Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Golden State 103, Boston 99

If you'd seen it, you'd understand. This wasn't much of an upset.

The Warriors have talent. Given the proper coach and system, even with all those injuries, they have playoff-level talent. It's just hard to put it all together in an atmosphere like the one the Golden State organization has created.

But with Paul Pierce(notes) out? And the game at Oracle? And Eddie House(notes) guarding Monta Ellis(notes) for some stretches? This could be a game.

And with heaps and heaps and heaps of Boston turnovers? This should be Golden State's game.

25 turnovers for Boston, and that wasn't a fast pace pumping that raw total up. The team coughed it up on nearly a quarter of its possessions. That happens every now and then in this league, but think about that in its simplest terms. You have the ball four times, and on average, you just hand it to the other team once in every four times. While they only hand it back to you 18 percent of the time.

And the people Golden State are handing it to? Veterans. Not exactly whirling dervishes in the open court.

The kids that the Celtics were handing the rock to? Youngstuhs. Runners. Finishers.

Boston shot 50 percent, but this wasn't a case of the team playing well save for all the miscues. The Celtics made just 14-21 free throws and missed 14 of 19 three-pointers despite having plenty of good looks. Boston is a somewhat thin team missing its best offensive player, and a versatile minutes sopper in Marquis Daniels(notes). Nights like these — turnovers like these, even - are going to happen.

Because of the turnover disparity, the Warriors had more chances to shoot, and the team made more free throws on its way to a win. If the point is giving yourself more chances to win than the other team, than Golden State got the point.

Monta Ellis was pretty much unstoppable from the outset — 37 points and just three turnovers in the full 48 minute term — and C.J. Watson(notes) had seven steals off the Warrior bench. Six in the second quarter, alone.

18 and 9 in less than half a game from Anthony Randolph(notes). He was good but, man, does this kid have holes.


Milwaukee 94, Charlotte 84

Were I the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, I too would have wanted to bench just about every part of my rotation after falling behind 21 points (it looked worse) in the first half to the Charlotte Bobcats. Hopefully I would have worked past that, and concentrated more on the comeback than making statements.

Scott Skiles, as is usually the case, had no such reflex.

He plunked Michael Redd(notes) and Andrew Bogut(notes) down on the bench for the entire second half, one that saw the Bucks outscore Charlotte by 12 before we remind you that causation does not equal correlation. Something like that.

I want to give Skiles, who really knows this game on a level most of us do not, the benefit of the doubt in times like this; but he has also been run out of two different NBA cities for moves just like this, preferring to punish and play martyr rather than teach and develop consistency with those he was hired to bring the best out of.

Once again — it's not hard to get Mario Elie Andres Nocioni(notes) Luc Mbah a Moute to play hard for you. He'll play hard, consistently, for any coach. It's the great coaches that get those who don't play consistently hard out of instinct to overcome that instinct and keep up the effort and bring the smarts. That's the last step, in each of his stops, that Skiles just seems unable to take.

Charlotte destroyed the Bucks early by causing turnover after turnover, which was unfortunate for Milwaukee because apparently taking care of the ball was an emphasis entering the game, as the team was mindful of Charlotte's swipe-happy ways. Nine first half turnovers, 16 all day, for the Bucks.

The Bobcats just kept the pressure on. It wasn't pretty — Stephen Jackson(notes) had six turnovers of his own, and the team missed 14 of 18 three-pointers — but the D was fantastic.


Oklahoma City 105, New Jersey 89

First, the odd bits.

Yes, after Monday's 29-point outing, Yi Jianlian(notes) is averaging over 15 points and seven rebounds on the season, playing around 32 minutes a night. It's early, and he's no blossoming All-Star (he still doesn't start on a good team), but he's going a long way toward becoming what we were told Vladimir Stepania was going to be, before he turned into some Georgian version of Jamie Feick.

And, yes, that last paragraph is for the junkies. And if you're reading about the Thunder and Nets on a Tuesday in late December, you are one. Now pass the spoon and move on.

Yi gave everyone a taste — Nenad Krstic(notes), Nick Collison(notes), Kevin Durant(notes) - by playing sound screen and roll with a point man (Devin Harris(notes)) that really hasn't bothered to play sound screen and roll this year. Rafer Alston(notes) gave New Jersey some good minutes in the first half, and if it weren't for a frustrating night for Brook Lopez(notes) (11 and seven rebounds, but, just trust me) and continued depth issues (2-15 bench shooting) we may have had a game.

And, the defense. My bad. There was no way this was going to be a game with that New Jersey defense.

The Nets couldn't defend, at all. Oklahoma City was playing it's usual brand of veteran-y ball with youngster-y panache, but this time it led to a hot night on offense — 115 points per 100 possessions. Durant dropped 40 and was fantastic, no Jamal Crawford(notes)-stuff here, and the team would have won by 25 had James Harden(notes) (who missed all 10 of his looks from the floor, but played well) not had such rotten luck.


Memphis 116, Washington 111 (OT)

Another tough loss for the Wizards, they couldn't handle Memphis on the offensive glass, and when you take a swing in overtime, every missed free throw (18-25 overall, Gilbert Arenas(notes) missed a big one in OT) counts.

The Grizzlies pulled away in the early part of the fourth quarter as Washington's Andray Blatche(notes) coughed the ball up three times, with Memphis bigs Marc Gasol(notes) (20 and 11) and Zach Randolph(notes) (23 and 19; missed 10 of 17 shots, but off-target tip-ins hurt his percentages, he was great) having their way. Brendan Haywood(notes) and Antawn Jamison(notes) helped stem the tide on the glass late in that fourth, though, as Gilbert Arenas and Randy Foye(notes) shot (and drove) the Wizards back into a tie with a 10-0 run to close regulation.

Memphis had it in overtime, though, getting some put-backs from Randolph (six points, four boards) and a big three-pointer from O.J. Mayo(notes) (28 points) to put the Wizards away.

Two things ...

Don't cut Antawn Jamison off in traffic. The guy is about to flip.

Sam Young(notes) (6.7 shots to score 7.3 points per game) still shoots more than I would prefer.


Phoenix 118, Los Angeles Lakers 103

I know I don't play the game at their level. I know I wasn't in the trenches, that I haven't pulled up my bootstraps, that I don't have the "guts" or the "glory," and that I've never gotten a tattoo on my shooting hand — but I can't understand how a team can watch Andrew Bynum(notes) toss in nine points, seven rebounds and a block in the first quarter, and just continually ignore him offensively.

Phil Jackson wondered the same thing, but what does he know? He played in the 1970's. Back when, for some unspeakable reason, teams went for high percentage shots.

Don't be confused, though. While offense was a problem for the Lakers in this loss, it was the team's terrible defense that gave it away. Los Angeles was down six points at halftime, but should have known better — Steve Nash(notes) had missed five of six shots, but nearly all of the misses had spun in and out — and expected the Suns to keep it up should the Laker D continue to play as poorly.

Instead, the league's best statistical defense came out flat, again, and the Suns just moved the ball and piled up the points. Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) (26 points) had his way at the rim any time he wanted it, and the Lakers just seemed to be in excuse-making mode without Ron Artest(notes) around.

No help, no rotation, none of the extra steps needed to stem the tide. The Lakers raced out to that hot start defensively because of the team's effort. The formula changed a bit with Kurt Rambis in Minnesota — more use of the team's length, fewer traps — but this wasn't just the case of plopping Artest into the mix and watching the results improve. The Lakers worked for it.

Against any team, you have to work for it, to keep up that top ranking. Without Artest, you really, really have to work for it. Against the Suns, without Artest? You're looking at a blowout if you give a lackluster effort level. And that's what I saw out of Los Angeles on Monday.

19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and typical heady play from Jared Dudley(notes) in 28 minutes off the bench for Phoenix.


Philadelphia 104, Portland 93

I didn't get to see as much of this game as others while I flipped around, but when I did turn in I was reminded of last year's Blazers, on the defensive end. Not a good thing.

The Sixers seemed to be dominating the paint on offense, getting good looks and finishing well. Portland didn't seem to have an answer. Losing two defensive-minded 7-footers for the season in the same month will do that.

58 percent shooting and a whopping 122 points per 100 possessions for the 76ers. Eddie Jordan's crummy defensive team "only" gave up 93 points, but don't be fooled by that. The slow pace helped. Portland's 105 points per 100 possessions isn't a ton, but it's still not exactly a shutout.

I was going to rip on 49-year old Juwan Howard(notes) for only having two rebounds in 20 minutes, but then I saw that 21-year old jumping jack Thaddeus Young(notes) had just one carom in the same amount of time, and I decided to go yell at a stack of blank CDs.

25 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Elton Brand(notes) in the win.

Allen Iverson(notes) had a sound game with 19 points on 11 shots and five assists in only 31 minutes.


Sacramento 106, Denver 101

I know Chauncey Billups(notes) was out, but man, the Sacramento Kings just beat the Nuggets with Tyreke Evans(notes) in street clothes.

The Nuggets played hard, too. Nene managed a season-high 25 points with eight rebounds (despite some questionable moves on both ends), the team earned 35 trips to the line, and who knows how this game might have turned out had the Kings been called for what was an obvious eight-second violation with a minute to go in the fourth quarter?

Thing is, J.R. Smith(notes) is having a bad go of things (shooting 13-44, 29.5 percent, over his last three games; all Nuggets losses) as 2009 wraps up, the team misses Billups and his play-calling, and Carmelo Anthony(notes) struggled with an elbow injury that had him whiffing on free throws (needing to take one left-handed at one point) and missing jumpers in the fourth quarter.

On the other, the Kings set really, really good screens. Lots of passing angles, even for a team that isn't exactly replete with great passers, and Sacramento finished with 22 assists on 37 field goals. Centers Spencer Hawes(notes) and Jon Brockman(notes) combined for 13 rebounds in 37 minutes (guess who had three, and who had 10 in 16 minutes?), Andres Nocioni scored 21 points on seven shots without tossing up any "no, no, no ... OK, fine"-shots, and I'm not going to credit Donte Greene's(notes) defense too much.

He worked his butt off against Carmelo, but when 'Melo missed, it was because he was hurting. Greene's defense was spot-on, I say that without reservation, but it wasn't the reason Anthony missed 20 of 35 shots. Loved Donte's shot selection, though, on his way to 17 points on just nine shots.

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