Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your crumpets.

Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: "The man with the bum hip and six fruitless playoff series against San Antonio was Nashty on Monday night. The Suns took a 1-0 series lead on the Spurs with a 111-102 home victory that was kick-started and later restarted by Steve Nash's(notes) 33 points and 10 assists. It was his career's fourth highest scoring playoff game and best since a 39-point one against Dallas in 2005, when he scored that many in an overtime game as a 31-year-old to polish off the Mavericks. Now, at age 36, he made George Hill(notes) look silly and maybe a little silly for only turning 24 today. Hill is a good defender, with the mix of long arms and lateral quickness that can be useful in guarding Steve Nash. But he could not stay in front of Nash to start the game, looking like a player who just came off guarding a slower Jason Kidd(notes) and who does not have much experience guarding Nash. Nash scored 17 in the first quarter, finishing it with two 3-point plays. Nash could not have missed Bruce Bowen(notes) forearm hacks, body brushes and well-aimed knees. On the other end, he was supposed to be taxed more defensively than Bowen did but Hill went 2 for 9 in the game and was replaced in the second-half starting lineup by Tony Parker(notes). Popovich said he did so because of Hill's three first-half fouls. After never seeing any daylight past his man in the Portland series with Blazers bottling up the lane, Nash's eyes widened at the sight of space beyond Hill. It began with a lefthanded fastbreak drive. He went back to the left again. He went for a baseline reverse past Tim Duncan's(notes) help. When he went by Hill one more time, the Suns led 11-4 and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's three days of preparation needed a new discussion during a time out 3:11 into the game. 'I was fortunate to get some opportunities early to be aggressive and try to put some life into the building and our team and fortunately I got off to a nice start,' Nash said. 'You never know what the game is going to present. You have to be willing and aggressive and do whatever you can. For me, I didn't know how I was going to feel physically but dragging my game around in Game 6 in Portland (on Thursday) wasn't any fun and it felt great to get out there and feel like I could do something.'"

Bob Cooney, Philadelphia Daily News: "According to a Daily News survey conducted by Temple University's Sport Industry Research Center, 65 percent of respondents who indicated the Sixers are their favorite team in the city said bringing back Iverson was the right move. For 27 percent, it was the wrong move, and 8 percent were not sure. For the man who signed him, there is no doubt. 'The impact he had on the locker room, the spark he provided, playing good basketball and the way he blended in was good for the team,' Stefanski said. 'When he got here, he was terrific. People ask me all the time if I would do it again. I tell them I would in a second. He was good for our team, and no one's career got thrown down while he was here.' When the Sixers announced on Dec. 2 that Iverson would be returning, fan reaction was understandably mixed. Iverson was 34; had some troubles during his tenures in Denver, Detroit and Memphis; and certainly wasn't the player Sixers fans remembered. 'We needed someone to replace Lou, and no one out there came close to the name of Allen Iverson(notes) from a basketball standpoint,' Stefanski said."

AP: "Orlando Magic forward Mickael Pietrus(notes) expects to play in the second-round series opener against Atlanta after missing practice with a sprained left ankle. Pietrus sat out Monday after he sprained the ankle a day earlier in practice. But he said he would play Tuesday night in Game 1 against the Hawks, even if the ankle is a sore. Pietrus twice sprained his left ankle this season, missing three games. He also sprained his right ankle once."

Charlie Rosen, Fox Sports: "Still, there's no question that the Celtics' leading man and best player is Rondo - 5 for 10, 19 assists, 13 points. For sure, Rondo can sometimes play too fast and try to force the issue, hence his six turnovers. Plus, his jumper continues to be unreliable. But his speed and quickness are explosive, he's extremely creative when he's challenged after zipping into the lane, and his court awareness seems to expand game by game. If he's not exactly a lock-down defender, his lightning reflexes and uncanny anticipation make him a constant pest. As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics."

Michael Cunningham, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Assuming he's not just being sly, Hawks coach Mike Woodson won't decide what to do about Magic center Dwight Howard(notes) until some time on Tuesday. Woodson is wrestling with a difficult problem. The solution is central to the Hawks' chances against the Magic in their Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, which opens Tuesday night. 'We still haven't figured out what we are going to do yet as far as double [team] him or play him straight-up,' Woodson said before the Hawks departed for Orlando on Monday. 'That is something I will sleep on tonight and make the final decision [Tuesday].' No matter which strategy Woodson settles on, it may well work better than expected against Howard, at least if the four regular season games against Orlando are an indication. A review of those games indicates the Hawks had more success slowing Howard by sending a second man to help guard him in the post. But Hawks center Al Horford(notes), an All-Star like Howard, more than held his own when left to defend him alone. 'I feel like if we show both things, it works best for our team,' Horford said." 

Barry Jackson, Miami Herald: "[Pat Riley] said Michael Beasley(notes), Mario Chalmers(notes) and Daequan Cook(notes) 'have taken a minor step back.' Riley said he told Beasley during his exit interview, 'You're doing OK. OK isn't good enough for me or for you. So let's figure out how to get past OK.' Beasley said, 'OK.' Asked if Beasley could play mostly small forward if the team's personnel dictates that, Riley said 'his comfort zone' is power forward. 'That's the most logical place for him to be, but his game is expanding.' Riley said 'ever since Michael was drafted, he seems to be the most maligned player in the NBA. He takes things so seriously because he reads and hears on a regular basis how bad he is. That's just the way it is. I said, "Get used to it in this league." If you want to be the best of the best, you better get used to having a very tough skin.'"

Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A front-row seat for the playoffs was little consolation for injured center Andrew Bogut(notes). The 7-foot Bogut desperately wanted to be on the floor but knew he could only observe as the Milwaukee Bucks nearly took out the third-seeded Atlanta Hawks before falling in a seven-game, first-round Eastern Conference series. 'I definitely enjoyed watching the guys have the success they had,' Bogut said. 'But did I enjoy it? No. I played almost 75 games this year and was pretty much injury-free, barring a freak thing. Having that taken away from me at the end of the season is pretty frustrating.' Bogut missed the final six games of the regular season and the playoffs after suffering a broken right index finger, a dislocated right elbow and broken bones in his right forearm in a gruesome tumble to the Bradley Center floor on April 3 against Phoenix. He reflected on the Bucks' season Monday and looked toward the future as the team gathered for a final time at the Cousins Center, following its Game 7 loss to the Hawks in Atlanta. Bogut will make the long flight to his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday, but he said he will return to Milwaukee at the end of May to have his cast removed. 'I want to see my family and friends and just clear my head,' Bogut said. 'With my cast on for another three or four weeks, I just want to get home and be around people I grew up with.'"

Dallas Morning News: "Mavericks assistant coach Dwane Casey is one of several candidates who will interview for the New Orleans Hornets' head coaching position, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Casey joined the Mavericks shortly after a head coaching stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2005-07. Casey's name has also been discussed as a possibility for the Clippers' job and the 76ers' opening. The Hornets' list of possible candidates also includes former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson, a New Orleans native."

Jason Quick, The Oregonian: "A coach and general manager both entering the final years of their contracts stood before the media on Monday and stressed the same thing: The Trail Blazers need to get better. General manager Kevin Pritchard said an area of improvement can come in adding more mental toughness. Coach Nate McMillan said the team could use a shooter. But both said the sting was still too fresh from a second consecutive first-round playoff exit to set any definitive course of action. 'I want to give it some time, I feel like we need some time,' Pritchard said. 'But we are not afraid to make changes.' Pritchard, the somewhat embattled general manager who two months ago was unsure of his future with the club, said he hasn't been given any indication that he won't be back with the team. Therefore he said he is focusing on the June 24 draft and the July 1 opening of the free agent market as ways to improve a Blazers team that won 50 games despite a rash of injuries. 'I can only control what I can control, and right now I'm working on getting ready for the draft,' Pritchard said. 'It's one thing we've done pretty good.'"

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