Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Sacramento 104, Orlando 100

Giving the Coach of the Year award to a coach that takes a below-average team and leads them into the ranks of the mediocre is always a bum move.

Writers like to fall for it because it reeks of the sort of pluckiness they love in guys like David Eckstein and Jerry Sloan (who, incidentally, has never won the award; because his teams are too good, apparently), and it makes them feel good about their contributions to the game as a whole. "Phil Jackson doesn't need my vote, he already has Kobe and Shaq, so let's give it to a guy who was able to turn Darrell Armstrong into a heady hustler."

Forgetting, of course, that a stiff breeze and half of a Diet Sprite turns Darrell Armstrong into a heady hustler.

But Reggie Theus, man, I can see picking this guy for Coach of the Year. I'm cool with handing it to him, he's got the Kings on track to win 33 games, and there is no WAY this is a 33-win team. They play hard every night, they lose close games to teams that out-class (in talent, you should be reminded) them at every position, and Sacramento is always ready to play the next night in spite of the previous game's enervating factors. 

Quincy Douby showed up for Sacramento, Brad Miller continues to play well, and the Kings rotated quite well defensively. John Salmons? Do your thing.

New York 105, Chicago 100

I told you last week that these Bulls were fool's gold, and you didn't believe me. Now we have a bit more insight into what's gone wrong.

Since Jim Boylan took over, they've beaten the horrible Bucks (by four), split a pair with the miserable Knicks, taken down the Kings missing their top three scorers (by one, and getting away with a foul that would have cost them the game in the final seconds), lost quite winnable overtime games to the Trail Blazers (tired as hell) and Magic (didn't much care until the 4th quarter), and beaten a Charlotte team that slept through the entire game.

This is a fundamentally-flawed team being led by a coaching staff that (though it wasn't as prominent on Tuesday) rarely gives its team a chance to win.

Failing that, you would think they would give the youngsters some run, but outside of shoe-horning Tyrus Thomas into the small forward spot (huh? With Thabo Sefalosha playing three minutes), the team stuck with the old men and watched as their legs left them in the fourth quarter. I don't care that Luol Deng has been out, this is a team going nowhere, slowly.

Ben Wallace had ten boards in 38 minutes last night; Joakim Noah had four less rebounds in 24 less minutes. Joe Smith had another superb game (22 and 12), but he was shot down the stretch.

Eddy Curry has played the two best games of his Knick career (last Friday against the Spurs, Tuesday against the Bulls) in a five-day span. Color me ... color me as having already made up my mind about Eddy Curry. Sorry, mate, you had six seasons to work on your perception before these five days came along.

Los Angeles Lakers 117, Memphis 101

I like the individuals on the Memphis roster, but as a whole this is one of the more bone-headed teams in the league defensively. Other teams may bring more effort and still watch as the opponents throw up 115 points, but the Grizz just make lousy play after lousy play on that end, and it kills them offensively.

They don't cover in transition, they don't talk in the half-court, and a whole host of open layups and easy back-door plays result. Too bad, because this roster really has some intriguing talent.

If you're the Lakers, you have to regard this win as nothing more than a good practice. Still, it was nice to see Los Angeles keep its minds active offensively, while searching for whoever the Grizzlies left open.

Minnesota 101, Miami 91

To Miami: Minnesota? Seriously? By ten? With Wade starting?

To Pat Riley: You're good at what you do, but Larry Brown could win 35 games with this lot. Seriously.

To anyone else, from Britt Robson:

"Having argued in my last trey for less Jefferson-Smith on the front line and more burn for McCants, I was pleasantly surprised by the rejiggered lineup. In retrospect, I don't think it was the difference in the outcome of this game--during his brief stint, Smith murdered Blount in the low block by flashing down into the paint and using Blount's well known distaste for flesh and flesh contact, getting 7 points and 6 rebounds (and, alas, 5 fouls, an ongoing Rhino vexation) in just 13:43.

But having McCants around for the opening tap is really the only way right now to prevent Wolves opponents from packing the paint against Jefferson, especially when Shaddy erupts, as he did tonight, for 18 first half points on just ten shots (8-10 FG, 1-1 3ptFG, 2-2 FT). What Wittman appropriately demands, and what McCants has done recently, is to vary his attack, from full-court dashes in transition to explosive penetration in the half court to quick midrange jumpers and, finally, three-pointers."

He has a chance to gloat, but doesn't, and gives credit where credit is due. Fantastic analysis.

Charlotte 115, New Jersey 99

The Nets, overall a mediocre defensive team entering Tuesday night, let the Bobcats walk all over them, and the Bobcats shot 55 percent as a result. Richard Jefferson gave some pretty solid effort against Jason Richardson, but this was one of those games from Richardson that remind you that he can be a game-changer when he wants to be.

Making decisive moves, not holding the ball, not settling, not floating away from the ball ... Richardson was solid, ending the night with 25 points (on 18 shots), seven rebounds, five assists, and just one turnover despite playing over 45 minutes. He'll go back to being Nick Anderson-lite in a week, but it was nice to see for now.

Jason Kidd had another triple-double, but ... so what? I'd rather have a point man give me 18 points, nine assists and a few rebounds while making a solid percentage from the field on average than the usual 13-11-12 stuff (along with 4-12 shooting from the floor) than we get once every ten days (on average, throughout the entire year, save your comments) from Kidd. The guy is shooting 36 percent from the floor on the season, and I don't know how you can argue that away.  

Milwaukee 87, Philadelphia 83

Charlie Bell has made 19 of his last 35 shots (54.3 percent) over the last two games, and that's been enough to raise his shooting percentage to ... 32 percent! Good on ya, CB.

The Bucks were without Michael Redd, but that didn't stop the 76ers from not playing hard. Philadelphia missed all 13 of their three-pointers and weren't really into moving their feet much on defense. A nearly-anonymous game against a crummy team without their best player in front of a non-existent home crowd, and the Sixers rose to their surroundings.

For an exhaustive take on the Bucks, visit Brewhoop.

Cleveland 95, Seattle 79

The first quarter of this game was a sight to behold, Seattle turned it over seven times in the game's first seven minutes, Larry Hughes nearly took the backboard down while missing an open 16-footer, and LeBron James was ignored twice by his teammates while wide-open in transition. That was enough for me to turn away and take in games that I hoped would tell us more than what I was seeing from Seattle and Cleveland.

Looking at highlights, it appeared as if the Cavs started to take advantage of those Seattle turnovers (23 in the game), and that Anderson Varejao (14 and 9 rebounds) and Daniel Gibson (17 points on nine shots) gave LBJ some help off the pine.

Houston 92, Washington 84

It's true that the Rockets are moving the ball more in Tracy McGrady's absence, but it bears mentioning that five solid passes before Luther Head or Rafer Alston takes a jumper is in no way preferable to Tracy McGrady holding the ball, taking a hard dribble, and pulling up for a 19-footer. Ball movement = ball movement, it doesn't always mean that guys are getting layups or that the offense is playing well. It can mean that, with good offenses, but all "ball movement" means by itself is that teams are passing a lot.

Making things worse is that guys like Alston and Head are the ones who have infuriated me for years with their refusal to either throw a gutsy entry pass into their 7-6 target, or pass on taking bad perimeter shots.

Head's perimeter looks were falling tonight, but he's still a low-percentage guy and this isn't really indicative of anything more than a hot night from the floor. The Wizards did what they could to hold it together, but this team is mostly guards at this point (Washington was out-rebounded 46-28), and when Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler combine to shoot 9-29, the Wizards were lucky to only lose by eight points.

Utah 111, Indiana 89

I was blacked out of this one on the dish, but the boxscore is encouraging: Utah played up to its potential (that 20-point win that I hoped for), and no Jazz starter played more than a few seconds over 26 minutes.

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