Ball Don't Lie - NBA

San Antonio 97, Dallas 94 

It says quite a bit about games between these two teams that you know -- be it November, mid-season, or the playoffs -- that you're likely getting about the best pro basketball can offer, and somehow these two franchises manage to rise above. Before we get into that, we have to delve into the silly stuff: 

The misperceptions regarding Jason Kidd continue. TNT's sublime studio crew spent the halftime break discussing how much Kidd adds to the team's transition game, how the Mavs are going to have to keep their heads up because Jason is going to be spraying passes all over the fast break. Then TNT cuts to the first half stats to show that the Mavs have ... six first half fast break points.

Just stop it. Kidd led two Nets teams to the Finals by being selective with the transition plays, and New Jersey consistently ranked among the slowest overall teams in the NBA. The Mavs, since Avery Johnson took over, have been a low-possession half court team. If Kidd is going to fit with the Mavs, it's because he fits the team's ideal of plenty of half-court offense mixed with the occasional (and, we mean, very occasional) transition foray. 

And after Kidd called his own number and missed an open jumper with two minutes to go in the fourth, Doug Collins felt it necessary to point out how the Mavs acquired Kidd to "close out games." Close out games? The guy shoots 37 percent; you're telling me he's shooting 33 percent over the first three quarters, and busting out with a 50 percent shooting mark in the fourth? Kidd's too good to need this needless buildup.  

As for leaving Kidd out for the game's final three possessions (two coming after a Dallas timeout), I'll have to let you discuss your feelings in the comments sections. The Mavs are under no obligation to play this guy during the final possessions just because they're paying him quite a bit, or because they just gave up a cadre of assets for his services. I'd like to see him out there for practice purposes alone (to prepare for the same situation come spring), but Dallas can win a game (even over the Spurs) without Kidd.

This was a top-5 offensive team before his arrival, so that means the Mavericks have a pretty good chance of pulling out the win with the score ... should Dirk Nowitzki pass on those fadeaway jumpers.

I won't harp on Dirk for shooting the low percentage from the field (he missed 10 of 15) and getting most of his points (28) from the line. At times Kobe's done it that way, Jordan did it that way, D-Wade, Bird, Isiah Thomas; you name it, they've made up for a poor shooting night by getting to the line.

What you can get on him for is trying to use that touch and that height to get points from the perimeter. Dirk, Tim Thomas uses that touch and that height to get points on the perimeter. John Wallace did it. Don MacLean did it. You're in your prime and you get calls: don't do it.

What worries more than Dirk, way more than Dirk, is the play of Jason Terry. For three years this guy was one of the more underrated scorers in the league, even playing on national TV dozens of times a year with the Mavs. Demoted to the bench for Devin Harris and then obscured by the Jason Kidd trade, Terry hasn't had much of a season. He has to get that edge, those legs, and that touch back. That touch that made him a threat to hit half his shots, and 40 percent from long range. Dallas won't win a ring without it.

Phenomenal game, and one worth a re-watch. Tim Duncan only finished with three assists, but seemingly every one of San Antonio's 19 assists were the result of something positive from TD. Brilliant game for Duncan. And not even the Lakers can beat San Antonio when Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen take 17 shots, and make 10 of them.

We're a few wins and losses from seeing these two teams hook up in the first round of the playoffs. That's worth hoping for. 

Los Angeles Lakers 106, Miami 88

The Lakers are an absolute juggernaut on offense right now, they managed 28 assists on 40 field goals on Thursday, and the only real thing to worry about out of El Lay is whether or not the team starts to float (which corrupts the offense), or whether or not Andrew Bynum's return throws things out of wack. 

Pretty pointless worryin', I submit, but that's what we're left with. For Pau Gasol to be this acclimated, this soon ... wonderful. For Jordan Farmar (career-high 24 points) to be this good, this soon ... wow. Kobe Bryant making all seven of his free throws? A lesson for the kids.  

Pat Riley: for the love of Jerry West, who got you your first ring, please sit Dwyane Wade

New Jersey 120, Milwaukee 106

We're going to get into a possible Nets revival and the disappearance of Yi Jianlian next week, but for now understand the Nets (flush with a real rotation, for once) are hot and Yi ... isn't.

(Some days, usually leap days, I trade to avoid rhyming all day. Kindly understand.) 

Devin Harris was terrific in his Nets debut, giving his team 21 points (on 13 shots) and five assists to just one turnover in 20 minutes. Vince Carter was aggressive, Marcus Williams ran a good floor game despite his shot (3-11) being off, and Milwaukee's hack-a-Diop plan didn't work - the Nets center missed five of six, but New Jersey won handily.

Milwaukee didn't have a bad offensive game, but the team's bench was as bad as New Jersey's was great, the Bucks turned the ball over nearly twice as many times as the Nets, and the Bucks played a consistent brand of Milwaukee Buck-style defense.

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