Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Milwaukee 99, New Jersey 85

Down seven at the half, the Bucks probably looked at the in-game box score that was handed out in the locker room. Noticing the names "Rafer Alston," "Trenton Hassell," "Josh Boone," and "Bobby Simmons" among the particulars, the Bucks then likely decided to act their talent-level and start the second half on a 15-0 run.

Then the Bucks, and this much is documented, actually went out and started the second half on a 15-0 run.

The Nets missed 29 of 38 attempts in the second half, and they're just terrible. The team does try, and executes as far as I can tell just up to the point where they have to make a shot. Then they miss the shot. That's not me being flip. This is New Jersey's offense.

The team features one good-to-great player in Brook Lopez(notes), and he can't get the ball. Alston (1-10 shooting, one assist and one turnover in 33 minutes) should be a third point guard right now, at best. Guys like Boone and Hassell are only passable as rotation guys on very, very good offensive teams. Because they're zeroes, offensively.

Instead, they start. And some people still can't understand why the Nets haven't won in 12 attempts. They haven't won, people, because they're terrible. They're not owed a win or two just because they're an NBA team.

Another great night out of Andrew Bogut(notes), who has just been beastly on both ends all season long. 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two turnovers, and a block in 37 minutes. The athletic Carlos Delfino(notes) also poured in 21, and Luke Ridnour(notes) had another good game off the bench with 17 points. Brandon Jennings(notes) contributed 19 points and eight assists, but he also turned the ball over eight times.


Orlando 108, Oklahoma City 94

Honestly, one of the things I hate about sports is when the completely and utterly lame storyline that any hack columnist could have mused about comes true. Like, you know Brett Favre is going to own the Packers in the return engagement, or that Trevor Ariza(notes) and Ron Artest(notes) are going to trade buckets toward the end of the first meeting between the Lakers and Rockets. Can't stand it when hackism makes its way toward real life.

Oklahoma City's early-season dismantling of the Orlando Magic didn't exactly make the cable news copy du jour, but it did seem a bit obvious that the Magic would try to win two games in one when the Thunder visited Orlando. You would hope that Oklahoma City would be ready for such an onslaught, that an obvious beat down wouldn't be in the offing.

It was. In the offing, that is.

The Magic jumped on the Thunder early, taking a series of shots that the Thunder didn't expect them to launch, making a series of shots that the Thunder didn't expect to go in. They should have expected it, because the Thunder clearly weren't ready to play this revenge script out, and didn't really show up with much energy from the outset. It was as if they were expecting such punishment.

Which stinks, but the Magic can really play. The ball was moving and the screens were really good in this win. Vince Carter(notes) was hot early, Rashard Lewis(notes) just missed a triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals) in 33 minutes, and the OKC's kids didn't put up much of a fight. Kevin Durant(notes) needed 12 shots to score 12 points, and Russell Westbrook(notes) shot 3-10.

James Harden(notes) was solid, 24 points, and the Thunder did do well in the fourth quarter (outscoring the Magic by 36 16), but nobody remembers the fourth quarter when the paper's deadline is just 45 minutes after the game ends.

Oh, and to anyone who wanted Rashard Lewis to head back onto the court to get the assist needed for his triple-double?

Anthony Bowie, man. Anthony Bowie.


New York 110, Indiana 103

A couple of brief statements, to start.

1). If you can't score more than 34 points in a second half against the Knicks - the Knicks without Allen Iverson(notes) - then you don't deserve to win.

2). I would not allow T.J. Ford(notes) to run my next scrapbooking workshop, much less an NBA team.

3). The bit about Allen Iverson in the first statement was a joke.

4). The part about T.J. Ford was not. Put down the cherished memories, T.J.

The Pacers completely fell apart in the second half of this loss, and though we appreciated New York's activity on the defensive end, Indiana clearly did this to themselves.

On both ends. New York managed 34 points in the fourth quarter, shuttling in players who dared contribute while others (Chris Duhon(notes) is possibly having the worst year of any NBA starter, he missed four of five shots on Wednesday) sat.

Al Harrington(notes) worked off the ball and got his rotation right, finishing with 26 points on 13 shots, Wilson Chandler(notes) had a sound first half, and Larry Hughes(notes) continued his November-styled renaissance with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists off the bench. Off the bench!

Indiana, Larry Hughes just did that to you - not sure if you've heard -- off the bench.

(Of course, as has been noted elsewhere, this could be a fleeting thing for Sir Larry.)

The Pacers were just completely impotent in that second half, and though the team is perhaps allowed some room to swoon due its sound start (winning five of eight games before this loss), the whole exercise feels unseemly.

Ford can be a terrible, terrible point guard. For long stretches. He's been in the league since 2003 and he still makes decisions that would get a high schooler benched, and Indiana has little or no recourse if Earl Watson(notes) (who missed all seven of his shot attempts) is playing like Earl Watson usually plays at all points leading up to earlier this month.

Ford missed four of five shots, he had seven rebounds, five assists, and five turnovers. He's averaging 6.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 turnovers in 32.5 minutes per game over his last two contests, on 20 percent shooting.

Brandon Roy(notes) has hit fewer than a third of his shots this year, and he's missed 16 of 19 attempts over his last two games against defensive stalwarts from New Jersey and New York. Good god.

Eddy Curry's(notes) return (10 points, four rebounds, four fouls, three turnovers in just under 12 minutes) was pleasant, if predictable.


Philadelphia 86, Charlotte 84

Some say that Elton Brand(notes) is all washed-up. But in my book, you gotta get to White Castle before the weirdos show up!

19 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one turnover, six blocks, and three steals for Brand in this win. Sure, he used to more or less average this stuff, but you take what you can get in the 2009-10.

Rumors had Brand possibly coming off the bench for this game, and while I don't think EB needs any more motivation, he does need more reps, and more minutes to really get his body back into proper shape. He's not going to come back an All-Star, but nights like these should happen more and more often.

Good effort on both ends. The Bobcats couldn't stop Lou Williams from driving right and finishing, Rodney Carney(notes) (just 10 points and eight rebounds, but much needed contributions) seemed to be just what the Sixers begged for off the bench, and Andre Iguodala(notes) was his all-around self with 25 points and three steals.

Also, Sam Dalembert picked up two boards, an assist, a turnover, and three fouls in 14 minutes. Zero points. But, yeah, let's sit Brand.

Stephen Jackson(notes) played well for the Bobcats, finishing with 26 points, but the Bobcats just didn't have the scorers to compete.

And as it's been for Flip Murray(notes) over his entire career, he followed up (fouled up) his 31-point effort from the other night with nine points on 11 shots, as inefficient as Tuesday night's performance was efficient.


Atlanta 105, Miami 90

Josh Smith(notes): "It's just beautiful basketball right now."

Agreed, mate. Mainly because of you.

Smith contributed 16 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, four turnovers, two steals and two blocks in this win. He also took his first three-pointer of the season, and while he and I missed it, I'm sure it was sent up after someone told him that an attempted three-pointer would go a long way toward saving the old orphanage on the other side of the tracks from being turned into a bunch of new condos.

For the fat cats.

Atlanta only turned the ball over eight times, Joe Johnson(notes) dropped 30 again, Dwyane Wade(notes) (with a bum left hand, it should be pointed out) needed 18 shots to score 15 points (with four turnovers), and the Hawks more or less made everyone on the Heat look old and slow. Save for Michael Beasley(notes), perhaps, who finished with 21 and nine rebounds.

I mean, the Hawks picked up 15 offensive rebounds. Just dominant.

10-2. Atlanta is 10-2.


Boston 109, Golden State 95

First off, you have to love Don Nelson's explanation for playing the injured Raja Bell(notes) during this loss:

"He was going to have surgery anyway."

Just come up with your own combination of cuss words in the comment section. It'll all end up censored anyway, but you have to vent, I know.

Boston made some curious decisions in this loss, on either end of the ball. They weren't exactly toying with the Warriors or taking them lightly, but for about two and a half quarters the Celtics were playing just well enough to win, and little else. Hardly the edge we saw from the team as it roared out of the gate defending its championship last season, or the team that won the championship proper in 2007-08, but I'm going to pass on judging things until June, if you don't mind.

They did win the game, after all, and pretty handily. And Boston knows when it's messing up.

Rajon Rondo(notes) was the difference. 18 points on 8-12 shooting (he could have made a few more, actually), 12 assists, seven rebounds and four turnovers. Paul Pierce(notes) tossed in 19 points, Kendrick Perkins(notes) overcame some miscues on his way to 15 points, and Boston registered 25 assists on 42 field goals.

Same old story with Golden State. The team is small, quick, and can beat you if they don't turn the ball over (21, tonight), and the three-pointers (6-17 tonight) are falling.


Minnesota 97, Houston 84

I'm not going to tell you that the Timberwolves should have beaten the Rockets, or any other team they've lost to thus far, but does this really feel like a 1-11 team?

Kevin Love(notes) is out, the team is admittedly (re-)rebuilding, Al Jefferson(notes) has been a step slow for most of the year and he missed the last two games dealing with a death in the family, and there have been some rotation quibbles.

But with Kurt Rambis, Reggie Theus, and Bill Laimbeer on hand, this team should be motivated. With Dave Wohl on hand as lead assistant, this team should be prepared. And somehow, it's falling short.

Perhaps I'm not giving enough credit to the Rockets, a team that I've rightfully fawned over all year, but Minnesota's Ryan Hollins(notes) is better than four points, four rebounds, and two turnovers in almost 23 minutes. The team should know not to be handing 25 attempts to limited chuckers like Oleksiy Pecherov(notes) and Sasha Pavlovic (they made seven shots), and the team should know by now that Corey Brewer(notes) just isn't helping.

I don't care if Brewer doesn't let his man score a point all night, if you toss out a shooting guard for 29 minutes that puts up seven shots, scores six points off of them, and turns the ball over five times, you're going to lose. No way around it. You're not supposed to average more shot attempts than you do points. The numbers aren't even supposed to come close. And Brewer averages 12 and a half shot attempts a night, which is bad enough, and he scores 11.5 points per contest.

And 2.5 turnovers for someone who plays fewer than 30 minutes, and mainly takes 21-footers off a catch? Way too much. And with free agent space a huge part of the rebuilding plan, I think Minnesota is going to regret picking up Brewer's option. Every cent counts.

Meanwhile, not to beat this weeks-old horse, but Ramon Sessions(notes) played only 24 minutes in this loss, contributing 16 and five assists. And it didn't take him 18 shots (Sessions shot 7-11).

Speaking of shooting too much, Trevor Ariza shot 6-19 in the win, 4-13 from behind the arc, and finished with 18 points. Too much. Both teams were quite turnover-prone, but the Rockets were hot from behind the arc, and Luis Scola(notes) had a sound game with 20 points and 16 rebounds.

Just 20 free throws in this game. Yikes.


Memphis 106, Los Angeles Clippers 91

The Clippers didn't exactly let the Grizzlies push them around, and you can't blame terrible shot selection for Los Angeles (Baron Davis(notes) went 8-13 from the field, only taking two three-pointers, making one). Memphis was just more interested, quicker to the ball, quicker to react, quicker to finish.

Meaning, of course, that the Clippers have lost back-to-back games to a Hornets team playing without Chris Paul(notes), and Grizzlies outfit playing in front of what looked like a few thousand fans.

Cue Jim Mora.

Actually, cue Steve Perrin, who lives and breathes Clipper basketball:

"I haven't watched the game.  I haven't read the comments on the thread.  I have no first hand knowledge of what happened.  Maybe I'll break down and watch tomorrow; maybe I won't.  Right now, it's just not something I want to put myself through.  And frankly, I'm a little pissed off that this team has reduced me to this.  I should look forward to watching them play.  I shouldn't be miserable about it."

I agree. This is supposed to be fun. The Clippers make it drudgery. It's not that they're bad. It's that they're wrong. These are good guys, save for the despicable owner who we can't say enough nasty things about, but if you can't at least attempt to steal a win in Memphis, then how much do you really care?

Memphis cared. They were quick with their passes - 23 assists, which should be some sort of milestone for a team like this. The Griz ran the floor when appropriate, from what I saw, and genuinely looked to find the best shot available. Again, on a team featuring Rudy Gay(notes) and Zach Randolph(notes), this is huge news. I know it was against the Clippers, but Gay and Randolph have played against the Clippers quite a few times now, and they still weren't thinking team-first.

Lionel Hollins has this team thinking team-first. It might not be any good, but there's something going on down in Memphis. Now that the jokers have flown, maybe it's time for a turnaround.


Utah 104, Toronto 91

Utah got out to a white hot start because the Raptors just can't guard anyone - anyone - and the Raptors came back to make a game of this mainly because Carlos Boozer(notes) can't guard anyone. Anyone. It's amazing what one power forward can do to a team defensively, but Boozer just seems to have a hand in every blown rotation, every open jumper off a pass from a guard who was allowed easy penetration, and every offensive rebound.

Weird, because Boozer had 18 rebounds, 11 defensive, but he was grabbing instead of boxing out, and it allowed Toronto some easy looks. Involve him in a pick and roll, and a few passes later, you have a good look. He's just a problem.

He also dropped 22 and 18, and didn't turn the ball over despite playing nearly 40 minutes. This doesn't excuse the other stuff, but it does make up for it. Some would say it more than makes up for it. I'd probably be among that chorus.

25 assists on 41 field goals for the Jazz, who attacked the Raptors at every given opportunity and took in an aggressive night from rookie Eric Maynor(notes). 15 points, four rebounds, six assists, two turnovers, a steal and a block for Maynor in less than half a game. To get those numbers from a rookie guard - four boards, just two turnovers, good shooting? - off your bench. Huge stuff.

Otherwise, I don't know what Utah's answer is. The team's best player seemed to be Andrei Kirilenko(notes), who came through with 20 points on only 11 shots, with seven rebounds, an assist, two turnovers, three steals, and two blocks. He clearly needs to be a power forward, but he's playing behind two other power forwards, and moving Boozer or Paul Millsap(notes) (to a lesser extent) to center for long stretches would have the Jazz giving up 120 points per game.

The Jazz were also +3 with AK out there, and +22 with Boozer on the floor. Could be a small sample size, or it could be our eyes deceiving us. Boozer might not be the problem. Lots to learn, here. So many things to figure out. So many roads.

Chris Bosh(notes) (32 points, 17 rebounds, only two turnovers) was predictably brilliant for Toronto.

Unpredictable? Andrea Bargnani(notes) got a double-double! Look at you!


Washington 108, Cleveland 91

There are words you can't use anymore, at least in esteemed company or on basketball websites, that I miss. Most of these words have taken on other, more lascivious, connotations, so we've had to cease utilizing them altogether.

One of those words rhymes with "loaner," and the application I prefer has nothing to do with a male who is quite obviously interested in his surroundings, rather, but has something to do with screwing up. Not to a massive extent, but still, a pretty big "loaner."

Like, James Watt. He had plenty of "loaners." Cost him his job.

The Cavs, from the coaches to the superstars to the helpers, just had a loaner on Wednesday. Blew a game they could have won by making obvious mistake after obvious mistake.

Sure, Cleveland played on Tuesday night as well, they were without Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and the team was on the road, but you got the feeling the Cavaliers didn't take the Wizards as seriously as they should have. Even while down a few points. Strange, considering the history between the two teams.

But there the Cavs went, leaving LeBron James(notes) on the bench for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, trotting out big lineups that the Wizards summarily danced around in the second half. And there LeBron went, making the game all about himself, firing up ridiculous shots in the face of DeShawn Stevenson(notes) to prove ... that he's better than DeShawn Stevenson?

LeBron, you're better than DeShawn Stevenson. A lot of people are. Most players on DeShawn Stevenson's team are better than DeShawn Stevenson, which is why DeShawn Stevenson averages 20 minutes per game. You won that one, years ago. Like, 24 years ago. And you weren't going to win any extra points on Wednesday by nailing a ridiculous 23-foot two-point fadeaway in his face.

The old habits were all over the place. Mo Williams(notes) missed 11 of 13 shots, the two make came on an open runner and a face up shot over Earl Boykins'(notes) forehead. The whole team failed to initiate any sort of offensive movement from the second quarter onward, making it easy for the Wizards to load up on whoever was taking the 20-footer. And Cleveland couldn't keep up with a quicker Wizards team that owned this game after the initial 18 minutes.

After watching Antawn Jamison(notes) in this win, I'm convinced that every player should develop a cold after deeming themselves ready to return to action. That way, you don't feel as if you're coming right off the shelf, rather, you feel as if you've been waylaid by something else (a cold) that is easily overcome. Jamison fit right in, in his first game of the season, only turning the ball over two times in 38 minutes, pouring in 31 points in various styles and pulling in 10 rebounds (six offensive).

Caron Butler(notes) and Gilbert Arenas(notes) struggled through rough starts, but both managed to finish with 37 points, and Mike Miller(notes) gutted his way through a nice night leading the Wizards offense, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Miller is clearly hurt, though, and needs to take a few more games off.

Somebody needs to slap the Cavaliers on the top of their heads, because there is too much hubris going on here for a team that has won absolutely nothing.


Portland 87, Detroit 81

Steve Blake(notes) hit a three-pointer to seal this game, and he scored an efficient 17 points overall (with two assists to three turnovers), but I just can't help but revert back to 2007 and tell you that this guy should be a bit player. 15 minutes a game or so, mainly because Blake just can't guard anyone.

Point guard defense is possibly the most important aspect of today's game, with no hand checking and cleared lanes, and Blake sometimes single-handedly lets Trail Blazer opponents back into the game. Andre Miller(notes) isn't that much better, I admit, but Blake is absolutely terrible on that end these days. And don't look at the stats of the opposing point guard to back me up or take me down - it's all about penetration, and the dominos that fall after that.

Blake was on the floor as Detroit sent out an odd lineup (Ben Wallace(notes), Charlie Villanueva(notes), Jonas Jerebko(notes), Austin Daye(notes), and Rodney Stuckey(notes)) that came back and nearly pulled out a win for Detroit. Causation doesn't equal correlation, and the Blazers were clearly checking the clock and waiting for the five o'clock whistle in that fourth quarter, but the ability of Stuckey to penetrate despite the less than stellar offensive resumes of the players that surrounded him was worrying.

The Blazers won, though. Greg Oden(notes) was a force on the inside, changing shots and finishing with three blocks, though the Blazers continue to look the other way with him offensively. They shouldn't. Ben Wallace loves to think he can guard guards and bigs at the same time, over-hedging even though he's not as quick as he used to be, and Portland should have taken advantage.

Hard to argue with that early Trail Blazer lead, though. Brandon Roy had 20 points on 14 shots, and LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) was active offensively with 20 points. There are some other points to LMA's game that worry me right now, I get the feeling he's not as team-committed as he should be in certain aspects, but I'll give him a little longer before I start tossing things out there.

Detroit was just junkly, offensively. 39 percent shooting and 26.7 shooting from behind the arc, bad news for a team filled with shooters. Ben Gordon(notes) has missed 31 of his last 43 shots (27.9 percent) over the last three games, and Stuckey needed 21 shots to get his 21 points.

Jerebko can play defense, I like his footwork and athleticism, but overall I can't help but wonder if he's hurting the team. 32 minutes, four points on five shot attempts, five rebounds, four turnovers, and six fouls. Remember, fouls aren't a sign of plucky aggressiveness. Fouls are things that send opponents to the line for easy scoring opportunities. Fouls are second chances for the offense. Fouls aren't to be courted, yessah.


Dallas 99, San Antonio 94

To me, the strangest part about Dirk Nowitzki's(notes) night is that he could have had so, so much more.

I counted at least eight or nine open-ish, makeable shots for Dirk. Very makeable looks that could have, honestly, seen him toward 60 points in this win. He dropped 41, but I walked away from this game thinking about all the clean looks that spun out or just missed. This is how good his game is, right now.

41 points on 29 shots for Dirk in the win, with 12 rebounds. He didn't turn the ball over once, in 45 minutes. Not once.

That is so, so impressive. This isn't Ray Allen(notes), peeling off a screen to touch the rock for scant seconds before firing. Dirk's dribbling into traffic, through help, turning blindly over his other shoulder. He had the ball in his hands, constantly, and didn't turn it over. Once. Dirk is a marvel, and I'm glad he's still with us, at this level of potency, in November of 2009.

Should San Antonio have doubled Dirk, earlier? Sure. It would have limited Nowitzki's looks and scores in the third and fourth quarter. But it also would have given an immediate bent to Dallas' eventual adjustments, adjustments you don't want to be having to adjust to with a few minutes left in the game. You want those last minutes to be pre-adjustments, with you finally springing the trap and watching as J.J. Barea and Jason Kidd(notes) clang open jumpers.

And, really, it wasn't about Nowitzki. The man's a giant, but it wasn't about him.

It was about the turnovers. The ones the Spurs couldn't create (Dallas finished with five in a 53-minute game, glorious), and the ones the Spurs gave up (on 19 percent of their possessions, nearly four times the rate of the Mavericks). Toss in 17 offensive rebounds for the Mavericks, and you have a Dallas team that put up 22 more shots than the Spurs.

Think about that. This game went into overtime. Limit just a few of those miscues, watch that glass with a steelier gaze, and you could have this one. In Dallas. 22 extra shots.

Otherwise, impressive performance from San Antonio. No Tony Parker(notes), Manu Ginobili(notes) was out for most of the game, and they still made something out of it. 22 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four blocks for Tim Duncan(notes). Great defense on Dirk down the stretch from Antonio McDyess(notes). Fine play in spurts from George Hill(notes). Respect.

And turnovers.

Thanks for reading.

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