Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Denver 120, Charlotte 80

Wow.

Charlotte may have had a night off. Matt Carroll(notes) was pressed into service. Gerald Wallace(notes) is gone. Gerald Henderson(notes) was out. Charlotte issn't that good to begin with. But looking at Denver's box score, as someone who reads a lot of car magazines and goes behind a lot of box scores, is like looking at the specs in a car magazine regarding some ridiculously-expensive supercar.

61 percent shooting. 34 assists on 45 field goals, and as an observer, I feel like I witnessed 33 of those 34 assists just flipping over to this game. 120 points, and over 127 points per 100 possessions. The Nuggets out-rebounded Charlotte by 21, and while I know that raw stat isn't the best to usually look at, you're not really going to spend much time in your new Ferrari actually going zero to 60, are you?

The Nuggets were without Danilo Gallinari(notes), but the team just steamrolled the Bobcats. And while they haven't had to test this new chemistry and depth on the road much (Denver lost by one point in Portland last week) since the trade with New York (and, uh, Minnesota), this has still been an impressive turn.

Denver is in Utah tonight. NBA rules either dictate a complete and showy turnaround of Utah's season, or an over the top spanking at the hand of the Nuggets. Either way, it has to be obvious and tacky.

***

Oklahoma City 113, Indiana 89

It's hard to describe how things went wrong in this game for Indiana, outside of just pointing out what you could tell from the box score. Oklahoma City was very aggressive, and in the first half the team probably played as well as it has this season. Indiana dropped its first egg of the Frank Vogel era.

Perhaps the Pacers got a little full of themselves, and that's fair. As someone who watched every second of the team's close home loss to OKC last fall, Indiana may have been expecting a close game just to manifest on its own, and close games against great teams (even if you are a good team, yourself) just don't happen that way. You have to work toward it, and Indiana did not want to. In a season that stretches from an Indiana Indian Summer to actual summer? It's bound to happen. Keep calm and carry on.

The Thunder are fantastic, and though Kevin Durant(notes) sprained his ankle late in this game, it doesn't appear that anything is structurally wrong (no tears or breaks). OKC will have to plead with the guy to not come back too early, though, because only bad things result when you force a return following an ankle sprain.

***

New York 107, New Orleans 88

As it has been for a while now, Chris Paul(notes) is either hurting, slumping, filled with ennui and/or resentment, or an unholy mix of each of those elements. Either way, the Hornets depend on him to turn this team into the overachieving beast that it was back in November, he's not coming through, and the result was a comfortable blowout win for New York.

Give the Knicks credit. Carmelo Anthony(notes) may have made a soap opera out of the NBA by asking for a trade, but he's working hard, and these Knicks are clearly attempting to learn on the fly, listen to their coach, and play hard. This team not only defended the struggling Hornets ably, but they put up over 121 points per 100 possessions against a sparkling defensive outfit. I think it's safe to say that Cleveland loss got this team's attention, much in the same way Miami's first month got its attention. The Knicks now know that adjustments and execution matter, even if the marquee is littered with stars. Look out, East.

***

Minnesota 116, Detroit 105

This game was close for a good stretch, but this was a poor, poor showing for the Detroit Pistons. Playing at home against one of the crummier NBA teams we've seen in years, Detroit let all manner of Minnesotans turn the corner and have their way heading toward the hole, even if the eventual shot went up from 24 feet away.

Twenty points and 20 rebounds for Kevin Love(notes), because that's what he does, and Anthony Randolph(notes) (as the internet says "yay") even popped off the pine for 19 and 10. Very cool. His arms, for those who were not able to see this game, are still very long.

Rookie Greg Monroe(notes) managed 18 points, 11 rebounds, and four steals. His reactionary defense wasn't very good, but at least he brought consistent effort for the Pistons.

***


Boston 115, Phoenix 103

Phoenix came back in the fourth quarter, making a somewhat reasonable score out of what was a blowout, but we know what's up.

Boston was up 20 at the half mainly because they appeared quicker and longer on both ends, and that's not dismissing this team's talent or drive. Phoenix was the JV team, sadly. And I'll let Boston fans rant and rave about the junior varsity moves Phoenix came through with late in this contest, but I'm more impressed with the Celtics coming off a road trip and into home as if they'd been hanging out at the Garden for weeks. These are games that tend to get away from teams, regardless of their age, and Boston's play was sublime in the early going.

***

Golden State 106, Washington 102

A messed-up game between two flighty teams. Completely batty throughout. Nick Young(notes) has cornrows, now.

Washington got off to a quick start, prompting yet another "guys, can we start playing now?" timeout from Keith Smart a few minutes into the first quarter, and Smart has been forced to lead the league in that category in 2010-11. The Warriors did roar back, though, putting up 59 points in the middle two quarters as the Wizards appeared to just look away. Then the W's stopped taking smart shots, and the Wizards came back. Really, had you walked onto this court last night while sleepwalking, either team would have gladly handed you a win.

I like watching the Warriors, but overall this was an affront.

***

San Antonio 109, Cleveland 99

Once the Spurs decided that they wanted to play with the same passion and intensity that the Cavaliers were working with, Cleveland just couldn't hang.

This wasn't the big bounce-back game that the Spurs and their fans were likely hoping for, with the team roaring out of the gate following that trouncing by Memphis and sticking it to a lesser team. San Antonio didn't defend well, and it was caught looking several times in the first half as the Cavs made the tougher play around the rim. Cleveland couldn't check these Spurs on the other end, though, and the Spurs piled on in that second half.

A couple of bright spots for Cleveland, to me, include the way that Ramon Sessions(notes) is being forced into big minutes without either Mo Williams(notes) or Baron Davis(notes) around. Trust me, Cavs fans, you're doing better with Sessions taking up these minutes (even if he missed 11 of 17 on Wednesday), because Davis isn't going to help right now consistently. Secondly? Coach Byron Scott was actually upset that Luke Harangody(notes) hurt himself following an eight minute stint. He'll be back soon enough, but it's good to see that Scott knows that Harangody can play.

***

Portland 107, Sacramento 102

I disagree with a good chunk of what Paul Westphal does while on the bench, but I can't dismiss this statement:

"For the most part, this was an example of an experienced team jumping on mistakes at an opportune time that an inexperienced team made," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "We did a lot of good things, but we couldn't come away with a win."

That's the game. Portland was there, throughout. The team worked past its mistakes and was there to take advantage when Sacramento took poor shots or lost itself defensively. The Blazers were obviously smarting from Tuesday's embarrassing loss to the Rockets, and it came out firing. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) was Sacramento's focus, even though they didn't double team all that often, and he ended up missing two-thirds of his shots. But Patty Mills(notes) ran a great show off the bench, Nic Batum hit three threes in four attempts, and Portland didn't mope when nasty things happened to the team on the other end.

Like, say, DeMarcus Cousins(notes) (28 points, 11 rebounds, four assists) crossing Marcus Camby(notes) over like he was a Washington General. Or Marcus Thornton(notes) dropping 27 points off the bench.

***

Atlanta 83, Chicago 80

Tom Thibodeau, to these eyes, has done the best coaching job in the NBA this year, and it's not even close. Sure, he's going to flame out in a few years in a way that will have Doug Collins, Larry Brown, Scott Skies, and Rick Vermeil saying, "geez, guy; chill out a little bit," but for now Thibs is the man.

I do have quibbles. One of them is his use of Carlos Boozer(notes) offensively. Boozer is a person he clearly doesn't like in regards to the defensive end, and there's no shame in that. It's akin to not liking the way Randy Johnson performed in the batter's box. Boozer can help offensively, though. And what kills me, all year, is the way that Boozer leaves the court as soon as Derrick Rose(notes) does, instead of using Boozer as a go-to guy when the Bulls trot out their "can't score in an empty gym" bench crew in the second quarters of games.

The Bulls lost this game in the second quarter and beyond with that crew, and even when Boozer was on the court in the second half, he barely touched the ball. This is that "low post scorer" that fans and analysts alike were hoping to send to Chicago for years, and he's used in the same sets that Taj Gibson(notes) muddles through, despite his 20-point talent. It's an infuriating waste of skills, especially when you consider that Boozer is 29, likely in his prime, and probably to tail off and get worse (however slightly) from here on out.

Atlanta won this game because Al Horford(notes) would not be denied. Even when things were going terribly for the Hawks in the first quarter, Horford's nose for the ball and ability to blow past Boozer and move through Joakim Noah(notes) (especially away from the ball, early in the shot clock) had the Bulls at a disadvantage. A good reason why I think Chicago's next game against Dwight Howard(notes) and the Magic may not turn out so well for the Bulls. Same goes for the Miami game, now that the Heat will be featuring Eddy Curry(notes) for 40 minutes.

Thirty-one points and 16 boards for Horford. Derrick Rose made bad decisions and even fewer shots in this loss, but coaching has to come into play, here. The Bulls need to find a way to take advantage of the things that Carlos Boozer does best; because he's certainly hurting them with the things he does worst.

***

Los Angeles Clippers 106, Houston 103

Very impressed with both teams in this game. Both made silly plays, poor decisions, and were caught asleep at the wheel on either end of the court several times. But the Rockets had no business playing as well and as hard as they did in their fourth game in five nights. And the Clippers could have let the Rockets work their way toward a win several times, but Los Angeles kept coming back. The result was a great time out.

Eric Gordon(notes) returned, with a mohawk, and to the digit picked up where he left off in dropping 24 points in a starting role. Blake Griffin(notes) not only added five assists to his 20-and-15 line, but his two-hand (tossed in a shooting motion style) outlet passes are the things that instructional DVDs are made of. Chris Kaman(notes) dropped 21 mostly left-handed points off the bench, with nine rebounds, and complained about being removed from the game in the fourth quarter. At least I think he did. I had the headphones on, at that point, and the volume down.

Houston's Kyle Lowry(notes) came through with 24 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, two steals, and zero turnovers. What a game.

Thank you for reading.

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