Ball Don't Lie - NBA


Portland 98, Toronto 97

Portland just continues to impress the taste out yo' mouth. They could have given up several times over the course of this comeback win, even after Toronto appeared to stave off comeback after comeback, but the Blazers wanted to make sure they ended a five-game Eastern swing the right way. And it ruined new Raptors coach Jay Triano's (pictured, dude avec clipboard, above) home debut.

You have to love the way Portland is playing. Have to. Sure, wins over Detroit (reeling), Washington (stinking), New York (Knicking) and Toronto (changing) may not seem like a whole lot, but a trip's a trip. It ain't easy, and Portland took four of five. Now go home, work on Greg Oden (10 and 10 on Sunday), and work on that defense. Have to.

The Raptors took another loss. Neither team's defense was any good, the slow pace confused Raptors TV guy Matt Devlin; and to be fair, the hometown team made a solid comeback of its one once the Trail Blazers managed a ten point lead in the fourth quarter. But Toronto's inability to get good stops, rebounds, and easy enough looks (relative to the easy looks they give up on the other end) on offense did the team in again.

This was with Jermaine O'Neal turning in a very good game for the Raptors, with 24 points on 18 shots, eight rebounds, and six blocks. Not all of JON's looks were good looks, but the low-percentage shots were going in, and Toronto ... lost.

Jose Calderon's defense was better, but still pretty lousy, Anthony Parker really had no impact, Andrea Bargnani missed five of six shots, and Jason Kapono still thinks that 22-footers are as good as 25-footers that count for a whole ‘nother point.

Portland just took advantage of all those made three-pointers (12-24). They're not going to continue to score 36 points on 24 possessions like that, but at the end of a road trip you take what you can get move the hell on.

Also, 18 offensive rebounds in an 84-possession game, a contest where you missed only 49 shots/free throws? That's frightfully dominant for Portland, and a frightfully poor performance from Toronto.

New York 104, Detroit 92

Worry all you want if you're a Piston fan, you have every right to.

New York piled it on in the first half, absolutely destroying Detroit's defense while holding things in check when Detroit had the rock, and the result was a 29-point second quarter lead.

No real surprises why. New York ran a good screen and roll, Detroit alternately refused to and couldn't care to guard anyone, and the Knicks were hitting shots.

The Pistons had no spark, no energy, no real scheme offensively that seemed like it could work, and it makes you wonder just how Flip Saunders went as far with this lot as he did. Chauncey Billups helped, but when Billups broke down late in the postseason (as he did in 2006, 2007, and 2008) it sort of makes sense why Detroit couldn't function.

And on Sunday they had a lot of highly-paid players who get sent an extra few million a year for character and locker room influence that wanted nothing to do with revealing anything besides lousy character and inert locker room influence. Detroit came back, they made of a game of this, but I'm not trying to drive home a point when I say that this had everything (every damn thing) to do with the Knicks being lousy than Detroit turning it around.

(OK, Tayshaun Prince was good. But even his shot selection late in this loss did Detroit in.)

The Knicks are bad, Jared Jeffries still combines uselessness with bad decision-making, and he had to be Mike D'Antoni's go-to bench man after Al Harrington started the second half by handing (quite literally, in one instance) the Pistons the ball and tossing up a series of horrible shots.

In fact, look at the entire Knick bench output: Jeffries + Tim Thomas = 42 minutes, nine points on 3-12 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, two turnovers, nine fouls, bad defense. And the Knicks beat the Pistons. By 12.

Chris Duhon (25 points, nine assists, five rebounds) continues to play well for New York. He looks to be in the best shape of his career, so this helps with his shot. David Lee (19 rebounds, 12 points) also came on strong down the stretch.

Boston 122, Indiana 117 (OT)

It's going to be nice to see the Pacers once they get to play a series of sub-.500 teams, which I think they're due to do from now until March. The team has played the toughest schedule in the NBA thus far, and if Sunday's home loss to the Celtics was any indication, Indiana will be just fine.

Yes, the team that has lost 13 of 20 will be quite solid. They could have taken this one, as well. A few less turnovers, Danny Granger (2-9 from long range, 7-22 overall) shooting as he usually does, a better job on the boards, and a bit more talking defensively and the Pacers pull it out.

The Celtics may cut things close sometimes, but they shouldn't be worried about that in the slightest. So the point differential isn't the same as it was last year. Doesn't matter. 12 wins in a row, 20-2 start, and we want to tell them about Cleveland? Seven games last May? They mock us in Boston, people.

Los Angeles Lakers 105, Milwaukee 92

Give the Buxors credit, they kept trying to come back against the best team in the NBA, forcing Los Angeles into penny-wise but turnover-foolish choices with the rock and hanging in there until the end. Against the Lakers, though, so it didn't really matter.

Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles continued his long time tradition of just not playing people, and I like the way I put that, so save your comments. Richard Jefferson worked just nine minutes due to equal doses Skiles and foul trouble, and Milwaukee did just fine without him.

Jefferson (13.9 PER) isn't having that great a year. We see the 18 points and assume everything is just fine, but he isn't the biggest reason for Milwaukee's defensive turnaround (that would be the coach), and he's pretty inefficient offensively though he'll get his 18.

25 turnovers for the Lakers, which is pretty ridiculous. That's a turnover on a quarter of their possessions, and they looked downright Boston-like at times in that regard. Still, Derek Fisher has one of those nights he tends to come through with three times a month (19 points on 10 shots, five steals), and the Bucks were outclassed from the get-go.


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