed close or even in the lead. But overall, the Bulls turned in an absolutely pathetic performance on that end, registering just 93.5 points per 100 possessions, which is far below even Chicago's awful mark of 98 per 100 (good for 28th in the NBA).

It was the defense that improved, slightly, for Chicago. They're a long, smart team defensively and it actually played like it for the first time in over a month. Of course, this barely bothered the Lakers, who were potent enough when they settled down, and always had Kobe and his fadeaways (which I hate to see, but they were going in) to fall back on.

42 points for Kobe. He hit a great percentage from the floor and got to the line 15 times. KB went off early, shooting well with a few bad shots that went in, and usually this could be a recipe for disaster for Los Angeles. But because the defense is so much better this year, the team was able to glide along, even if the Kobester was a little four-fingered (he had six turnovers over the final three quarters, eight overall).

Chicago? Jannero Pargo(notes) took one of the worst basketball shots I've ever seen at one point, dribbling several times and pulling up for a contested fadeaway 21-footer with 10 seconds on the shot clock. Derrick Rose(notes) scored 21 points, but when all you shoot are two-pointers and you don't get to the line much, that's a bad night. 9-22 shooting for what has turned into a mini-Ron Mercer.

Luol Deng(notes) was a little better (20 shots to score 21 points), and while you might freak out over Joakim Noah's(notes) 4-16 shooting, don't.

Offensive tip-ins count as shot attempts, and Noah had 14 offensive rebounds (20 total). He was all alone in that paint, among the Laker trees, somehow getting a hand on caroms and trying to tip it in. They just weren't falling.

11 points, six blocks, two assists, three turnovers, and two steals for Noah.

Heads-up: BDL Live Chat! this afternoon at 3 p.m., Eastern.

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