Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Boston 111, Charlotte 109 (2 OT)

Apologies for bringing it up for the one-trillionth time, but the Celtics turned the ball over on about a quarter of their possessions. And it dug a hole for them. Luckily, Ray Allen nailed his second game-winning shot against the Bobcats in as many years.

Charlotte has a bench, now. So you can't really pull away from this team, the starters bring the effort and play solid ball, and that typical 28-16 second quarter advantage just doesn't happen anymore because of D.J. Augustin (no ‘e'), Vlad Radmanovic (no ‘h'), and Sagana Diop (no hands). 

Boston would kill for that depth. Instead, all they get is drop off. Glen Davis works, but eight rebounds and five points is not enough when you're on the court for almost 40 minutes. Mikki Moore fouls incessantly, Stephon Marbury (five points, two turnovers, no assists) may have had his best game as a Celtic (that's not me being a smartass), and Eddie House (18 points) does not a bench make.

Still, it's a wonderful game, and this was a wonderful game. It's amazing that so many things can go wrong and right over 58 minutes of basketball, even out to a T, and then be decided because one wrong (Gerald Wallace leaving his man) paired with one right (Ray Allen, he's just a man) to make the slim, slim difference at the most chaotic and important part of that game. How Sagana's two missed free throws in the middle of the fourth quarter, had they moved a few centimeters to the side, were really as important as the play that's being replayed all over cable right now.

Think about that, before you kill Gerald Wallace. And think about that when you see me railing against coaches for seemingly innocuous things that happen in the second quarter. Every second, every little thing, counts.

Also, Doc Rivers:

"During one of the overtimes I glanced up at the board and saw that Orlando lost. I didn't do a `yip, hip, hooray' or anything. I can care less."

So why don't you?

God, I'm an ass.

Los Angeles Lakers 104, Milwaukee 98

I want to re-re-re-remind you of the fact that Kobe Bryant is an absolutely astonishing basketball player.

It's April of 2009. This time, 12 years ago, Kobe Bryant was readying himself for his first-ever postseason, one in which he played a significant role. That was 12 years ago, and save for a frustrating turn of events in 2004-05, he's been there ever since. Shoulder-deep. 5947 career playoff minutes, and for comparison's sake, that's about as many minutes as Kobe played in the 2007-08 regular season, and this season ... combined.

And he's a guard. And while he won the genetic lottery, he wasn't blessed with giant hands that allow him to survey the field of battle like Jordan could. This is a guy who has been taking the licks, from the perimeter-in, for years. Deep into May, sometimes June. And in the offseason? In the gym. Shooting jumpers. Working. Working harder than anyone else in this league.

So throw that in my face, the next time you hear me groan when Kobe treats himself to an ill-advised three-pointer, or takes a possession off defensively. This cat brings it.

And on Wednesday, he made sure that his team had a winning end to a downright wearying roadtrip. He had help, but in the end, "help" is merely help. 30 points on 19 shots, eight rebounds, four steals, four turnovers, four assists. There's so much tread on his tires. We forget that. Mainly because he's still going zero to 60 in under four seconds.

Kobe gets a night off tonight, flies all the way back to El Lay, then gets Shane Battier, Ron Artest, and the Rockets on Friday night. Goodness, gracious, sakes alive ...

Toronto 99, Orlando 95

Something about these two teams -- it's probably the yin and yang of Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh's respective games -- they always give you a good show. Even if a blowout results.

Toronto just played a determined batch of basketball. Few wasted possessions, lots of effort, mixed with what is still a talented (if awfully thin) team. They earned this win, as Ben from Third Quarter Collapse noted, by cruising on the glass. Those sorts of performances are always impressive and entertaining to me, when teams switch roles like that. The Magic rebound well, Toronto does not. Wednesday night saw the teams switch sides, with Toronto (49-35 on the glass) winning decisively.

On the Orlando side, it isn't the end of the world. Know why? Because this loss stings. This game was important. Every one of these games means something. Something big. Not just, "can we secure the sixth seed?"-big. Championship big. And while it may churn your stomach to drop a home game against a team that is probably inferior to yours, it's also necessary to take a step back and appreciate just how important things have become. Learn to love that feeling. Learn to embrace it, and work well within its confines. Because that's what you play for.

Losing a game doesn't leave you with an empty feeling. Not having anything to play for ... that's the empty feeling. The Magic have something to play for, and though they lost to the Raptors on Wednesday, the Magic wouldn't trade places with the Raptors even if Toronto threw in all the tea in Toronto. And there's a lot of tea in Toronto. And Hedo Turkoglu loves his tea.

New Jersey 111, Detroit 98

So, do you make excuses for the Pistons, or what? They were without Rasheed Wallace, and they lost. Well, why is that? Why did they lose? Why were they without Rasheed Wallace? Which comes first?

They traded for him. They re-signed him. While I'm not going to tell you that any deals were on the table, not going to pretend to know something that I don't, they decided not to trade him last summer. Or before the trade deadline. They made Flip Saunders the scapegoat for his ridiculous antics and team-killing play deep in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 playoffs. They hired the coach he wanted. They let him go. They let him rant. They let him bitch. They let him moan. They let him, in his words, "tell the truth."

The truth is that Rasheed whined his way into a one-game suspension because he values himself, and how he's being treated, over his team. Nobody likes getting a raw deal from the refs, but people eventually learn how to handle it like adults. Not Rasheed. And in accepting this as part of the character instead of exposing it as a character flaw, the Pistons dug their own grave.

I'm not going to cherry-pick here and tell you that Joe Dumars terribly minds all this. He's good to go. He probably wants nothing to do with Rasheed Wallace, but he's got bigger things in mind. Same with Allen Iverson. At some point last summer, those two players became expiring contracts to Joe. And while I question that horrible contract extension he gave Rip Hamilton, Dumars isn't fretting over this recent turn of events. He gets the gate receipts from a first round series, then plenty of cap flexibility from here on out. No flies on Joe.

But given the current context, I can still slam these guys. I can still point out that the Nets essentially went on vacation last week, but they managed to bring the effort on Wednesday. And Detroit, desperate to save the seventh or even the eighth slot in the Eastern playoff bracket, did not put it together.

Another frustration for this pasty mug? Josh Boone had a good game (10 and seven rebounds, in 17 minutes) off the bench for the Nets, but continuing to limit Brook Lopez's (19 and seven, with a block, in almost 31 minutes) time will likely cost him the Rookie of the Year.

TNT had a lengthy discussion about the Rookie race last week, and his name wasn't even brought up. Part of that is because the former players on the TNT set don't appear to have what we call "League Pass" (or because they don't even deign to watch the games they're covering that night), but part of it is because Lawrence Frank has been limiting his minutes too, too much this year.

This is a stud center. This is a 35-minute guy. Play him like that. And don't, y'know, play him like that.

Memphis 112, Washington 107

I didn't see much of this game, you shouldn't blame me, and Mike Conley (22 points, five rebounds, six assists, two blocks, three steals, two turnovers) had a very encouraging line.

Dallas 98, Miami 96

Mario Chalmers' "foul" on Josh Howard in the waning seconds of this game was bush league. B-U-S-H L-E-A-G-U-E. When have you ever seen me spell something out like that. Spelling things out like this is bush league. Using the phrase "bush league" is bush league. That's how angry I was at this "charge" call.

It shouldn't have been a block, either. And understand I have no particular allegiance to either team. The outcome of the game, and that foul call, means nothing to me personally.

I do have an allegiance to the game that has given me so much, and calls like that are hurting the game. The overwrought flopping and the insistence on calling every bit of contact as either a block or charge is killing this game. I mean it. You have entire generations of players that thinks that running up underneath someone and then diving to the floor is something akin to good defense, and the refs are rewarding this bit of "good defense" just about every time down court.

I'm sick, sick, sick, sick of it. You should be, too. That's no way to play the game, that's no way to call the game, and that's no fun to watch. I don't blame the players, because they're being rewarded for this move, incessantly. I blame the league and its refs for telling us every summer that they're going to crack down on this thing, only to blow the whistle every time someone dives.

Just because one player touches another player close to the rim, it doesn't mean it's a foul. If someone bumps someone off a shot, or charges recklessly with their shoulder (or hinders the shooting motion), it's a foul. Contact, followed by someone diving to the floor by choice, is not a foul. It's not a block, and it's not a charge. It's [expletive deleted], is what it is.

With Mario (18 points) and the Heat bench playing as well as it did (30 points combined for Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook), this was a pretty evenly matched game. Mainly because what usually has to pass for the Dallas bench (Jason Terry) played poorly. 20 points for Howard, though. The man just adds new wrinkles to that team, gliding around in transition, giving the defense another guy it has to pay attention to off the ball, helping on D. Sometimes.

Phoenix 114, Houston 109

Gosh, this was a fun game.

Mark Jackson (who otherwise called a great game) couldn't help but get on the Suns for not playing defense, but geez, what are they going to do? Steve Nash can't guard anyone. He tries, he takes charges (second in the NBA, apparently, in that stat), but he can't guard anyone. Shaq can't guard the screen and roll. Grant Hill can't push off his left foot to save his life. This team just isn't going to be able to play defense. It's not attitude. It's not Alvin Gentry. It's not a gameplan. It's just not something they can physically do.

What they can do is score, and try on defense. They scored a ton in this game (120 points per 100 possessions against that stout Rocket D? Nice), and they tried. And, when Yao Ming left the game in the fourth quarter, all that trying turned into actual stops because the Rockets didn't have the offensive talent to overcome Phoenix's best intentions. That's how the game works.

Nash had 25 and 17 assists. One turnover. Wowser. Shaq was all over the place, working his ass off, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, and two turnovers. Grant Hill continues to glide easily into his old age, 23 points on 13 shots. Jared Dudley got minutes, and produced (seven points, six rebounds, two blocks in 21 minutes). Give him more minutes, he'll keep it up. Promise.

The Rockets just saw the shots dry up, and they fouled way too much. It was a two-possession game in the end, could have gone either way, and it came out the wrong way. On the road. These things happen.

New Orleans 104, Los Angeles Clippers 98

I don't understand it. I do understand it, but I don't understand it.

I don't understand why anyone would choose to root for the Clippers. I do, but I don't.

I do understand it. Nobody is really from Los Angeles. Everyone already talks about the Lakers. The Clippers spend money nowadays. There, at times, has been hope there. There have also been personalities to appreciate, there. Even now. I like Baron Davis. I hate the way he plays 70 percent of the time, but I like him. I hate the way Zach Randolph plays some of the time as well, but I appreciate the way he works his way back from injuries, and takes to the low post.

And I understand why a guy like ClipperSteve or Kevin Arnovitz would start a Clipper blog. There was a niche that needed to be addressed. As I said, everyone already talks about the Lakers, be it in the form of a stupid "Kobe ruelz!!1" comment, or Kurt Helin's brilliant work. But nobody, and this was especially true back in 2006 (how can an absolute like "nobody" be "especially" anything?), was (as KA so wonderfully put it, and did it) discussing the side-screen roll for the Clippers. 

But why you would choose to go for the obscure, over the Lakers? I don't get it. I totally get it. I don't know why I keep typing about how I don't get it.

It's not that Donald Sterling is cheap. Or was cheap. There are a lot of cheap owners in pro sports. And it's not that he isn't a good guy. Make no mistake, he is a bad guy, but there are a lot of bad guys in pro sports. Often in the ownership division.

But this guy ... he's a bad guy. A truly bad person who has done some awful, awful things to people over the years. I'm not going to go down the list of misdeeds, but they have nothing to do with trading Danny Manning so as not to have to offer him a contract extension.

And while Jerry Buss may have his issues (both with the team, outside it, whatever), there's no comparison. And when ClipperSteve tells us that "you don't get to choose the team you support," I don't get that. You're not from the South Side. You weren't handed a league allegiance down from your father. There's no designated hitter. You could like the Lakers!

I don't get it, but I do. I completely and totally understand. It's why Paul McCartney played bass. He was probably the best guitar player in the Beatles, but nobody was playing the bass. And John and George couldn't play the bass. So you take that Hofner, and you go with it.

Here's something less vague: Los Angeles' other pro basketball team made it so one of the best writers in our profession hated writing about the game, and the team, he loved.

This guy was and is a great talent, I've learned quite a bit from his takes on this awful team, and he doesn't want to write this awful team anymore. And I don't think that's an April Fool's Day joke. And that's on the Clippers, and Donald Sterling. And that stinks.

We'll (hopefully) always have Arnovitz. Got-damn, he's good. The man breaks down the game in ways I could never hope or dream to. But that's a cold comfort. Meanwhile, Baron Davis just took another three-pointer.

Eric Gordon took some, too. He hit 4-9. There's always hope. Don't ruin him.

Sorry for the lack of a recap. Chris Paul, in a fair world, would finish third in the 2008-09 MVP voting. He also had 30 points, four rebounds, 14 assists, six steals, and four turnovers.

Golden State 143, Sacramento 141 (OT)

The NBA is well on its way to setting a league-wide record for free throw percentage. That's a big deal when you factor in the amount of teams we have, ‘ere in 2009. More teams means more chances for those freebies to go horribly, horribly wrong.

But even with more makes than ever, kids, keep practicing. Because Wilt only got to 100 points when he hit his free throws. And Kevin Martin halved that mark on Wednesday, always quite the accomplishment, and took only 22 shots all night.

Michael Jordan used to average about 22 shots a night, far and away leading the league, while scoring 30 at a pretty efficient rate. Just throwing out context, kids. Just telling you that Kevin Martin, on Wednesday, was pretty special. And it hasn't been a special year for him. He used to be one of my favorite players to watch, but this year he's given the sniff of someone who was dogging it. Not always, just enough.

But on Wednesday, he was special. 50 points, 23-26 from the line, 5-11 from behind the arc, 11-22 overall. That shouldn't shock you. Freaks like Ziller and I, we used to love pulling up his box scores. 32 points on 14 shots. 24 points on 11 shots. Things like that.

Here's my issue with this game: I fell asleep during it. That doesn't happen, much. Sometimes on Sundays. My couch is very uncomfortable. I'm not tall, but it still doesn't house my frame. And yet, I dozed off. And because the Tivo decided to record a suggestion for me (on a channel I don't even get, some interview with a college hoops coach), I couldn't even rewind for the last 30 minutes of the game after I came back to Earth.

So the comment cats will have to help me out here. And beyond that, understand that I will make it worth (trades? I own copies of several Rockpile bootlegs) anyone's while that would see fit to possibly pass along a digitized copy of this game.

Also, whoever wrote this (look at the "G. Hill" entry) is a [rhymes with the first name of the bass player in Rockpile].

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