Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Los Angeles Lakers 107, Milwaukee 106

Kobe Bryant(notes) scored 39 points and hit the game-winner as the buzzer sounded, but I can't tell who the better player is right now. Is it the Kobester, or Pau Gasol(notes)?

With Kobe fully healthy, sure, it's Bryant. But not by much. And on Wednesday?

Consider Gasol's 22 rebounds. Think about his four blocks. Understand the fact that every time the Lakers went to him in the post, something good happened. Pau made 9-15 shots from the floor, dished four assists, registered 26 points and three turnovers.

Kobe was fantastic, but he also turned the ball over seven times, a night after coughing it up eight times. We can't totally rip on the guy — he's playing with four fingers on his strong hand — but we can point out that a limited Kobe is probably on par with Pau Gasol at this point.

And we can easily point out that the rest of the NBA is utterly and apsatively screwed with this particular power structure in place.

The Bucks fought. Scott Skiles' team played an unrelenting, active defensive game. Every chance Milwaukee had to fold, it floundered. Floundered in folding. Would not fold. Could have had this game.

The refs blew a big one late in overtime, and the Bucks blew several big ones (bad shots from Luke Ridnour(notes) and Michael Redd(notes), missed free throws) all down the line in the stretch. And even with all that - Laker advantage, by one, after 53 minutes

Great game.

***

Atlanta 110, Memphis 97

Was hoping for a more competitive contest, but Memphis kept throwing the ball away, Atlanta's defense was pretty sound in that area, and the Hawks kept the pressure on offensively throughout.

As it's been for most of the season, I liked Atlanta's ball movement, and the depth was good enough to keep the team's lead comfortable for most of the contest. 26 assists for the Hawks on 45 field goals, but only Jeff Teague(notes) had more than five — and he only had six, four of which were picked up in fourth quarter garbage time. Good movement, from everyone.

Joe Johnson(notes) managed 26 and eight rebounds in only 28 minutes, and while the Grizzlies shot well from all over, the team's 20 turnovers turned this into a less-than-stellar night on the offensive end.

***

Indiana 101, Charlotte 98

The Bobcats made a game of this, eliminating deficits late in the first and fourth quarters, but the Larry Brown's outfit allowed Indiana to toss in too many points early on, and when you're rolling with the league's 27th-ranked offense, comebacks are hard to come by.

And we can't give that last line an "even against the Pacers" qualifier. Indiana's been pretty solid on defense this year, 10th overall, but pace masks these things.

The Pacers (26th in offense this year, by the way) weren't exactly great shakes on the other end of the court, but that initial 30-point quarter was enough to keep things relatively at hand. Each starter was hitting early on, while point man T.J. Ford(notes) established a season high in assist by the half, finishing with 13 (and six turnovers).

Troy Murphy(notes) flung in the most (26 points), the Pacers made half their attempts from long range in 24 tries, and the team's perimeter defense (something Jim O'Brien used to be known for) was pretty solid - Charlotte missed 13 of 17 three-pointers.

Gerald Wallace(notes) managed 29 points, 12 rebounds, five turnovers and four steals. Stephen Jackson(notes) had as many turnovers and 22 points on 23 shots, and Charlotte just couldn't put together a long enough stretch of sound offensive basketball to come all the way back.

***

Orlando 118, Toronto 99

The Raptors only turned the ball over eight times, it made a fair amount of free throws (16) thanks almost entirely to Hedo Turkoglu(notes) (nine) and Chris Bosh(notes) (six), and it hit five of 12 from long range. It was a solid offensive night, against what can be a very good defensive club.

But, as I think we've mentioned before, none of this matters if the Raps can't stop anyone.

Orlando shot 57 percent, it piled in nearly 130 points per 100 possessions, and it was never threatened.

Matt Barnes(notes) continued his mini-turnaround with 20 points off the bench, and Dwight Howard(notes) had eight blocks, but this is like counting Duke's stats when they play Athletes in Action in early fall.

14 points, just four rebounds and four assists for Hedo Turkoglu on 2-7 shooting in his return back to Orlando. I enjoyed ESPN talking about Hedo palling around with his former Magic teammates while showing a clip of him embracing Jason Williams(notes) - a former Sacramento teammate.

***

Cleveland 108, Philadelphia 101

There are some nights, as it is with Kobe, as it's been at times with Wade, that you know LeBron James(notes) is just piling up the points in spite of the bad shots he's taking. The eventual total of points, and an atypical shooting percentage on these sorts of perimeter bombs in that small sample size doesn't matter. And, really, the bad shots that go in don't matter if he remembers to take it to the hole and/or post up against, y'know ... the good teams.

Philadelphia does not have a good team. It brought the defense in this close loss, and the Sixers turned in one of the better performances we've seen so far from them in 2009-10, but it didn't matter. And though the defensive effort was good, and the Cavs made some bad shots; let's face it, Philly still gave up 124 points per 100 possessions. Cleveland shot 40 free throws, and I don't think you can say the Cavs got the favorable whistle.

Cleveland's just better, despite some poor decisions. James managed 36 points, six rebounds, seven assists, three turnovers (think of how often this guy has the ball in his hands), three steals and a block. Mo Williams(notes) was a sound helper down the stretch, and Anderson Varejao(notes) had an active game (11 and eight rebounds, no turns) in limited (28) minutes.

Thad Young and Marreese Speights(notes) combined for 30 points, Andre Iguodala(notes) managed 26 on just 15 shot attempts, and Allen Iverson(notes) turned in five assists while missing eight of 12 shots from the field. 

***

Utah 108, New Jersey 92

I didn't see a lot of this game, as the Jazz had this more or less wrapped up a few minutes into the third quarter, but it looked like your typical ranch stash with Utah. Tremendous scoring and interior scoring despite a slowish pace. New Jersey just doesn't have the weapons to keep up.

Deron Williams(notes) took a break from scoring 30 a game for a spell, finishing with 20 points on just 12 shots. Carlos Boozer(notes) managed 26 and 10. Terrence Williams(notes) was hot along the baseline for the Nets, tossing in 17 bench points in 20 minutes, while Brook Lopez(notes) contributed the usual 23 and 10, with just one turnover. My father wants to know if he's not the league's most underrated player anymore. I'm not sure. It's either him or Gasol - pick your Gasol.

Devin Harris(notes) missed eight of nine shots, and something's gone wrong with him this year. It's not just the injuries - he's just not getting sprung in that Net offense anymore. The clear lanes are gone. 

***


New Orleans 95, Detroit 87

This must have been a really tough loss for the Pistons, because they really did compete hard from beginning to end, and were just beaten by a deeper team despite being up by 16 in the first half.

Really admire Detroit's insistent play, but because of injuries, the Pistons have to ask too many role players or offensive zeroes to use up too many possessions, while asking some pretty good players to contribute superstar-level play. Tonight, the role players acquitted themselves well - it was the pretty good players that failed Pistons coach John Kuester down the stretch. Rodney Stuckey(notes) and Will Bynum(notes) just couldn't win the game by themselves.

They shouldn't have to. No roster, unless it's designed to lose games, should have to rely on those two that much, but this is the situation Detroit is in.

A surprising six turnovers and five offensive rebounds for David West(notes), but an unsurprising 32 points on 22 shots for DW. Unsurprising zero free throw attempts, as well; I obviously didn't see each and every one of his shots, but he's not usually the one to bang himself into a double-digit FT night.

***

Los Angeles Clippers 120, Minnesota 95

Baron Davis(notes) (in the postgame interview) and Chris Kaman(notes) in the locker room gushed about him, and it isn't hard to understand why - Marcus Camby(notes) was all over the place for the Clippers in this win.

10 points, 18 rebounds (seven offensive), six assists and five blocks. Just two turnovers. All over the place.

The Clippers pulled away in the second quarter, 30 assists and over 122 points per 100 possessions total, while Baron Davis dropped 13 dimes (along with missing five of six three-pointers, dammit). Pretty awful defense for the Timberwolves, just about every time I clicked over.

And, overall, pretty awful offense as well. The team shot 38 percent, missed 10 of 11 threes, and had nearly as many turnovers as assists. When they go bad, the Wolves go baaad.

***

Dallas 100, Oklahoma City 86

In the end, I think my favorite part of this game was listening to Hubie Brown slowly fall in love with James Harden(notes).

Either that, or the way you keep falling in love with Dirk Nowitzki's(notes) game. Ten years later. Night after night. So glad this guy is still around, playing at a level like this.

Another 20-point second half for Dirk, who finished with 35 points (11 boards, a couple of steals, three assists, a block and just two turnovers) as he pushed Dallas closer and closer to what eventually turned into a one-sided win.

It didn't feel one-sided, for most of the night, but the Mavs piled on. Harden didn't have his best game (12 points, though Hubie is obviously quite smitten with his potential and instincts, as we all should be), and the Thunder managed just 38 second half points.

Dallas keeps getting better and better defensively. Rick Carlisle is on my short list of coaches right now. The good one.

***

Denver 111, Houston 101

Yes, there were some calls that did not go Houston's way. But this team has to play the perfect game to win on the road against a squad like Denver, and though a tough whistle tends to hurt, they wouldn't have won anyway.

Too many turnovers (I understand that a couple of those were charges that were essentially flopped-into by Denver, but too many nevertheless), another 18-shot/18-point night from Trevor Ariza(notes) (he missed seven of eight three-pointers, and clearly doesn't understand that he's not a three-point shooter right now - you just can't take six and a half a game if you're making fewer than a third of them), and Denver was just too creative on the fly. 

38 and nine rebounds for Carmelo Anthony(notes), just two turnovers, while Chauncey Billups(notes) and J.R. Smith(notes) combined for 36 points. CB left the game with a groin strain, here's hoping this isn't a season-changer.

***

San Antonio 103, Golden State 91

The Spurs, despite the poor start, still have the ability to shut you down. I understand that, and I saw the team's effort defensively. And long shots aren't a guarantee to go in, especially when shot by streaky Warriors. But still, what happened to Golden State's long range touch?

1-10 on Wednesday, and that was about the difference, as the Spurs doubled Golden State up in the turnover department. If GSW hits, they someone like Anthony Morrow(notes) plays more minutes and takes more shots, and we have a game. This wasn't exactly a blowout, Golden State hung around, but the cold touch lost the Warriors the game.

Tim Duncan(notes) won San Antonio its game. He managed 27 points and could have had quite a few more if a number of close ones spun in. As it was, 15 rebounds, four blocks, four assists, two turnovers, and in my opinion much better showing defense. I had wondered if this was going to be one of those nights where Gregg Popovich sits Duncan for most of the second part of a back-to-back but, naw, that ain't happening.

San Antonio out-rebounded the Warriors by 20. Monta Ellis(notes) sprung his way to 35 points, and only had one turnover; and you just have to love that. How do you jump from nine to one like that?

***


Sacramento 112, Washington 109

A few things to start.

Washington? Pressing so hard. Losing so many close ones, and you just have to wonder if something is either going to crack, or if Flip Saunders is going to lose this team for the rest of the year. Few people appreciate Flip's knowledge of Xs and Os like I do, but he doesn't exactly have the best history of righting ships, in-season. And while I know it's a long season, with a start like this, you have to wonder what Washington's next move will be.

I had no problem with Antawn Jamison's(notes) three-point miss from the corner late in the fourth quarter. Could he have thrown it up a little smoother? Sure. But that was easily the best percentage shot and payoff the Wizards were going to get in that possession, and he's going to make it 40 to 45 percent of the time. Unless Sacramento only fielded four players in the possession, and a lay-up was just one pass away. Not sure if I missed that.

I'll have to go back and watch it again, which I'm looking forward to, because ...

Omri Casspi(notes)? You have to start this guy. Have to. He won't be there every night, for you, but that has more to do with his rookie status than his talent level, because he just oozes with the good stuff. 22 points in his first start.

Gilbert Arenas(notes) fouled out, again, but he got to the rim all night going in either direction, and it was great to see. 33 points, six boards, six assists, four turnovers, two steals. More of that, please. And please keep that chin up. Talk to Sam Cassell(notes) for a while about his favorite places to, um, "dine" on the road.

And the main point? The one you need to stick with, until your next visit with the young man? You should be head over heels with the idea of Tyreke Evans(notes) in your life as a professional basketball player for the next 17 years.

Thanks for reading.

 

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