Ball Don't Lie - NBA

New York 99, Atlanta 98

Whether Al Horford's(notes) last-second bank-shot would have counted (on first glance, it looked like it didn't count, on second it did, on closer/LED'd examination it was clearly too late; and boy, howdy, do I love instant replay in our game), I was ready to ask any scout worth his fish and chips (and they do love the fried food and quotable hyperbole) to point toward New York's direct for a blueprint as to how to beat the Hawks.

For whatever reason, the Knicks had Atlanta spaced out in ways that would please a Skip Spence fan but in no way that could suit Mike Woodson's defense. The Hawks often "had" (they didn't really) to guard four Knicks above the free throw line, New York often bordered on illegal offense (it does exist, when there is one person below the line on the strong side and four above the line on the weak side), and the Hawks just couldn't keep up with New York's long passes and Princeton-y cuts and finishes.

In a seven game series, sure, the Hawks would have their way. Hell, they were a couple of tenths of a second away from pulling this one out. But the template is clear. Make all five of these Hawks at least think that they have to guard their man far, far away from the hoop. Whether they have to or not. Watch as layups result. Copyright, 2010, Mike D'Antoni.

The Knicks hit 10 fewer free throws than Atlanta and turned the ball over six more times, but New York just has this team's number, and for good reason. Woodson just can't figure out how to handle the spacing, and for whatever reason, the Knicks only seem to trot out the sound spacing and smart play when they take on the Hawks.

It's as if Mike D'Antoni really, really wants Joe Johnson(notes); or he really, really, really dislikes Joe Johnson.

David Lee(notes) had 19 and 13, 27 points for Danilo Gallinari(notes) despite some iffy shots down the stretch, and though the Hawks' frontcourt was fantastic (offensively, at least) as usual, Mike Bibby(notes) (ohfer four) and Jamal Crawford(notes) (5-16 shooting) struggled mightily for Atlanta.

***

Cleveland 97, San Antonio 95

I understand that the Spurs shot 41.7 percent, that Tim Duncan(notes) had just 13 points in 34 minutes, and that San Antonio missed 19 of 29 three-pointers. I understand that offense was a problem, but defense was the issue. The Cavs can D up, but for a Cleveland team playing without LeBron James(notes), Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes), Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and (for the second half) Antawn Jamison(notes) to put up over 105 points per 100 possessions? Pretty telling.

Scoring 105.4 points per 100 possessions is pretty bad, and carried out over an entire year, it would rank the Cavaliers 22nd in the NBA, right between the 76ers and the Wizards. But these are the Cavaliers, built for defense, playing without LeBron et al. With a fake All-Star (Mo Williams(notes)) and a host of also-rans for 48 and a usually-is (Jamison) for 21 minutes. There's no way this team should compete like this, much less put up 48 second half points without Antawn.

But they scored. They played defense, which was to be expected, and they pushed the ball and saw what happened on the glass. And they won. They held off a late Spurs rally and they won. Good Cavs win, baaaaad Spurs loss.

Manu Ginobili(notes) started and had 38 points, seven boards, five assists, two turnovers and two steals. His last-minute three-pointer was rightly overruled a two in the final stages, but it shouldn't have come to that.

***

Memphis 107, New Jersey 101

I didn't see much of this game. With four others going at the same time, including some close ones from sea to shining Mississippi, I stuck around for good bits of Marc Gasol(notes) dominating Brook Lopez(notes) in the first half and the Grizz going up 16 points in the first half. So while I saw bits of New Jersey's comeback - Devin Harris(notes) looked driven, decided to drive; Courtney Lee(notes) made shots - I cannot accurately tell you first hand why, exactly, New Jersey made a game of this.

Besides, of course, the fact that the Grizzlies often lack focus at home, and that the Nets are way, way better than their terrible, terrible record.

Mike Conley(notes) and DeMarre Carroll(notes) (a player I pointlessly ripped before the season) helped hold serve late as the Grizz held on.

***

Dallas 125, Minnesota 112

Because of what may have been the highest possession count we've seen in the NBA this season, 107 of those buggers, the final score wasn't quite the defensive mess you'd assume. The Mavericks held Minnesota to under 105 points per 100 possessions playing with two point guards, two ostensible small forwards, and whatever the hell Dirk Nowitzki(notes) is besides awesome.

The Timberwolves are awful, mainly because Kurt Rambis is about as bad a coach as we have in this league. Kevin Love(notes) (averaging 15 and 11 this year in only 29 minutes per game, ridiculous numbers) finally had a bad game, so my point is pretty shot, but the guy played only 12 minutes. He shot 1-for-7 and had six rebounds.

So, play the guy 36 minutes, he might approach 20 rebounds (against one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, playing without their two 7-foot centers), and his shooting percentage will likely return to the mean. Right? The rebounding is a constant, the scoring has to come around provided you play him more than Mbenga minutes.

But not Rambis. He plays Sasha Pavlovic 21 minutes. Sasha is the worst player in the NBA this season, he registered a -20 in this loss, he missed more shots than Love did over that span, came through with two rebounds and two turnovers, and generally played like Sasha Pavlovic. But Kevin Love finally turned in a stinker, so let's cut his minutes nearly by a third.

Kurt Rambis? You are terrible at this job. There is no passable reason why this team should have lost 50 of its first 64 games.

This wasn't the most artfully crafted ripjob, but don't worry. They let me do this five days a week.

Shawn Marior had 29 points, 13 rebounds and zero turnovers (fantastic) in the win.

***


New Orleans 135, Golden State 131

This is a hard game to accurately analyze because, stereotype and final score ring true, there was no defense played in this contest.

None. Hard play on both ends on the offensive end, I liked the attitude both teams came out with, but there was no defense to be had. Honestly, cut either team's offensive stats by 30 percent, at least, and you'll get a better picture of what went on.

Fun watch, though. Those Warrior D-Leaguers really get it at. They're the reason NBA teams don't look for the bigger scorers in that collective, but guys who can think on their feet, learn plays on the fly, know what to do after grabbing an offensive rebound in traffic, and know what to do when a play breaks down and the ball ends up in their hands. The Warriors have a ton of these guys, and they continue to impress.

Anthony Morrow(notes), too, who kept stepping into three-pointer after three-pointer, six of six all day.

Warriors couldn't guard anyone, though. Or, the Warriors couldn't guard anyone slightly more often than the Hornets couldn't guard anyone. There was no rhyme or reason nor substantive philosophy behind New Orleans providing barely-better defense, it just happened. Could be the road, for Golden State, could be that New Orleans is a better team.

The only thing I pulled from this game is that neither team played any defense, and the contest has absolutely no meaning whatsoever.

Darren Collison(notes) had 20 assists in the win.

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