Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Phoenix 140, Los Angeles Clippers 100

Without watching a second of this game, you know how it went.

Every assumption you have, every obvious guess at what went down ... you're spot on. I can't teach you anything about this game that you haven't already guessed by considering the context and looking at this final score.

The Suns came out like gangbusters, it was obvious in the game's first 90 seconds that this was going to be a huge night for Phoenix, and they kept the offensive ridiculousness up for 48 minutes. 81 first half points on 76 percent shooting. 62 percent shooting overall. 130.8 points per 100 possessions, in spite of the fact that no Sun starter played more than 28 minutes.

On top of that, the Clippers lived up to the worst of their well-deserved reputation. Baron Davis was lazy on both ends, he played poorly, and still looks to be out of shape. Ricky Davis made some incredibly stupid plays. Zach Randolph acted dumber than a bag of burned hair by throwing a punch at Louis Amundson (who took it, and didn't go down). I mean, Randolph led with his strong hand. The lefthander threw a lefty hook. Who does that?

The Suns out-rebounded Los Angeles 58-21. I don't what is sicker, the 37-rebound disadvantage, or the "21." How can a team miss 47 shots and three free throws, and only pull in three offensive rebounds? Pathetic.

The Clippers also ended the night with more turnovers than assists, seemingly came out of every timeout or change of quarters turning the ball over. Fine coaching there, fine on-court leadership as well.

Changes under Alvin Gentry? Hmm ...

The Suns ran, of course, but they ran before Tuesday, and we'll get to that in a second. Leandro Barbosa may have worked his way to the starting off guard spot, which is a good thing, and Jared Dudley got significant burn. Burn with the starters, not just fourth quarter add-ons, finishing with six points, eight rebounds, two assists and five steals in almost 24 minutes.

Beyond that, there's something I have to get down. The idea that the Suns are going to start to win more because they'll run more under Gentry ... I'm not feeling it.

Oh, they'll run more. 107 possessions on Tuesday. That's a lot. That would lead the NBA by about 10 possessions per game, if kept up the entire year.

And they'll win more. They have to. Porter, I'm sorry, he's just not head coaching material.

But they were running under Porter. Entering Tuesday night, the Suns were averaging just as many possessions per game as they did in 2006-07, and about as many as they did the year before that. The possessions per game count (94.3) is down a bit from where it was last year (96.6), but this team still ran.

So it's not as if the "run and gun" Suns weren't around for the first 51 games of the season. They were right there, running. Gunning. There are other reasons this team is still out of the playoff bracket.

The offensive sets did not suit this team's personnel. The defensive sets did not suit this team's personnel. They were utilizing the wrong lineups. They were badly coached, on both ends. Yes, the Suns dropped from 2nd to 7th in offensive efficiency under Porter, but they also dropped from 16th to 19th on defense, and that mark has actually gone up quite a bit over the last few weeks, after languishing in the low 20s until February.

Running more won't turn this team around. I bet the possessions per game will go up a little bit, but when the Suns do turn around (I have to emphasize this, they will turn it around), it won't be because the opponents' tongues are dragging. Don't let them tell you any differently.

Orlando 107, Charlotte 102 (OT)

A fantastic game, and one where the stats matched up with the show on the court: Dwight Howard had the game of his career, and without even sticking around for the whole game or seeing his running box score, you could tell he was playing at a different level. 45 points, 19 rebounds, and eight blocks for the 23-year old center. Goodness.

By my count, also aided by Orlando color man Matt Guokas' comments late in regulation, Howard probably had two or three dunks all night. So that leaves 13 or 14 field goals that saw the Magic center showcasing all sorts of touch that we just haven't seen in large doses thus far in his young career. Real moves, real finishes, great hands, the whole package.

Had he finished the night with 15 points in a blowout win, I'd still make a point to reference his touch and agility around the basket. The fact that he had a career-high 45 in the win makes it all the more sweeter. And if this is a sign of things to come, then we're probably better off in passing on writing the Jameer Nelson-less Magic out of the Eastern Conference picture.

(Wait. Didn't this team need 48 minutes plus overtime to beat the Bobcats, at home?)

Yes, but the Bobcats also played a knockout game, firing on all cylinders offensively, possibly coming through with the best batch of basketball I've seen them play all year, minus Laker games. This was an inspired group, the ball was moving, and if not for a shockingly-poor turn at the free throw line (8-17, ouch), the Bobcats would have walked away with the win. And they would have earned it.

And if they keep playing like this, the line that Matt Moore sent me and Trey Kerby on Tuesday night will continue to be spot on:

"They're a bad team, but they do good things."

Orlando was up for the challenge, I firmly believe that in spite of their own sluggish shooting (Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis combined to miss 19 of 27 shots), and Howard was an absolute piece of work. The effort was there, even if Charlotte was hitting and the Magic forwards were not.

J.J. Redick, 10 points on five shots in under 20 minutes, including a game-tying three toward the end of regulation. Just sayin'.

Washington 111, Minnesota 103

I've pumped up the word count on the BtBs this year, especially considering that this time last year I was still throwing a couple of Larry David-type, two-word game recaps for certain pairings and certain games. At some point, you have to understand, there's not much I can tell you about teams that you don't already know.

Minnesota and Washington, I'm sorry, but they're two examples of this. So as the season moves along and these games mean less and less to these sorts of teams, you'll have to prepare yourself for a couple of "No. No I'm not."-type "analysis."

Crummy start for Minnesota, the team never could defend and now has to endure long cold stretches with Al Jefferson out. I give the team credit for coming back to make this a close contest, but this was really a case of two teams trying to lose the game the least, if you dig.

I was glad to see Mike Miller's all-around game (eight rebounds, six assists) finally involve some shooting (18 points on 12 attempts), but the Wolves couldn't keep Washington off the line, and Antawn Jamison's 29 and 11 was enough to put the Wiz over the top.

Indiana 100, Washington 89

As was probably the case with the Bobcats, the Pacers came out in this first quarter thinking "playoffs," putting the game out of reach early while refusing to fall apart even as the Sixers made a couple of mini-comebacks.

Philly forced its usual batch of turnovers (19 for the Pacers), but I really liked Indiana's spacing, in spite of the team's 5-17 mark from long range.

Rasho Nesterovic is having a great year (and he can really help a playoff contender, if a trading partner is paying attention, and assuming Indiana is willing to give Rasho and his skill set and expiring contract up), but the Pacers need to keep starting Roy Hibbert. 14 and five rebounds in under 20 minutes for Hibbert, he had two first half fouls but only finished with three personals. Start him, and minutes the kid up, Obie.

(Looking for some fun around the office today? Go around to various unattended computers, bring this post up, and copy the last sentence from the preceding paragraph to the clipboard before skulking away, cackling all the while. Or set it as a scroll on a screensaver. Watch as the sweet, delicious confusion reigns.)

2-15 shooting from behind the arc for Philly, and the team's perimeter looks from inside the arc weren't much better.

Milwaukee 92, Detroit 86

I don't know what Detroit's excuse is for letting a wafer-thin Bucks team beat them at home, but, whatever. This team is so lackadaisical sometimes that they inspire me to write out pitiful phrases like "but, whatever." We can't have that.

The Pistons couldn't be bothered to guard Malik Allen at the only spot on the floor (the elbow) where he can get a shot off, they didn't guard the perimeter, and they just threw up bum shots all night.

I know the game is likely decided with about 18 seconds left, Pistons ball, and the Bucks up five, but then why does Rip Hamilton take a turnaround 20-foot jumper off an inbound pass? Does Michael Curry draw it up that way? Does Hamilton, who broke play after play in Flip Saunders' offense (especially in the playoffs) make that decision by himself? Was anyone thinking here?

Credit the Bucks. This team just tends to work harder than its opponent, night in, and night out. And, while 2011-12 will (not "might") be pretty frustrating for Bucks fans, they need to count their blessings and recognize that job Scott Skiles has done. He'll flame out after a while, but he has this team playing its ass off. Too bad Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut aren't healthy enough to be a part of it. They've deserved a coach like this for too long.

Five turnovers for Milwaukee tonight. Five! Makes sense.

New York 112, San Antonio 107 (OT)

Though the pace (93 possessions in regulation, the Spurs average 89) probably was not to San Antonio's liking, this wasn't a case of the Knicks just out-running and out-gunning the Spurs. New York just played strong, smart, and potent basketball. They worked hard, shared the ball, and defended. Mike D'Antoni has these Knicks playing so, so well.

And Nate Robinson is killing teams, right now. This isn't because he gets to shoot a lot or because the Knicks like to run. His stats aren't inflated. He's just a special talent, at any size. 32 points, three assists, and 10 rebounds for Robinson off the bench against San Antonio, he played over 38 minutes and only turned the ball over one time. That's a line, and I'm being serious, that we were used to seeing from Dirk Nowitzki during his MVP run.

It was obvious from the get-go that Tony Parker didn't have it, and his stats in the end reflected that. 5-20 shooting for TP, he never seemed to get a good grip on the ball or on the game. And though Tim Duncan was his typical, brilliant, self (26 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks, five assists ... though he did turn it over seven times), Manu Ginobili's absence + 15 missed shots for Tony = a road loss that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Yes, Roger Mason tossed in 20 points, but he needed 17 shots to get there. That's not horrible, or bad (even), but it's not Manu-like. Not his fault, but you have to be Manu-like and not Manu-lite if Parker is going to shoot like that and Ginobili is going to sit.

New Orleans 100, Oklahoma City 98

Sam Presti, you couldn't have waited until Wednesday morning to make this deal?

Playing without anyone that could guard David West, the Thunder's interior was pretty suspect, Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic had no chance, and the Hornets pulled out a pretty offense-heavy road win.

And though the Thunder put up a very respectable 109 points per 100 possessions, that was mainly coming from two guys. No team is going to win with Earl Watson (ohfer six), Russell Westbrook (5-15, all over the place offensively, looking very much like a rookie), and Kyle Weaver (2-7) shooting from the perimeter like that.

Good thing for Kevin Durant. Great thing for Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant is a great, great thing.

47 points for this unmitigated stud. This kid is an absolute ... I have no words. And I can't even buy him a beer until the beginning of next season's training camp.

Jeff Green's perimeter attack (1-4 shooting) dried up, but he's had a great year from behind the arc, and the Thunder needed every one of his 24 points. Could have probably used two more, but why quibble?

New Orleans just had it, and there wasn't much Oklahoma City could do about West, who had 37 points and 13 rebounds. He had to work for those, too. Because as ineffective as the Thunder's D was on West, it was still active defense. The Thunder bigs tried, they were just beat. Continually. Great game for the Hornet big.

Chris Paul still doesn't look right to me, but "doesn't look right" still got 21 points, eight assists, three steals, and only turned it over once in 37 minutes.

Houston 114, New Jersey 88

The Nets worked hard, after a miserable first month of the season on that end of the court, to rectify some major, major defensive issues. And though this team was 24th in defensive efficiency heading into Tuesday's loss, that doesn't mean that the team hasn't gotten a lot better in that area.

And then, over the course of one game, it got a lot worse. This was nasty.

The Rockets looked like they were playing five-on-four against New Jersey. There were so many open lanes and so many obvious angles that the Rockets just couldn't help themselves on their way to 114 points. 121.3 points per 100 possessions for the Rockets in the win, and for comparison's sake, the Lakers are far and away the champs on that end with 114.3 per 100.

Pick any point on the floor, and the Nets didn't guard it. That corner three was killing New Jersey all night, which is odd, because Nets coach Lawrence Frank implores his own team to covet open looks at that shot on offense. The Nets know that it's a shot to be smitten with, but there Shane Battier was, hitting 5-7 from long range on his way to a 19 and nine rebound night, with two blocks and zero turnovers in 31 minutes.

No excuse for that, New Jersey. You have a brilliant coach, he's brought you this far, and you can't see that screen coming? Charlotte and Phoenix and Indiana and Utah all came out fighting for their playoff lives on Tuesday, and for some reason the Nets fall flat.

That is NOT on the coaching staff. Frank is too good, and though we've disagreed on personnel selections and minutes allotment in the past, this doesn't mean he's as good as this league gets, and I'm going to stop now, because I'm getting angry, and I don't want to say something that, even though I mean it, I'll later regret it.

Like, "Fran Drescher is a handsome woman. Illeana Douglas, too. Much prefer them over most current female celebrities." There, I said it. Happy, Ryan Anderson?

Houston had 27 assists on 40 field goals, Yao had a double-double (20 and 12, three assists, two blocks, four turnovers in 32 minutes), and the Rockets destroyed New Jersey on the glass by a 56-30 margin.

Vince Carter had 30 for the Nets, and Brook Lopez continued his stellar play with 21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three assists, but it hardly mattered. Both of these guys were off defensively, and the rest of the Nets were crap on the offensive end.

Utah 117, Memphis 99

Tuesday was "a triple joy," for Andrei Kirilenko, and I'm down with that. It sounds like something you'd order from the right side of the menu, but I grok. And I'd forgotten just how much I love watching that guy play basketball. I'm glued to the screen when that guy is on the court.

Memphis actually hung with the Jazz for the first half, but by the third quarter there was no stopping Utah, and Memphis' 18 turnovers sort of sealed the deal. That and Utah's 32-33 mark from the line. And the 24 assists on 40 baskets. And Utah's lovely spacing. And Kirilenko's 14 points and three steals in 17 minutes. And Deron Williams 20 points and 15 assists. And C.J. Miles' active turn. There was a lot of sealing of deals.

Darko Milicic (15 points, 10 rebounds, a block, three assists, no turnovers) was a huge part of Memphis' second quarter comeback, and that was nice to see, if even for a stretch. More than mitigating that is the idea that Mike Conley Jr. just continues to make rookie mistakes, 106 games into his career.

130 points per 100 possessions for Utah. Geesh.

Los Angeles Lakers 96, Atlanta 83

The Lakers let the Hawks ... well, not really back into this game, but into the conversation in the fourth quarter. L.A. scored only 10 points, and the Triangle wasn't really flowing.

Which sort of tells you how well the Laker offense was going over the first three quarters, when you see that they had 30 assists on 42 field goals (an outstanding ratio), and still ended the night with a 103.2 points per 100 possessions mark. Now, that mark would be among the worst in the league if kept up throughout an entire season, but when you consider a 10-point quarter ... yeah, a solid first three quarters.

And yet, it was the Laker defense that won this game, easily. Just dominated the Hawks, who were a little out of sorts, but have only the Lakers to blame for their 36.9 percent shooting. Also, a 67-39 rebounding advantage for Phil Jackson's team, as Lamar Odom worked his way toward 20 caroms (a stated pre-game goal, apparently), and the team made a point to get out on shooters.

Pau Gasol, it must be said, continues to play out of his mind. 12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, two blocks and zero turnovers may seem more "nice" than "brilliant," but when you toss in the fact that he only played 30 minutes, and kept up the defensive edge that he's come through with since Kobe's lights-out night at MSG ... yeah. Brilliant.

Chris Mihm? Not so much. Sorry for picking on an end of the bench guy, but he missed eight of 10 shots, had three of his attempts blocked, and turned the ball over three times in 17 minutes. Seven rebounds, nice, but he just can't get up any more. Relative to his own, previous, getting-upness.

Joe Johnson? Dragging. 6-17 shooting, four turnovers to five assists, bad defense, a little worrying. Very worrying, actually. He had two great games before the All-Star break, but Johnson was miserable in January (37 percent shooting), and was far from stellar in the All-Star Game. It counts!

Thanks for reading.

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