Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Tonight, an extra-special BDL liveblog, with Skeets and me'self and a whole host of esteemed guests. Could be Charles Grodin, might be Tom Waits, might be both! Might be neither! Either way, when the Celtics and Cavaliers tip-off tonight, we'll be ‘round. Come on by.

Detroit 100, Orlando 93 

It's safe to say that the overwhelming bulk of readers that take in today's BtB are likely alarmingly upset about what went down in about 5:22 seconds in Auburn Hills on Monday night, and while I'm stopping just short of being "alarmingly" triggered, it is a bit frustrating.

And it's not because I give a rip who wins or loses, the prospect of a close game actually intrigued me mostly because I wanted to see who would step up in a last-second situation for Detroit. Orlando has Hedo Turkoglu, we know where that ball is going in the late stages, but Big Shot Chauncey Billups hasn't had to nail a game-winner in a while, and I was wondering if his mini-renaissance would lend itself to a last-second shot.

I can't speak for the rest of this blog's angry readership, they're probably way into the idea of some fresh faces showing up in the latter stages of the playoffs (Detroit, working toward its sixth consecutive Eastern Conference finals appearance, doesn't qualify), but they also would have (as was the case with your humble narrator) preferred to see a tie or two-point game in the final stretches, and not the three-point late game advantage that Orlando had to overcome.

Most of all, I'm ticked because I'm into my fourth paragraph of not talking about basketball, but feel an obligation to touch on what is unfortunately going to be the biggest NBA story of the next day or two, unless Kwame Brown shows up to throw a cake at Kobe Bryant as the Kobester accepts his first MVP award on Tuesday. 

But it ‘appened - the Pistons inbounded the ball with 5.1 seconds left to play in the third quarter, the clock ticked off three-tenths of a second before stopping, the Pistons worked the ball for 5.22 seconds and hit a three-pointer that shouldn't have counted.

The referees, with no real NBA-legal ground to stand on (we know what they should have done, but it wasn't something they legally could have done), had to allow the basket and guess at how many tenths of a second they could award Orlando with for the quarter's final possession.

Meanwhile, in a one-possession game that was nip and tuck (and incredibly entertaining) throughout, the Pistons came out on top, nailed all their free throws in the final few minutes, and pulled away with a seven point win.

It wasn't a seven-point win, we know that, but we also know that Orlando had its chances. It's why the Magic didn't set fire to the scorer's table post game.

The Magic turned the ball over 19 times, a ridiculous amount in a low-possession (87 of them) game, and a whole heap of the miscues weren't exactly forced by high pressure Piston D. Orlando coughed it up on nearly 22 percent of the possessions it used up, and that's a laughable amount even for a team like Seattle playing in the middle of February.

Worse, the team's last minute of offensive "execution" was staggering even out of context, and mind-numbing when you consider just how good this team has been at pulling out wins in the last seconds of a game this year. Both Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis botched plays, took horrible shots and failed to even come close on the horrible shots (because sometimes bad shots go in) that they threw up. It was embarrassing.

Here's what wasn't embarrassing: both teams' effort and execution for the first 47 minutes of this game. Detroit almost gave up home court advantage, but these cats were working. The Pistons were quite crisp offensively, notching 23 assists on 36 field goals and making sure everybody got a taste. Rare has been the close Piston win over the last few postseasons that saw Detroit put forth an honest effort, but believe me; the switch was definitely turned on.

Orlando wasn't far off, though the fact that the team did most of its damage hoisting high-arching 24-footers has to scare Magic fans a bit. That said, nobody should be surprised if this series heads back to Michigan in a few days as a best-of three. Judging by the lack of excuse-making in the Magic locker room, it's safe to assume that the Magic have their heads in the right places, and won't be blaming lousy clock work for the Game 2 miss.

The heads better be on straight, though. Anything less, and the Pistons sweep, in spite of how competitive things were on Monday. My guess? Orlando takes the next one, the Pistons steal Game 4, and Orlando wins Game 5 on the road. Oooh.
 
New Orleans 102, San Antonio 84

Too many people may have written off Tom Ziller's post regarding Chris Paul as a bit of attention-grabbing hyperbole, pitched right in the middle of a glorious postseason for the Hornets guard that allows any scribe with a bit of time on his hands to put any sort of laudatory bit together regarding CP3, and not get laughed off the face of the earth.

And those people would be wrong. Way wrong.

Ziller's one of the most brilliant basketball minds we have going these days, he appears to covet blogdom attention much in the same way I appreciate a good batch of shellfish-induced hives (I don't care, the prawns were worth it), and he knows what he's talking about. I can't put it any more succinctly: when Tom Ziller talks, people need to listen.

And Chris Paul is well on his way towards a career as the best non-MJ guard this game has ever seen. That doesn't mean he's more accomplished than Kidd, Nash, KJ, et al; it just means he's done more by the age of 23 (happy birthday, CP) than 99.8 percent of all NBA guards have done in a lifetime. The projections for this kid are through - the bloody - roof.

There were 85 possessions in that Hornets win on Monday. 85. For comparison's sake, the Pistons were the slowest team in the NBA this year with 87.3 possessions per game in the regular season.

So, for Paul to throw up 30 points and 12 assists (one turnover) in a game with such few opportunities to pile on with the numbas ... yeah. This guy is amazing. Not "will be," nor "can be." Is. Understand what you're watching.

And when others try to tell you that Paul is ahead of everyone else, but that it's still a close point guard race, and not to forget Tony Parker - you know what? Forget Tony Parker. He's been lapped.

If things continue apace for Paul, then Magic Johnson is the only guy he needs to worry about -- though it is sad that some fans will fail to realize (as they quote Magic's numbers) that he was able to put up those sorts of stats while playing an extra 15 possessions per game more than Paul did this year.

Here's what I'm going to beg you to do: we are living in an era that likely boasts two of the best ever (not "some of the best," but best ever) players at their respective positions, and both are 23 years of age.

LeBron James and Chris Paul have five or six years to go before they even hit their primes, James has already single-handedly led an otherwise-crappy team to the Finals, and Paul might be well on his way to leading a pretty solid (outside of CP) team to the same place coming out of a tougher conference. This is a pretty special time, if you're paying attention.

And if you don't want to take in historical context, than that's cool as well. His brilliance transcends context.

Chris Paul is 1.21 gigawatts of unadulterated badass.

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