Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Orlando 109, Indiana 98

Indiana might be the worst first quarter team I've ever seen. It probably shouldn't even be close, the team's initial effort continues to boggle, but I'm hedging by statement just in case there was some random team with a -15 average in the first quarter from a few years ago that I've forgotten. As it stands right now, the Pacers consistently shoot themselves in the foot over and over with miserable first quarter defense.

40 first quarter points for the Magic, who were hitting some tough shots, but also hitting some open shots, and always with the angry shots. Dwight Howard(notes) was hitting his free throws, and he was clearly out to settle a score with Roy Hibbert(notes), who tossed in (actually tossing in) 26 points when they met a few weeks ago.

Howard categorized Hibbert's career night as a fluke following this game, but it wasn't. Hibbert's style may be a little old-fashioned, but he's a fine scoring center, and Howard was just beat. Not on Wednesday, as an inspired Howard went out of his way to make for a miserable night (three points, three rebounds, four fouls in 18 minutes).

Orlando went cold to start the fourth quarter, allowing the Pacers to make a closer game of it, but there was no way Indiana was climbing out of that hole.

***

Dallas 94, Washington 93

The Mavericks overcame another rough night from behind the arc — Jason Kidd(notes) and Jose Juan Barea(notes) combine to miss 10 of 11 from long range - and pull out yet another close win.

A competitive game throughout, but Dallas has enjoyed a throwback couple of days from Shawn Marion(notes), and Dirk Nowitzki(notes) kept it up with 28 points on 19 shots.

He may have played some lockdown defense that I didn't see, but I don't how DeShawn Stevenson(notes) (zero points in 16 minutes, two turnovers, -12) is helping the Wizards at this point.

***

Phoenix 118, New Jersey 94

Teams just get up for the Nets. They either start off strong and create the blowout in the first quarter, or they eventually ward off New Jersey's attempts at winning when the Netsies offer up that rare, effort-filled start to the game.

New Jersey hung with the Suns for a while, taking advantage of Phoenix's iffy defense to nearly match the Suns shot for shot in the first two quarters, but there were signs that the Suns were going to pull away. Mainly because they're a better basketball team that is more adept at making basketball shots.

A focused Jason Richardson(notes) had 26 points, seven rebounds, and zero turnovers in 28 minutes of bench work. Steve Nash(notes) dished 15 assists, and Robin Lopez(notes) had a nice night with 20 points and seven boards. Still outplayed by Brook, though, who contributed 26 points and 13 rebounds.

Jarvis Hayes(notes) had 11 points on 11 shots for New Jersey, because that's what Jarvis Hayes does.

***

Charlotte 104, Miami 65

What sort of game was it, Kelly?

Well, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called three timeouts in the first quarter alone. The Bobcats turned it over on 22 percent of their possessions and still won by 39 points, and Dwyane Wade(notes) looked like he was ready to stab a man. Several men.

Charlotte's defense was superb, and active, but Raymond Felton(notes) and Stephen Jackson(notes) also brought the offense in this win. The Heat had no answer for Felton, oddly, and Jackson owned Wade on either side of the court.

28.9 percent shooting for the Heat. And it looked that way. Frighteningly impotent performance.

***

Atlanta 108, Sacramento 97

The Hawks looked bigger and tougher than the Kings on Wednesday, keeping Sacramento at bay with timely shooting and an edge on the glass.

Jamal Crawford(notes) tossed in 20 bench points, and the Hawks just got to the line and got in the paint incessantly enough to keep the Kings at arm's length.

***

Portland 98, Philadelphia 90

Portland only turned it over seven times — Andre Miller(notes) and Rudy Fernandez(notes) combined for six of those miscues — and when the 76ers can't cause turnovers, the Philadelphia "defense" is in deep trouble.

This allowed Portland to put up 118 points per 100 possessions, a pretty remarkable feat considering that Brandon Roy(notes) played only 18 minutes (scoring 10 points) before leaving due to that bum hamstring. Jerryd Bayless(notes) filled in well for Roy, contributing 18 points in 21 minutes, and the 76ers just couldn't get the stops they needed to in order to mount a comeback in what was a very dull game.

***

Detroit 92, Boston 86

For the second game in a row, the Celtics didn't have the patience or interest offensively to work through the team's sets, and pull out a win. Detroit's zone defense made life miserable for the Celtics, but these things can be overcome through hard work and exacting play. Boston just wasn't interested.

Good for the Pistons, who got after this one and hit the late shots (Charlie Villanueva(notes) especially) needed to pull out the W. Rip Hamilton (eight turnovers, 4-11 shooting) and Ray Allen(notes) (five turnovers, 3-10 shooting) traded off crummy nights, but the Pistons were in complete control of this one down the stretch.

***

Oklahoma City 94, Minnesota 92

The Timberwolves are getting better.

I realize that a close loss at home to a team like the Thunder shouldn't really count as a moral victory, and I won't pass it off as such. But the team is looking better, even if it still seems to luck into good shots offensively off of too many broken plays.

Corey Brewer(notes) — and I'm aware I keep prattling on about the losing team — was fantastic. 25 points, six assists, five steals, and he played fantastic (if not effective) defense on Kevin Durant(notes). Because Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant, however, Kevin Durant still put up 31 points on 18 shots, adding a needed 10 rebounds.

Great win for the Thunder, who hit the offensive glass and doubled Minnesota up at the free throw line. Russell Westbrook(notes) is having a rough few days (he's seven for his last 25 from the floor, and has averaged 9.7 assists and 5.7 turnovers over his last three games), but the Thunder have already topped last season's win total.

***

New Orleans 113, Memphis 111

The Grizz let one slip away. See what you've done, Memphis? Build our expectations up, blow a late lead, get the hook in the next day's BtB. And I'm sure you're all reading.

The Hornets won another close one mainly because slippery Chris Paul(notes) was unstoppable down the stretch, managing 12 points and four assists in the fourth quarter. A late double-team on CP3 allowed James Posey(notes) to sneak in for a game-winning lay-in, and the Grizz had to be frustrated with the defense late.

Or, all season.

We love Memphis, but you can't let a team like New Orleans put up over 121 points per 100 possessions. Zach Randolph(notes) had 25 and 12 in the losing effort, and while Rudy Gay(notes) had 26 points, he pulled in only three rebounds.

***

Utah 105, San Antonio 98

I hate whittling it down to this because it seems like lazy analysis, but the Jazz won this game because they were willing to consistently work harder than the Spurs. The Jazz took better care of their possessions on both ends, and though there were some iffy moments (Andrei Kirilenko(notes) took a lot of shots he shouldn't take, and they went in; Carlos Boozer(notes) was nearly called for about 17 travels), the Jazz truly earned this W.

That's the second time I've written "W" instead of "win." Now that's lazy analysis.

Just 11 turnovers (a Spurs hallmark, not forcing TOs) and 28 made free-throws (not a Spurs trademark, they usually don't foul) for Utah. Carlos Boozer had 31 and 13 rebounds (and five of those 11 turnovers), while AK put up 26.

Due to some attempted tip-ins, Tim Duncan's 5-15 night looks pretty bad, but I just look at the rest of the box score and see missed shot after missed shot that could have gone to Duncan instead. Manu Ginobili was nice with 22 points and eight assists off the bench, but the Spurs just didn't have the concentration to win this, as the Jazz swept the four-game season series.

***

Milwaukee 113, Toronto 107

"Why in the world aren't the Raptors going to Chris Bosh?" asked Bucks color man Jon McGlocklin. I don't know, Jon McGlocklin. I don't know.

Bosh had 44 points, a fantastic showing, but too often down the stretch the Raptors looked the other way, for reasons that make no sense to me. Sure, mix it up, keep the D on its heels, use the big fella as a decoy, but ... no. Go to Chris Bosh. He's been brilliant all year, he was clearly fantastic in this game, and the Raps frittered away a win by spreading the wealth too much.

The Bucks nearly blew it too by not giving Andrew Bogut the ball more often. While Brandon Jennings was missing 16 of 21 shots and Scott Skiles was calling for yet another guard around screen, the Bucks 7-footer was ignored too often. He still managed to put up 27 points and 12 rebounds with three blocks before fouling out after some dubious foul calls. I'm clearly a fan of Andrew Bogut.

The Bucks won, though, by getting all those late stops. Kind of. Toronto still scored 29 fourth quarter points, but Milwaukee had enough to win. Toronto, meanwhile, allowed a Bucks team that struggles to score 95 on some nights to put up over 124 points per 100 possessions.

***

Los Angeles Clippers 104, Chicago 97

This game wasn't on the dish or teh legal internetz, but from what I've read, Chicago didn't seem to play the smartest game, while Marcus Camby's 25 rebounds really put Chicago on edge.

Tyrus Thomas had 18 points, but mostly off of bad jumpers, and while Derrick Rose put up 23 points, it was on 24 shots. Because, we've sadly learned, this is what Derrick Rose does.

23 and six assists for Baron Davis, while Al Thornton added 17 off the bench for Los Angeles.

***

Denver 123, Golden State 118

This was a fantastic game, a real late night treat ending at after 1:30 a.m. on the East, pitched following 12 other games from Wednesday.

Denver won because Chauncey Billups had a bit of a throwback night. The Warriors were well-aware of his intentions, but that couldn't prevent CB from faking and screening his way to Denver's first eight points in overtime, 10 in the extra frame in total, and 37 overall on just 19 shots.

Carmelo Anthony struggled against some really stout defense from Devean George, among others, but Denver hung in there despite some so-so shot selection and a great game from Monta Ellis. 14 rebounds for Kenyon Martin, which might not seem like a crazy thing considering his position and jumping ability, but Martin has really been bringing the rebounding this year (his rebound rate has shot up to almost 15 percent after lingering in the low teens for years), and the Nugs are better off for it.

39 points, six rebounds, 10 assists and just three turnovers for Ellis, who played his 10th complete game (plus overtime) of the year. A fabulous effort. Stephen Curry needed 17 shots for 15 points and made some rookie mistakes defensively, but the Warriors really worked in this loss. It's so fantastic to see Don Nelson when he's actually calling great plays. So great to see him when he's engaged. Pity that this is so rarely the case.

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