Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Boston 99, Dallas 92

(See, that's his secret. He just stares down the rim. Never takes his eye off of it.

You know why cats don't want anything to do with the people that stare at them or want their attention? It's not because they're aloof. It's because they take the wide, unblinking eye as a sign of confrontation.

And that's what Pierce does to the rim. He lets it know who's boss. Doesn't matter if it's New Orleans, or New Year. Doesn't even bother to look at the net. Just the rim. Confrontation.)

I have so much respect for Paul Pierce's game, it's ridiculous. He didn't do a damn thing in that fourth quarter that should have surprised us at all, but it's still worth the standing O. He's been working that magic for years, on teams hoping to make the playoffs, on teams hoping for a ring, or on teams desperate to get to 30 wins. Always coming through, either keeping it close, or putting it away. Laugh at the wheelchair and rip him for moping at times (like, all of 2003-04), but the man is just a stone cold winner.

And if your team is in the penalty, forget it. He doesn't have to flail or destroy his body like Dwyane Wade (who, you'll notice, is shooting far fewer free throws since his 6-4 frame fell apart in 2006-07), he just puts his head down and gets to the line. 14 times, in fact, on Thursday, making 13. 18 in the fourth quarter, 31 in the game.

It was needed. Though the Celtics didn't exactly take it to the final buzzer in beating New Orleans on Wednesday, this was a tired team, and Dallas was a potent team early on. Certainly not hot enough to make it so you ever thought this game was out of reach for the C's, nobody should have thought that, but certainly strong enough to win. Or strong enough to make Boston work. Or strong enough to fall just short, in the end.

To me, the key was one final sequence that saw Pierce nail a spinning turnaround jumper at one end, followed by Dirk Nowitzki given the opportunity to hit nearly the same jumper at the top of the key on Dallas' next possession. Problem was, Dirk didn't release. He pump-faked, his elbow caught Pierce, and whether or not you agree with the foul, the issue is the shot wasn't going in. Should have taken the shot. Should have followed Pierce's lead.

Dirk, who the Celtics coveted in the 1998 Draft (they had to settle for the Truth), finished with 37 points, but on a limited team even playing at home, you have to play nearly perfect in order to beat the champs. Even if the champs have no legs. Well, Rajon Rondo (19 points, 15 rebounds, 14 assists, six turnovers) had plenty of legs, but it wasn't pretty in Boston's 40-point first half.

And Dallas didn't have enough to put Boston away. Not when Dallas (who is a slightly above-average rebounding team per possession, even with Dirk's caroms falling off this season) gets out-rebounded 50-31, or when the Mavericks numbah deux et trey shoot 6-19 (osh Howard) and 1-8 (ason Kidd).

It's a joke from 1995, and it never gets old.

Not going to rip on Dallas, though. They lost to a better team, even given the better team's mitigating circumstances.

Miami 95, Chicago 93

The difference between Chicago's play and Miami's work wasn't glaring, but it was enough that I'm not going to bash my head over a dunderheaded turnover from Thabo Sefolosha in the final minute. Thabo's miscue was just the last thing that cost Chicago the game on Thursday. Or the penultimate thing, depending on whether or not you think Tyrus Thomas should overplay as much as he did on Dwyane Wade in the final seconds. I'm still undecided on that.

I'm not as undecided on Thomas' six turnovers, or Chicago's inability to execute in the half court, refusing to run plays for Luol Deng (2-6 shooting) against a team he historically does well against. That's what lost the game, poor offense, and not one blown pass.

For the second game in a row, Andres Nocioni played in front of Deng down the stretch, because it seems like Noc is able to get his shot off more against tougher defensive teams.

No, Noc is able to get bad shots off easier against a tougher defense. He'll chuck a three-pointer from straightaway without even thinking about the context or the likelihood that the shot will actually go in. Deng doesn't, but Deng also needs screens set for him, and the ball to be moving. And that's no secret. The Bulls knew that when they signed him to that extension.

Perhaps if he pumped his fist more, he'd be allowed to do what Nocioni does, namely take two more shots, making the same amount as Lu, in 12 fewer minutes.

This one's on Miami, though. Michael Beasley was aggressive in picking up 21 and seven rebounds off the bench, I didn't agree with Daequan Cook's shot selection (what else is new), but he did hit 4-10 (4-6 from long range) and finish with 12 points, and Shawn Marion made 6-10 without having much called for him. And the defense was sound, forcing Chicago into turnovers and 44 percent shooting.

Golden State 105, Portland 98

One team pays attention for one-in-three possessions, the other team works its tail off from beginning to end. One team can't wait for the impending break, and the other acted as if it wants to play on Friday night. That might not be a bad idea. Let's see if the Warriors can beat the Rookie team.

Portland turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of its possessions, didn't get to the line, and watched as the Warriors piled up the second-chance points and hustle plays. Portland actually out-rebounded Golden State in the loss, but the Warriors were more interested in this one, as evidenced by a shocking 39-43 mark from the free throw line.

Portland kind of made it close in the end, but you never felt as if the Warriors were falling apart, or letting this one get away from them. Too much effort.

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