Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Chicago 102, Cleveland 93 (OT)

Chalk one up as a turnaround for the Bulls. The team started to right itself on Wednesday in Toronto, and sustained the attack on Thursday in this win. They got back to playing defense, running, and generally making life one big aberration for their opponents. A throwback to the Scott Skiles days, the early days, of forcing teams into giving up when things aren't going their way.

And make no mistake, Thursday was an aberration for the Cavaliers. A complete and total aberration that saw them revert to their old, inefficient ways, while LeBron James played his worst game of the season(s?). This team started looking ahead to Friday once overtime started.

28 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists for LeBron, but he also turned it over eight times. And his shot selection, against an active-but-ultimately-beatable Chicago defense led by Luol Deng left a lot to be desired. He just didn't seem to want to bogart this win.

And that's how good the Cavs are. LeBron plays a batch of passive and poorly-conceived basketball for huge stretches, and they still take a team like Chicago to overtime, while on the road.

Also, Bulls fans should just get used to the fact that Andres Nocioni will be playing center in the fourth quarter this season.

Portland 105, New Jersey 99

Big bounce back game for the Trail Blazers. And most of the Nets.

Vince Carter continues to struggle; he missed 10 of 14 shots against Portland, but managed to end the night with a 13-point, nine-rebound, five-assist, two-steal, zero-turnover line in 39 minutes. And Devin Harris brought it back, scoring 23 points on 18 shots.

But New Jersey's defense failed them, as it usually does. Lots of heads were turned as Brandon Roy (29 points, eight rebounds, five assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points) went off. And Jerryd Bayless, who heretofore had come through with a lousy year statistically while still looking promising every time he galloped down court, went the H off with 23 points off the pine.

It only took nine shots for Bayless to reach his 23; he managed three assists as well and only turned the ball over once. Didn't really come across as the point guard that he's supposed to develop into, but at least he came across as something good after that slow start.

Denver 119, Phoenix 113 (OT)

The Nuggets needed to reboot their season real freakin' quick, and Thursday was a good way to start.

Defense gets talked about because that's what people believe, but it was Denver's growth into an efficient offensive team that has made all the difference this year with Chauncey Billups on board. Denver was 10th in offense last year, despite putting up a ton of points (pace!), and its 2007-08 defense was actually better (11th, to 13th) than the defense we've seen so far this season from George Karl's team.

Recently, Karl's team had been slipping. The defense fell way off, and while the offense (5th) was sound, there were some jump-shooty holes.

(Also, how ridiculous was Doug Collins' assertion that Denver's increased turnover woes are due to the fact that Denver was playing at a slower pace, and because more hands were touching the ball with Allen Iverson gone?

It couldn't be because Nene, who has been brilliant but very turnover-prone, has replaced Marcus Camby's minutes, and that Camby rarely turned the ball over. And it couldn't be because Anthony Carter's cough-ups have gone through the roof as he slowed down at age 33. Or that Chris Andersen, much better but also very turnover-prone, has replaced Eduardo Najera in the rotation? Or that Allen Iverson's turnover ratio of 8.9 from last season was incredibly good, better than KG, Pierce, or Kobe's.

I mean, it's not as if Doug had a few weeks to research what I just looked up in five minutes.)

But while Karl may be an empty suit at times when it comes to developing the play or rotation to turn a team or a season around, the man sure can put together a halftime speech. That's not a joke, and I'm not having a go at Karl. He can truly motivate, and Denver's second half play after Karl's harangue is a great example of such. They worked defensively, and were patient offensively while still playing aggressive ball.

Here's hoping it sustains.

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