Behind the Box Score, where Houston worked past its issues

Houston 103, Portland 87

It was strange watching a Portland team that has been living off of inspired effort, all season, take a night off. There's no other way I can put it. It wasn't an embarrassing lack of effort, but Portland just didn't seem to want to compete well enough to win. It's understandable in an 82-game season, but I still have to point it out.

Houston brought it, moving the ball and leaking out when it could in transition. Portland wasn't defending well at all, and the Trail Blazers never seemed to know what to do when Houston crowded LaMarcus Aldridge(notes).

21 points and 11 assists for Kyle Lowry(notes) -- who is way better than Rafer Alston(notes), people who yelled at me two years ago. Luis Scola(notes) made 10 of 11 shots in the win.


Los Angeles Lakers 90, Minnesota 79

As has been reported by just about every outpost you can imagine, Los Angeles' length drove Minnesota batty. Toss in some inspired moves by the brilliant Kobe Bryant(notes), and 28 combined rebounds from Pau Gasol(notes) and Lamar Odom(notes), and you have a Laker team that pulled away.

Bryant was great on the interior, hitting half of his two-pointers, but at some point this guy is going to have to take a step back from these three-pointers. He's shooting four a game, making just 31.9 percent, and if that were Baron Davis(notes) we'd have been killing him all year for it. Four three-pointers at 31.9 percent is not good, and there's no way even Kobe's most ardent fans can dismiss that knowledge. Drive, and post-up more, Kobe; because last I checked, firing up a basketball from 25 feet away takes a toll on your body as well. Also, last I checked, Kobe Bryant is insanely good at just about everything but firing a basketball from far away.

Luke Walton(notes)? Holy cow is he bad at defense. Good thing Kobe, Pau, and the rest of the Lakers are pretty amazing overall.


Milwaukee 92, Detroit 90

Rip Hamilton kept-a-firin', and Brandon Jennings(notes) made a huge defensive play down the stretch as Milwaukee dispatched the Pistons in Wisconsin.

Hamilton missed 13 of 17 shots and, I'm sorry, these weren't good shots. I understand Detroit struggles to score at times, and that Ben Gordon(notes) looks nearly as much of a shell of his former self as Tracy McGrady(notes) (without the crippling back or knee injuries to point to), but Hamilton was a millstone. Jennings' 21 points on 19 shots wasn't great, but to him that's almost like a Ray Allen(notes)-type night out, so the Bucks will take it. And they'll warm to his late-game block of Will Bynum(notes), as Bynum attempted a go-ahead three-pointer late.

A close game throughout, but also a pretty ugly one, and somewhat of a chore to watch.


Memphis 109, San Antonio 93

San Antonio was somewhere else on Tuesday. They sure as spit-fire weren't in Memphis, which is a line I'm sure someone from Texas has used at some point in reference to something completely different, and the Grizzlies took advantage. Sterling defensive play from Tony Allen(notes) alongside quick hits from Mike Conley(notes) and Zach Randolph(notes) allowed the Grizz to keep pouring it on even after the San Antonio offense faded away.

Tons of offensive boards for Memphis, Allen actually made eight of nine shots, Darrell Arthur(notes) seemed to slip into lay-in after lay-in in transition, and the Spurs just didn't want to know. Five assists and four steals for Randolph, too, alongside his usual 21 and 10.


Toronto 96, New Orleans 90

Jose Calderon(notes) averaged 11.4 assists in February to only 2.2 turnovers a game, phenomenal stats, but he also shot a terrible 33.7 percent from the floor during that 11-game turn. Tuesday's showing, on the first day of March, was a bit of a make-good turn.

Blowing by what were at times the hapless Jarrett Jack(notes) and Chris Paul(notes) (that's, eh, not a good thing for New Orleans), Calderon tallied 22 points on just 10 shots, with 16 assists to two turnovers. He out Chris Paul-d Chris Paul, who missed seven of 10 shots and finished with just five assists. Toronto defended well, pushed the ball, and looked fantastic throughout. It was great to see.

Less fun was the continued realization that Paul either doesn't care, or is too slowed by knee injuries to want to care. Either way, something is definitely going on, there.

Monty Williams wore a rather loud suit, as well.


Dallas 101, Philadelphia 93

The 76ers entered this game winning seven of its last 10, clearly rolling, and the Mavs are obviously in the elite of the West. In cases like these, especially when the semi-underdog is playing at home, it depends on player going above and beyond his usual contributions. Jason Terry(notes) hasn't gone above anything since the first Bush Administration, but his 30 points were desperately needed in this win for Dallas.

26 assists on 41 field goals for Dallas, and if that happened at home in a game I didn't watch I'd be dubious about the home scoring. Not that the team is selfish, but because it often relies on a lot of screen and roll pops or isolation situation. Lots of ball movement in this win, though.

Philly couldn't hang because it scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter. Usually Jrue Holiday(notes) and Lou Williams can be depended upon to bring the noise late, but those two plus Thaddeus Young(notes) shot ohfer seven and missed five of eight free throws in the final quarter. That will never do.


Indiana 109, Golden State 100

Indiana missed 13 of 16 three-pointers, but they also pushed the ball when they could and only turned it over nine times in a 97-possession game. There were good stops all throughout the second half, no easy task against what can be an explosive Golden State team, and the Warriors just aren't going to win all that often when Monta Ellis(notes) and Stephen Curry(notes) combine to shoot 36 percent.

Danny Granger(notes) hit half of Indiana's 32 made free throws, every time I flipped over he seemed to be at the line, and the Warriors just couldn't keep while making just 13 freebies of their own.


Orlando 116, New York 110

The Magic struggled to penetrate and score in the second quarter, allowing New York back into this game, but sound defense and the presence of Quentin Richardson(notes) on both ends (!) helped Stan Van Gundy's team come back.

And, as you've no doubt heard or read about, 97 freakin' free throws in this game. It went on forever, but thanks to Dwight Howard(notes) being typically amazing (30 points, 16 rebounds, six turnovers, five blocks) and Jameer Nelson's(notes) bust-out offerings (26 points) the Magic managed to slightly pull away.

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