Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Houston 93, Orlando 83

I've been hearing it since the late 1980s, no joke.

Late in a close game, with one team up by three or four or more, a play-by-play guy will ask analyst Hubie Brown if the losing team needs to take a three-pointer to try and quickly catch up or tie, and Hubie reacts much in the same way you or I (or, I) would react if someone held a Doors' greatest hits CD up to you in a record store and asked, "should I get this?"

No, no, no, Hubie replies. Foul ‘em, extend the game. That's his phrase. "Extend the game."

And O, holy night, did Stan Van Gundy extend the game on Tuesday.

I can't give you an accurate account, I had other games to flip to and I surely would have gone coco had I been forced to watch the whole thing, but a conservative estimate puts the last two minutes of this game at the 15-18 minute mark. Seriously. Van Gundy's Magic just fouled and fouled and hoped and fouled some more. The Rockets crowd, what was left of it, was actually chanting "the game is ov-er" at SVG toward the end.

I don't blame him, he's paid to win games and not to entertain us, just pointing it out.

As you'd expect from the outcome, an impressive win for the Rockets. Orlando didn't exactly sleepwalk through it, but it did feel as if they were stuck in a sort of late-season purgatory. An opponent that they'll never see, more than likely, in this year's postseason. But a formidable opponent that could win in a walk if the Magic weren't careful. The Magic were careful, for stretches, but not nearly as careful as they should have been.

Poor shooting did Orlando in. Across the board. 38 from the floor, they missed eight free throws in 21 attempts, and 18 of 28 three-pointers.

Everyone was a factor. Everyone in red, that is.

(Holy cow, that Supergrass song I linked to above really sounds like this Traffic song. Never really noticed that.)

So much help defense from the Rockets. Carl Landry was back, and he helped. Kyle Lowry couldn't finish on the other end, but he helped. Dikembe Mutombo took in seven and a half defensively stout minutes. Shane Battier and Ron Artest [I needn't finish this sentence]. Yao Ming was a tough dude on Tuesday, but he wasn't alone.

On the other end, Yao's 20 points helped. He also had 16 rebounds and two blocks in a slow (85 possessions) contest. Von Wafer (14 points in 21 minutes) got in another reverse, this time a lay-in, done up all crispy-style. Artest needed 21 shots to score 16 points, hideous, but he did bring in seven assists and six rebounds, along with that defense. So that's almost made-up for. Almost. He did play just over 43 minutes.

And the Magic, as much as they've accomplished this year, are still figuring things out. Especially with a new point guard running things. Tonight, they just couldn't find their way toward good looks. A bit of game tape and more experience should help that. 

Charlotte 101, Philadelphia 98

Charlotte really took it to the Sixers early on, establishing a double-digit lead mainly because nobody could stay with Raymond Felton. Now, Ray's a youngster, a hipster, quick with a quip and a light for your smoke. But he's not the fastest guy around, and it doesn't say much for Philly's perimeter D that this guy was able to carve things up for the first 24.

In the third, Felton turned the ball over three times. On top of that, Charlotte turned the 76ers into a team full of Feltons, because the Bobcats couldn't stay with anyone. Good effort, but Philly was just so much quicker, and the (sometimes, very tough) shots were going in. So we had a game, for a while, but then Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace hit some opportunistic shots late, and the Bobcats hung on.

GW had a great night, 29 points and 11 rebounds and just one turnover and three assists and two steals and there's no way in hell I'm putting a comma into this sentence this late. That said, that guy can't create a shot to save his life. Luckily, smarts and athleticism made sure he was in the right place at the right time.

Atlanta 118, Toronto 110

Not a lot of defense in this one. I don't mean to diminish the accomplishments of either side's offense, but this wasn't the finest of nights on the other end. I mean, Atlanta switches on everything, and has been mentioned before, it never works. Just a bad idea. It seems OK while looking at the roster, the heights, the weights, thinking about the relative footspeed. But it just doesn't work. And Toronto took advantage.

Not enough advantage to win, of course, because Toronto is bad at defense just because it is bad at defense. No poorly-conceived strategy, ‘ere, just poor footspeed, a lack of bulk, and a lack of length.

Josh Smith, and I'm sorry for ripping on the guy and seeming like a bit of a Mariotti, but he had some of the dumbest 25 points I've ever seen. All sorts of curious decisions, but in the end he helped way more than he hurt. Maurice Evans was very active off (and, eventually, to) the ball, Al Horford finished well, Flip Murray was Flip Murray (12 shots? 12 points), Zaza was Zaza (11 points in 16 minutes, wild drives to the hoop, only one rebound), and Mike Bibby (by all accounts) made it out of Ontario unharmed.

Minnesota 87, Los Angeles Clippers 77

Mmm, no.

Kevin Love is good.

New Orleans 93, Miami 87 (OT)

Not the entertaining back and forth you'd expect, but maybe we shouldn't have expected an instant classic.

Then again, it did get a bit entertaining. And, considering each team's 3-12 (that would be the, uh, roster spots), this wasn't that bad.

Then again, I had to remind my self that I was deep into the third quarter after flipping over and seeing a score that reminded of a typical game's deep second quarter.

Listen, we're not going to learn many new things about these teams at this point. You know the Hornets are thin. You know the Heat have [dorked] around Michael Beasley all year, up to the point of starting an unheralded (if not well-meaning) small forward named Yakhouba Diawara at power forward ahead of Beasley last night. You know Dwyane Wade has been pretty beat up recently, and you'd probably guess that Chris Paul is pretty close to falling into that sort of state any day now.

So, no new news. Beasley was fantastic. He contested every David West shot that he could, but David West is an All-Star, and these looks are going to go in. And while Diawara tries (and he had a good game, actually), thankfully Erik Spoelstra came to his senses and started Beasley in the second half. 25 and nine rebounds with great contesting D for Beasley, and he had just one turnover in over 47 minutes of action. I'd be drooling if Dirk Nowitzki or Reggie Miller did that, much less a would-be college sophomore.

On the other end, Chris Paul didn't shoot well (11-26), but the man was creating left-hand layups for Sean Marks (who couldn't even get garbage minutes with some of his former teams, much less garbage minutes, much less second quarter minutes, much less crunch-time minutes) in the fourth quarter. If that doesn't speak to CP's plight, I don't know what else would. Also, nine rebounds, nine assists, six steals, a block, three turnovers.

Wade was shot. His body couldn't keep up with what (you could tell this) his mind wanted, and he missed 16 of 27 shots and turned the ball over six times. Still, 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists, a steal, two blocks. The first person in NBA history to register 500 assists, 100 steals, and 100 blocks in a season. What a season. What a player.

Mario Chalmers may have cost the Heat the game. Not because of dumb moves or a lack of effort, far from it, he just didn't play well and these things tend to make a difference in a close game. 1-10 shooting, including two missed layups and an airball from three-point range even though MC was wide open. Also, the guy plays point guard -- and while I know D-Wade handles the ball most of the time -- he failed to register an assist in 35 minutes.

Spoelstra declined to foul the Hornets while they were down three and flailing with a few seconds left, not sure why coaches never deign to look at the success rate for fouling when up three points, and the Hornets tossed a lucky one in. West had eight points in OT, and it was over. Strange game.

Portland 96, Oklahoma City 93

A very sloppy first half from Portland, heaps of turnovers, 11 in fact, and a clean second half. Against a bad team, that's all you need. Especially if you're a very, very good team. Like the Trail Blazers.

But let's give it up for Memphis. The team entered the night having won half of its last 10 games, and would have been well on its way toward 6 of 11 had Portland not decided to more than halve its turnovers over the final 24 minutes. The team's effort is there. Pity it wasn't there for huge stretches all season (yes, there's something to be said for a poorly-run, young team short on NBA talent; but you could tell the effort was missing this year for big gobs of the sked).

Rudy Fernandez had 15 points off the bench for Portland, Brandon Roy had his usual 24, and Greg Oden had himself a night with 10 points, five rebounds, a block, three turnovers, and five steals.

Memphis? O.J. Mayo took a couple of shots that I didn't like, but he also finished with 31 points on 21 shots. And though Rudy Gay (19 points on 12 shot attempts) played well, I'd really like to thank Marc Gasol for loping across the lane for a legitimate rolling hook with his off hand (!) that went glass (!!) and went in.

No exclamation point for the last observation. That's an easy shot, if practiced, that nobody seems willing to bust out of the repertoire. No big is going to block that, and it's a high-percentage look that isn't treated as such. Unfortunate that nobody besides the Gasol brothers have the cojones to try it. I mean that.

San Antonio 99, New York 89

You'd have to assume that San Antonio came out with a vengeance in this one. After all, this is a team bent on steely determination, they just lost a huge cog for the rest of the regular and postseason, and they're a pretty angry lot some of the time. And the Thunder? They're the Thunder.

The scary part is, the Spurs did come out like gangbusters. Talking and moving and clapping and really getting after it. The scarier part? It didn't matter. The Thunder was too quick and too long and too resilient, and they hung with the Spurs.

Eventually, San Antonio pulled away. Drew Gooden had 20 points off the bench, and Tim Duncan managed 25 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks seemingly without jumping a single time. But it was nervous time, for a while, as San Antonio seems to have taken a step back.

Chicago 110, New York 103

Nothing I could say that our friendly Bulls blogger already hasn't. Take my seventh spot, please.

(I guess I could add that Eddy Curry has played 12 minutes all year, while the return portion of the Eddy Curry-to-New York deal came through with 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and four blocks in the win. And it wasn't really the best of nights for Joakim Noah, and Tyrus Thomas to a lesser extent. Thomas did seal the win with a block and two free throws.)

Los Angeles Lakers 122, Sacramento 104

Sacramento actually got out to a solid lead before turning the ball over 142 times and allowing the Lakers to dance their way to 71 first half points. It was pretty much over after that.

22 points, five rebounds, four assists, zero turnovers and two steals for Kobe Bryant in only 30 minutes. Shannon Brown (nine points, two rebounds, two steals, 11 minutes) also looked good.

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