Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Boston 117, Phoenix 97 

Boston's so good defensively.

(The Suns scored 97 points! They shot 56 percent!)

Boston is so incredibly, unbelievably, good defensively.

(You mean, they get a lot of offensive rebounds? That's the only difference I saw ...)

Boston's defense on Amare Stoudemire was brilliant.

(First of all, stop interrupting me. Secondly, the guy scored 32 points! I guess you're going to say that ...)

Boston's screen and roll defense was brilliant in the second half.

(...)

I'm sorry I interrupted again. Please come back. It's my only go-to gimmick.

(...)

Crap.

Boston is 12-deep, scary-good on defense, and has the fundamental touch on offense to put teams away. This is a championship-level team, whether they win one or not. And then there's Maude:

I have to quote Jon Barry, after Grant Hill misses a three-pointer from 22 feet:

"It's amazing what one foot will do. He shoots 50 percent from inside the line, 32 percent from outside it."

Yes, because each of Grant Hill's shots from inside the three-point arc this season have come from 21-feet. 

Philadelphia 121, Chicago 99

About two years ago, the Chicago Bulls showed up in Philadelphia on the outskirts of the playoff picture, desperate to make one last stab at the eighth spot in the Eastern bracket, and made a point to come out strong (a 32-18 first quarter) against an uninspired Sixer team that was ahead of Chicago in the standings.

Tonight? Eh. Whatever. We'll get our [stuff] together for [whatever lame coach] when he shows up next year.

Philly came out inspired, forcing turnovers, getting out in transition, getting to the line, and running circles around a Bulls team that still thinks it can earn wins by being "the Bulls, that team that everybody liked last October."

Luol Deng continues to miss all sorts of easy looks around the basket, Kirk Hinrich couldn't keep Andre Miller out of the lane with a net and a trident, and Larry Hughes is continuing his tradition of matching the NBA's worst shot selection with the NBA's worst jump shot. It was a lovely bunch of coconuts to behold on Wednesday night, suffice to say.

If Philadelphia shot an uncontested three-pointer all night, I am unaware.

Atlanta 115, Milwaukee 96

For the better part of this season's first 50 games, the Atlanta Hawks relied on a stout defense and whatever offense they could muster to win 45 percent of their games and try and establish a playoff run.

For the last month or so, the defense has faltered, and though the offense has had its moments, the overall package hasn't been as consistent, even though the Hawks have lucked into wins.

Early in Wednesday's game against Milwaukee, the defense fell apart - the Hawks gave up 37 first quarter points to the Bucks, and it looked as if Atlanta would be in a needless dogfight with a team that hasn't had its act together all year.

But you know what is consistent? Milwaukee's horrible, horrible defense.

The Bucks just kept letting Atlanta in the lane, they didn't recover after sound ball movement, they didn't talk, they didn't care, and Milwaukee coach Larry Krystkowiak looks as helpless as he did last fall in trying to get anything out of this lot.

Joe Johnson continued his hot play with 28 points and eight assists, rookie Acie Law IV had a nice little run with ten points and three assists (no turnovers, great defense) in 15 minutes, and Josh Childress continued his wily ways with 20 points on 12 shots, with five assists, four steals, and no turnovers (+26 overall) in a little under 30 minutes.

On Milwaukee's end, Andrew Bogut had a game to remember with 27 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and a smack to the face from Marvin Williams that resulted in a whole lot of Aussie blood (by way of the former Yugoslavia) spilled on an Atlanta floor.

That last part was needless, not entirely accurate, far from geographically updated, and would be considered pretentious had I any ambition to begin with.

Toronto 89, Detroit 82

Impressive game from both teams tonight, the Pistons managed to stem the tide and stay competitive on the road without Rip Hamilton, while purposely throwing the bench corps out there for big minutes even as the Raptors stuck to the starters.

Toronto, meanwhile, consistently got into the paint on Detroit, killing them with ball movement eventually (26 assists on 36 field goals), while forcing Chauncey Billups into five turnovers (pretend the Suns and Warriors are playing each other - this is akin to Steve Nash turning it over eight times).

Detroit's bench was pretty lousy tonight, but if a loss on March 26th means a calm and collected batch of reserves come June, Flip Saunders will take it.

T.J. Ford helped nearly put Detroit away (the Pistons came back, eventually) in the second quarter by getting to the rim quite a bit ... but you just get the feeling that Toronto would be better off with Jose Calderon starting and playing big minutes. Calderon was +10, while Ford was +1 overall.

New Jersey 124, Indiana 117

I was blacked out of this one, NBA.com's League Pass setup wasn't helping either, and it appears as if Indiana's Pacers weren't interested in playing a whole lot of defense in this loss.

Devin Harris: 22 points on 13 shots, 15 assists to three turnovers. The Mavs could use that right about now. And in 2011.

New York 103, Miami 96 OT

Not as inglorious a watch as you'd think, the Heat fell behind early as the Knicks were hitting from all angles, but Miami came back once it realized that the Knicks stopped caring to defend after a pass or two.

I swear, Hickory High could take down New York at this point, all you have to do is throw more than two passes per possession, and you've got them licked. Also, I'm getting into Bill Simmons territory, so I'm going to stop.

Daequan Cook shot the Heat back into the game, and Ricky Davis shot them into an overtime appearance after the Knicks had a three possession lead with less than two minutes to go. In overtime, New York was reminded about its payroll, told about the pro-rated minimum that Miami's seven NBDL call-ups earn, and decided to make a go of it.

San Antonio 97, Los Angeles Clippers 88

The Clippers were actually into this game and leading for a while in the fourth quarter, Mike Dunleavy's crew did a great job out of getting the ball out of Tim Duncan's hands (Tim had a brilliant game with 26 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, four assists and just two turnovers; yet only ten shots from the floor), but couldn't stop the Manu down the stretch.

I cannot wait for Brent Barry to get back in shape, stop watching his tape of "The Jimmy" for the 492nd time, and get back on the court: Bruce Bowen and Ime Udoka combined to shoot 6-19 from the floor, and not even a second-straight hot game from Michael Finley (16 points on 11 shots) could keep the Clips from keeping it close.

Tim Thomas: zero points and four rebounds in 35 minutes. Just two years and 12.5 million left on that contract.

Houston 97, Minnesota 86

The Timberwolves have talent, almost as much as the Rockets on paper, and the team appears to genuinely enjoy playing with each other, so it kind of makes sense that Minnesota would be able to hang with Houston for a few quarters.

If the Rockets didn't happen to pull in about a trillion (or ... 20. Whatever) offensive rebounds, this one may have gone down to the final seconds. Instead, the Rockets were safe and warm. Safe and warm.

Major kudos to Rockets owner Les Alexander for donating $500,000 to Dikembe Mutombo's hospital in the Republic of Congo, the day before Houston's Tux and Tennies benefit for Mutombo's charity organization.

Sacramento 107, Memphis 106 OT

Some iffy calls in this game, but it was mightily entertaining, featuring some relatively damn good point guard play from the Grizzlies and a patient (if not altogether efficient) offensive night for Sacramento.

I really wish I could add more about this one, it was just a fun watch that saw two teams with dozens of holes nevertheless put together a solid run of competitive basketball that resulted in Sacramento's defensive length and offensive versatility (not to mention Kevin Martin's 36 points on 20 shots) act as enough to pull out the win.

Washington 104, Seattle 99

A couple of things:

*Roger Mason Jr. is about four and a half years removed from being involved as a salary cap throw-in to a trade between two of the NBA's worst teams. On Wednesday night, he hit five three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help a playoff team hold onto the fifth seed in its conference. This guy has been incredible in 2007-08.

*The Seattle SuperSonics signed Eddie Gill out of the NBDL to help out at point guard. Most teams discovered that Gill couldn't play even below-average NBA basketball years ago, and with Seattle essentially holding a season-long training camp, what's the point of bringing in a guy who is going to turn 30 later this year, when you have a chance at discovering a youngster under the radar? Like, perhaps, a Roger Mason Jr.-type?

*Kevin Durant is the Rookie of the Year. It took him a while (like, seriously, until tonight) to eclipse Al Horford, but he's done it.

New Orleans 100, Cleveland 99

The game of the night, even if it offered more worries than it did good times. For instance:

*We know Cleveland can slap the ball back and offensive rebound with the best of them, even with Ben Wallace on the pine, but is this any excuse for New Orleans being out-boarded 48-33, even on the second night of a back-to-back?

*We know the Hornets were on the road, but is that any excuse for its bench to play that poorly? Actually ... yeah, it's about time. That pine has been playing well over its head for months now, so the regression actually makes sense. Forget I wrote that.

*Byron Scott, you are allowed to make what we call "offense/defense" substitutions, and bring Morris Peterson off the bench to try and check LeBron James, instead of allowing Peja Stojakovic to get burned for the second defensive possession in a row with mere seconds left.

*Wait, the Hornets won?

*Mike Brown, you're going to have to do something to make up for Cleveland's issues guarding point men: Chris Paul couldn't hit the broad side of a tasty Orange stack on Wednesday, but he was in the lane whenever he wanted to be.

*I assumed that, somehow, the Cavs traded for Ryan Bowen last month, but got nervous and told anyone who would listen that they actually traded for Wally Szczerbiak. Then Ryan Bowen showed up with the Hornets on Wednesday, the two were in the same building, and I'm back to being confused as to why Wally is shooting 34.3 percent as a Cav.

Charlotte 108, Los Angeles Lakers 95

I'm going to chalk this one up to Los Angeles' lack of effort, and a bit of hubris. The first part seemed pretty obvious. The latter has to do with my observation that this team thought it could jump-shoot its way back into things, starting at about the 11-minute mark of the first quarter.

The Lakers refused to run their usual offense, from the inside-out, and the Bobcats pounced and moved the ball and attacked and shot and ran and won.

Then Kobe Bryant was kicked out of the game for kicking the ball across the floor (rather innocently, this was nothing like Chuck Person in Chicago Stadium in the early 1990s, should have been a delay of game call) for his second technical, and things were about over.

I like the way Lamar Odom is playing, and I know he's padding his stats against lesser teams, but I'm digging it. Of course, Bill Simmons might take issue:

Bill: "Like a game in March against the Bobcats actually matters."

KD: "Good point."

Bill: "Gotta go, Road Rules is on."

KD: "How old are you, again?"

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