Ball Don't Lie - NBA

New Orleans 116, Los Angeles Lakers 105

Apologies for yet another CPnKobe picture, but I'm so deliriously smitten with the way both of these guys are playing right now. And the final seconds of the first half of this game kind of drove that home.

With about three seconds left in the half, Paul hit what felt like his 15th tough one-handed runner of the game. He could have mixed things up a bit more, gone to the pull-up jumper or completely drive to the front of the rim, maybe try and work the Tim Hardaway-type post-up game more; but he also knew that his best chance of scoring -- and his team's best chance of scoring -- was to go to the same, tough, shot over and over again. Not much for mixtapes, but it put his team ahead.

And then, with the seconds ticking down and after Paul had scored 21 first half points, Kobe pulls up for a line drive jumper from about 45 feet, which hit nothing but net (after going in the goal, it should be pointed out) as the buzzer sounds. It reminded of a shot Michael Jordan hit against Seattle in Kobe's rookie year, same spot, same type of shot, same type of arc, same result.

And you know Kobe's seen that shot. And you know he'd practiced it, endlessly. Not because he slavishly copies MJ. But because he slavishly copies the best of everyone. That's what makes him so brilliant.

There's no luck with Kobe, our game's hardest working player. Only smarts, and skill, and a willingness to learn, learn, learn. And there's no BS with CP. I'm just chuffed that I get to see them go at each other on an otherwise random Tuesday night.

The Hornets won once David West took over in the second half. The guy was unconscious from the floor, working around a hapless Pau Gasol and finishing with 40 points and 11 rebounds. Gasol worked his tail off, forcing West a step beyond where he usually likes to shoot from and usually preventing him from taking that three-quarter lefty drive, but West just had it on Tuesday. Tim Duncan wasn't stopping that.

Kobe got 39 of his own, but his teammates just couldn't match his production. Too many missed corner threes, too many transition looks that went awry, and the Lakers suffered a big blow when Lamar Odom (in the midst of a monster first half off the bench) sprained his right knee and had to leave the game. Cross your fingers, fans of good basketball.

Paul finished with 32 points, zero turnovers (not fair), three steals and 15 dimes, and he hooked up with West for the assist fewer times than you'd think. A lot of DW's work was off the face-up, with Paul cleared to the other side of the court.

Another key to the Hornets win was a sound bit of defense that didn't involve fouling, just 22 free throw attempts for the Lakers.

Orlando 89, Washington 80

Caron Butler looked really bad in the first half of this loss. Truly bad. Like, "he still must be injured"-bad. So when I clicked over in the third quarter, only to be told that Tough Juice was in the midst of what turned out to be a 21-point scoring quarter, it kind of took me by surprise. Then you remember that this is Caron Butler that we're dealing with, and it all kind of makes sense.

29 points for Butler, but the Magic were too good too early and too late. Hedo Turkoglu had one of the best games of his season thus far, with 22 points on 12 shots with three steals, seven assists, and zero turnovers. Dwight Howard caused more than a few poor Washington shot attempts despite registering only one block in the win, and though Jameer Nelson didn't shoot well (5-17), you had to like his aggression.

Philadelphia 104, Houston 96

Philly really seemed to have a hop in its step on Tuesday, the team appeared to be a step quicker in all areas, beating the Rockets to every loose ball, shooting 56 percent on the night.

Ron Artest sat for the Rockets, he's got a bum right ankle that would keep Tracy McGrady out until August, and though T-Mac registered nine assists, his laconic nature and 5-15 shooting had me a bit peeved considering the nonsense we saw over the weekend from the pseudo-All Star. The blogosphere should be focusing about a hundred percent of the enmity it's sent Kevin Garnett's way recently on someone who actually deserves it. This guy.

It was Philly's night, though. They won it more than the Rockets lost it. The team showcased the sort of fast break/refuse-to-shoot-outside-of-the-paint edge that we saw from them in 2007-08, and there's no reason this can't sustain once Elton Brand returns.

Chicago 99, Sacramento 94

Chicago beat Sacramento, a team coming in on the second night of a back-to-back that started in another time zone, by five on their home court. Yay.

Andres Nocioni got a haircut, needed 11 shots to score three points, and Kevin Martin tossed in 29 points on just 15 shots, while turning the ball over seven times. For further results, consult the back of your textbook.

Charlotte 114, Boston 106 (OT)

Not my favorite game.

It was nice to see the Bobcats take it to the defending champs, giving the home crowd a treat, but this wasn't the best game of the year, and Michael Jordan's presence on the Charlotte bench is beyond enervating. Just soul-crushing.

Jordan, and rightfully so, would destroy Jerry Krause for sticking his nose in the coaching staff's business. And while Jordan would seem to have more on-court wisdom to pass along to his players than a non-jock like Krause, I don't care. Jerry West wouldn't do that. Hell, Jerry West still stuck a little too close to the Lakers for Phil Jackson's taste.

Stay off the bench, hero. And stop showing up for the cameras at shootaround once every three weeks, because all it is doing is adding more credibility to the earned stereotype of Mike as the GM who wasn't there.

Michael Jordan is the reason I do what I do, but "pathetic" is the only word that comes to mind when I think of his time with the Bobcats. That's an easy, cop-out phrase that gets tossed about quite a bit, but it truly works in this instance. Across the board, pathetic.

His team played well, though. Moving the ball and nailing three-pointers, the Bobcats dished 25 assists on 38 made baskets and got to the line 34 times (making 31). Boston's perimeter D was pretty lousy, they just weren't getting out on shooters, and if you told me that Rajon Rondo turned the ball over 15 times in the loss I wouldn't be surprised.

He only turned it over nine times, but most were of a pretty shocking variety. That's not a young guard still learning the ropes. Those were turnovers that even a rookie neophyte like Jerryd Bayless or Russell Westbrook would be embarrassed to come through with. Bobcats rookie D.J. Augustin, it should be noted, had 20 points, five assists, and two turnovers in 35 minutes off the bench.

Charlotte has been playing Boston well for the last two seasons, so I'm not going to act as if this is the end of the Celtic dynasty, but the C's badly need to watch the turnovers.

The defense? You know, when you're the best in the league at it and teams are gunning for you every night, you're bound to give up a few 7-16 nights from behind the arc. That, I can live with, because it won't sustain.

The turnovers, however, have been a huge problem both this season and last. Something has to change.

Oklahoma City 107, New York 99

You know, the Knicks try, and I know that alone isn't supposed to earn you full credit, but they're just so damn short. Sometimes they match up against the wrong (for New York) batch of opponents who seem to realize, all at once, "we can really see the rim very well from here," and shoot accordingly.

The Thunder stormed (I just wrote that, I didn't even think about it ... I think the BtB wheels have come off) to an early lead with some sound ball movement and plenty of aggression. Good aggression, getting into lanes, making the extra pass, and finishing well. Kevin Durant had 27 points on 16 shots, with 12 rebounds, and Jeff Green scored 27 of his own. A sneaky 27, if I'm honest. Didn't know it was happening until I was told.

Also, Russell Westbrook ... 22 points, nine assists, six boards, four turnovers, not bad. Again, lots of aggression. The Thunder looked great, New York came back for a spell during the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma City is playing some really good basketball of late, and it's been truly fun to watch.

Minnesota 94, Memphis 87

Memphis falls back to earth a bit, and while I know O.J. Mayo was due to fall back with his shooting percentages (7-18 on Tuesday, 2-7 from long range), you'd still like to see some better decision-making against a Timberwolves team that is just dying to be beat by 20.

But the Wolves won, again, with Randy Foye pull out one of those tri-monthly bouts of awesome: 23 points on 13 shots, one turnover. Working off the ball, Foye looked downright passable, while Sebastian Telfair (now starting) ran a great floor game, finishing with nine assists.

A Telfair-like night from Kyle Lowry or Mike Conley probably would have given the Grizz a win, but them's the flow, and the ball never seemed to end up in the right place for Memphis on Tuesday.

Dallas 107, Los Angeles Clippers 102

It seems, to me at least, that the Clippers and the Mavericks have played each other about 32 times this season. I might be wrong about that, but after Dallas threw in 37 first quarter points against a Clipper team playing without 14 of its best 15 players, this one kind of got away from me. There were a ton of other games either finishing up or hitting the stretch run, and I didn't really watch much of this.

The Clippers came back, apparently. Eric Gordon continued his strong play, sitting for just over two minutes and scoring 32 points before fouling out. Al Thornton scored 25 points rather inefficiently (24 shots), and where would the Clippers be without Brian Skinner?

Another night of bad guard play from the Mavs, and this time Jason Terry wasn't immune. JET missed eight of 10 shots from the floor, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea combined to shoot 3-13, and the Mavs were beaten on the boards 47-37.

I love that Dirk Nowitzki (34 points) is still winning games for them, but he pulled in just four caroms, two days after pulling in three rebounds, and four days after pulling in four rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki's New Year's resolution is to play more like Eddy Curry.

Or Skeets. Burn.

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