Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Chicago 101, Utah 100

(Yes, that's the highest Aaron Gray has ever jumped.)

A real lousy loss for the Jazz, working their tails off to stay in a game against a team that should have been trouncing them, only to lose on two frustrating turns of events.

First, Derrick Rose was the beneficiary of a phantom call with a minute to play, he nailed both free throws, giving Chicago a pair of points they didn't earn. The refs didn't do the Jazz any favors on a few other calls, as well. To say nothing of the fact that the clocks were out for almost all of the game on their home floor. This is a real frustrating thing to behold, and it takes place about twice a month in NBA arenas; we don't have a backup-to-the-backup plan in place? Even Chicago has Lindsey Hunter, for these things.

Worse, with the ball in his hands and a second left, Larry Hughes took one of those stupid low percentage 22-foot shots that only count for two points, it went in, and Chicago won. I think my rooting pattern has been fairly established around these parts, but this was just a bogus way to lose if you're the Jazz.

Not the greatest rotation work again from the Chicago coaching staff, but they did start Joakim Noah and play Tyrus Thomas (good job), and the two combined for 15 rebounds in about 37 minutes. And you need every one of those against the Jazz. Especially when Andres Nocioni plays 18 minutes at power forward, and picks up exactly zero rebounds. Vinny Del Negro also continually prods his team to run, and it's  a great call every time.

The Jazz lost yet another point guard when Brevin Knight went out after whacking his hand, the team was already without Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, but Ronnie Price, C.J. Miles, and Andrei Kirilenko (just 1-6 shooting, but six boards, eight assists, four turnovers, a steal and a block in 28 minutes) played a sound floor game. And Mehmet Okur just used his size and touch (big shocker, there) to score 26 points.

Derrick Rose (25 points, nine assists, three turnovers) is also jaw-droppingly good, and I am pleased to have him on my TV every so often.

Orlando 108, Milwaukee 101

The Bucks will make you work, and they were happy to get a good game out of Richard Jefferson (13.7 PER, so far, not his best start), but Ramon Sessions had another iffy shooting game (3-14, his fourth in six contests) and the Magic just had too many weapons to fall short. Still, admirable effort from the Bucks, who are coming through with more and more of those these days.

Orlando took in a good game from Hedo Turkoglu (22 points on 13 shots), who only finished with two assists, but seemed like he had a role in spearheading every other scoring possession for this team. J.J. Redick continued to get minutes and showcase that marvelous posture (10 points on eight shots), and Dwight Howard (24 and 13) also blocked six shots. 

More frustrating news for the Bucks: Andrew Bogut left the game with a knee contusion. You can spring back pretty quickly from those every so often, but this usually keeps a player on the pine for a week or two.

Charlotte 93, Philadelphia 84

Among other glaring holes, the first nasty thing to sprout up in my read of the 2008-09 76ers was the way they declined to talk to each other defensively, yet didn't have the chemistry or instinct to overcome passing on a good batch of communication. Now, I ain't no big reader, but things like this tend to come back to haunt you. And sometimes you end up losing to the Bobcats.

Yes, D.J. Augustin has been playing terrific ball of late, so his 25 points and 11 assists can't be the biggest surprise, but Adam Morrison and Jared Dudley leaking out for open corner three-pointers ... that can't happen. And those missteps, especially when you're a middle of the road team trying to take the next step into a tier just below the Celtics, add up after a while. They add up to, oh, about a nine-point loss.

Andre Miller (4-13 shooting, 10 assists, bad D) and Lou Williams (14 points on 15 shots) came through with another lousy game, while Charlotte's smallish backcourt (starting Ray Felton, who scored 23) defined the pace early. The Bobcats weren't exactly utilizing a running game, but they did create havoc in the half-court with their two guards. 55 percent shooting for Charlotte, with 20 assists on 34 field goals. That just can't happen, Philly.

Houston 107, Miami 98

The Rockets were just too big and too Yao-y for the Heat to handle on Monday. Throw in a pretty bad game by Dwyane Wade's brilliant standards (23 points on 23 shots, more turnovers than assists), and it's a wonder Miami even competed.

But they did. And though their strength of schedule worries me (27th, according to USA Today), coming out of the gate with a .500 record after 14 games seems like a sound accomplishment. Then again, they did have what has statistically been the NBA's best player at their disposal for 40 minutes a night. You know what? Forget I ever brought it up.

Mario Chalmers and Yakhouba Diawara (combining to shoot 7-13) lit it up from outside, and the Heat ran when they could, but Yao (28 and 12) was too much of a presence. And Ron Artest was right. He could have made a few more of those shots.  

Portland 91, Sacramento 90

I don't want to credit either team's defense for all these turnovers; the defense just wasn't that good. There's no way I can do it without yelling at myself. Or Randy Brown.

Sacramento and Portland combined for 42 turnovers in a low (94) possession game. That's quite a bit, and it was a tough game to watch as a result. Even with Brandon Roy's brilliance (28 points) and Spencer Hawes's continued active play (15 and 5 -- yeah, the rebounds stunk -- in 38 minutes), both these teams can do better. And didn't.

San Antonio 94, Memphis 81

Welcome back, Manu Ginobili. Thanks for giving us a semblance of what we missed (12 points on only four shots, in only 11 minutes), and a semblance of what the San Antonio Spurs are all about. With this guy around, plus Parker growing into his prime, plus the youngsters (George Mason Jr., not really a "youngster," but George Hill is, and they're both playing quite well), this team could be something championship-worthy.

Not really going on out much of a limb, it is the Spurs after all, but this win pushed them above .500. And that's pretty significant, considering what they've had to play with for the season's first month.

Would I have liked to see Manu sit longer, and rest the ankle that's been bugging him for nearly six and a half years? You bet. Let's not talk about that anymore, though.

26 points on 21 shots in the loss for O.J. Mayo, who is just too smooth to be this young, while Mike Conley (two points, two assists in 29 minutes) is just not proving that he belongs at this level. Pity.

New Orleans 99, Los Angeles Clippers 87

There was just no stopping David West tonight. Chris Paul may deservedly get all the hype for a huge triple-double (14 points, 10 rebounds, 17 assists, five turnovers in a 91 possession game is amazing), but it was West who continually kept the Clippers at bay with tough shots any time Los Angeles tried to come back.

Good thing, because rookie guard Eric Gordon went off for the Clippers (25 points on 18 shots, looking sturdier as the year moves along), and he (EG had four steals) and Mike Taylor (two steals in 18 minutes) helped the Clippers cause 15 turnovers in the loss. Having Devin Brown as a backup point guard will do that, NOLA.

27 points on 12-21 shooting for West, who reminded us of 2006-07 and 2007-08 with his contributions. It was great to watch.

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