Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Toronto 101, Miami 95

I truly do apologize for making this so simple, but the difference between a Raptor loss to the Magic and a win over the Heat comes down to Jose Calderon's presence. Orlando's a better team than the Heat, there's no doubting that, and the rebounding issues remain, but Calderon just makes things happen for this team.

He moves everyone down a spot, too. Just eight points and seven assists (to one turnover) for Jose in the win, but his presence allows Will Solomon (five assists, two turnovers) to play fewer minutes and against lesser talent, while Roko Ukic doesn't play at all. Also, Andrea Bargnani (25 points at starting small forward, and he missed some bunnies) was mighty fine.

PG-rated words don't do Dwyane Wade's night (40 points, 11 assists, three turnovers, five blocks) justice. Honestly, the three turns might be the most impressive number of all. To have a hand in that much action, take as many risks with the ball as he has to, play nearly 43 minutes, and come out with just three turnovers? The man is back, people. 

Atlanta 91, Washington 87

The Wizards looked, and really they can't but help but have looked, rightfully despondent during this loss.

Another fine game (18 points and 11 rebounds) for Antawn Jamison, a fantastic contribution from Caron Butler (32 points, seven boards, four assists, three steals, just one turnover), and they still can't pull the win. Atlanta plays without Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Washington can't win. Atlanta's best player (TV's Joe Johnson) makes less than a third of his shots, and the Wizards are 1-8. No fun.

This isn't to say that Washington had no chance in this. They could have pulled the win off with better shot selection and a more focused effort on the boards from both interior and wing-types.

Heaps of bad shots, then the Hawks out-rebounded this lot by a 58-40 margin, and Mike Bibby seemed to have a little extra push in his 30-year old calves. Bibby was nailing shots from all over, even a few Tim Hardaway-esque turnaround jumpers, and Marvin Williams' late-game three-pointer (a bad shot, really) sealed it for the Hawks.

Portland 116, Chicago 74

Sorry for taking away from Portland's fabulous night, but have you seen any team (outside of the SuperSonics/Thunder) play as poorly as Chicago did on Wednesday night over the last year or three?

That was a miserable effort, with miserable planning, miserable movement, shot selection, attitude, and coaching, and executing. And inspiration. And as Goathair noted, "Aaron Gray is starting."

On the sunny side, how giddy is everyone about Greg Oden (11 and 10 with three blocks in 17 minutes) right now?

Minnesota 102, Philadelphia 96

Here's a bit of a shocker. The Minnesota Timberwolves were averaging about 26 points per quarter over the first three quarters of this game, and in the fourth quarter Randy Wittman's team came through with ... 26 points!

You can't blame me for waiting for the bottom to fall out from Minnesota's fourth quarter offense, as it has all season. Al Jefferson just had it going, though. The team got to the line, handled Philadelphia's 31 points (with several tough makes from Andre Miller and Elton Brand going in) just fine, and pulled out an admirable win.

Also, it is as if Mike Miller has become the fourth option on a 60-win team, and he's just doing it all. Sadly, for a team that will be lucky to win half that, BUT THIS IS NOT THE POINT. 10 points, 10 boards, six assists, a couple of steals for Miller; who didn't see the ball much but still nailed a game-clinching three-pointer toward the end. Craig Smith and his knee brace also contributed 21 points.

Utah 105, Milwaukee 94

You just want to strangle the Jazz sometimes, though not in the way Harry Anslinger intended.

You see Andrew Bogut barely able to get up and down the court, he's so winded, and yet he gets the ball in the post against Carlos Boozer. Two dribbles and a move into the paint for the jump hook, one that's obviously going to fall about 14 inches short, and Boozer ... pushes him. Just gives up on the play, shoves two arms into him, and Bogut gets to go to the line. Gah.

Luckily Boozer and C.J. Miles came alive in the second half, keeping the Bucks at bay while helping to overcome more than a few other defensive brain freezes. Boozer had 20 and 11 in 34 minutes, none of his shots were blocked (so there), and Miles' smooth touch (love how his shots sometimes bounce softly around the rim) came through with 25 points in 29 minutes.

On top of that, Andrei Kirilenko (16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two turnovers, five steals and four blocks in 29 minutes) partied like it was 2004, and that's always fun.

Detroit 96, Cleveland 89

Sorry for denigrating a great win, but a lot of you saw it ... the Pistons took bad shots. And they went in! Went in = win!

Rasheed Wallace (21 points on 12 shots, 15 rebounds) was obviously hot early on and kept it up, Allen Iverson could have probably scored 40 against Cleveland's miserable backcourt defenders, and the Pistons refused to give up after an iffy start.

I just don't feel as if this win was anything to build on. It does lead you to believe that, with Mo Williams, Delonte West and Daniel Gibson working the perimeter, the Pistons should be a pretty solid favorite against the Cavaliers should they meet in the playoffs.

Of course, this depends on the Pistons giving up again, defensively, as they often do in the postseason. Nothing of the sort happened tonight, LeBron James had an impossible time trying to turn that corner, and though he still managed 25 points on 21 shots (Williams had 25 as well), Detroit was in charge.

A great game, and I made fans of neither team happy with that recap. So it goes.

Dallas 96, Houston 86

I didn't see a lot of this, Jeff Van Gundy left to his own devices can be a very frustrating thing, so I'll have to let Matt Moore have the opening salvo:

"It's not that the Mavs aren't good. It's that they're not lethal in any respect. They're painfully above average. Meanwhile, I don't know how many more of these ‘This Rockets team is the one!' letdowns I can take."

One must add that everyone should be enjoying Jason Terry's little renaissance. 31 points tonight, he's nearly two points above his scoring average from last season, and he's been killing it for the last two weeks. Still can't guard anyone, but for someone who thinks that Terry's 2004-05 turn was about as unappreciated as turns go (with this one acting as the most appreciated), this has been fun to watch.

Los Angeles Clippers 108, Oklahoma City 88

I'm not sure I've ever seen a 20-point winner play this poorly, but that's the fun of watching the Clippers.

First off, Cuttino Mobley (23 points) was great, especially finishing around the rim. Chris Kaman was active and interested and saw the floor well on both ends (25 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, one turnover, four blocks ... maybe a career night?), and Al Thornton (20 points on 14 shots) was terrific.

But Baron Davis is still wearing cement shoes to go with the concrete that's all around, and in his head. 5-15 shooting, he can barely get off the ground, and this somehow doesn't seem to stop him from chucking. Ricky Davis missed all five of his shots off the bench, and Tim Thomas missed six of seven attempts. The Clippers shot just 13 free throws all night, and it isn't hard to see why. The guys who are supposed to put the other team in the penalty can't seem to step inside 20 feet.

Good thing the Thunder are/could be historically bad.  

Sacramento 105, New Orleans 96

Here's the tradeoff that Hornet GM Jeff Bower seemed to sign off on:

He'd willingly ignore New Orleans' startling lack of depth at positions like center and point guard, look past the team's offensive shortcomings, because the addition of someone like James Posey means that the defense (5th in the NBA last year) would be that much better. Even though Posey's a bench guy on this team, and he has issues guarding shooting guards at this point in his impressive career.

And while I don't agree with the move -- Posey's great and the Celtics are going to miss him but the Hornets DON'T NEED HIM -- it can't possibly be a swing and a miss. Not with what sound defensive talent the Hornets already have.

And then the team gives up 123 points per 100 possessions to the Sacramento Kings, playing without Kevin Martin. At home.

The Hornets couldn't defend the paint, they weren't talking in transition, they were susceptible on the perimeter, they allowed easy penetration, and it was just a bum night from every imaginable angle. I can understand falling short because the team's scoring ability falls off the table like a Bruce Sutter toss after the top three, but getting yanked around defensively like this? Unacceptable. To the players, coaching staff, everyone.

Great game from the Kings, I don't mean to focus too much on the Hornets, but that's the way things go. Donte Greene (15 points on nine shots) was solid as a starter, John Salmons (29 points, six assists, and one turnover) was potent from all over, Bobby Jackson kept the effort flowing from off the bench, and the Kings registered 24 assists on 41 field goals. 

Denver 91, San Antonio 81

It does make sense. The Spurs have an incredibly-tough time creating shots, and the shots they do create are low, low percentage looks. Some of them are illegal, too, because it looks as if Michael Finley has to push off any time he wants to be allowed to shoot a basketball after dribbling it.

Denver didn't play a very good game, either. They scored about 101 points per 100 possessions, which is pretty lousy, and turned it over on 22 percent of the team's possessions. But they did play the Spurs, in Denver, in November, and the Spurs didn't have Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

San Antonio rookie George Hill had another nice one with 20 points on 11 shots, and Tim Duncan (who contributed 13 points) had six assists, but San Antonio has 11th men shooting 6th man levels of shots from the floor, and that's just not going to work.

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