Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Tonight, at the ancient Indiana Coliseum (er, Pepsi Coliseum), the Indiana Pacers will be taking on the New Orleans Hornets. I'll be there, and BDL will be live blogging as the night moves along live from the game. 

Swing by around 8 pm tonight, Hoosier-time (that's, um, Eastern; I'm getting a little carried away, here) and ready your comments.

Portland 110, Sacramento 81

We didn't really intend to heap praise or gush aloud about Greg Oden in our first BtB installment of the 2008-09 season, but after watching Portland's win on Tuesday, it's kind of hard not to.

Oden (13 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks in 19 minutes) had issues, and it was the first thing we noticed in the first chance we've had to see him in a semi-orthodox pro setting.

He doesn't run the floor as well as you'd like at this stage, he always goes over his left shoulder on either block, and that iffy; sort of pushed-forward jump hook needs a little work. Worse, his help defense and overall recognition on that side of the court could use a lot of work.

And that's about it. And all of that stuff could be taken care of even before the regular season starts. Otherwise, this kid is going to dominate.

He's just too big and too long and his hands are too perfect. Think about someone with Patrick Ewing's length, Chris Webber's hands, and Dwight Howard's explosiveness, and you have Oden. The package is truly there.

Several times over the course of the game you'd see Greg seemingly locked into the paint and likely forced into an off-kilter hook, reverse attempt, or possibly having to kick the ball out after pulling in a pass or offensive rebound. You couldn't help but be convinced that he'd had it, not because of his injuries or his youth or any other mitigating factor, but just because most big men don't have any other options in that situation beyond the ones listed above.

So which was it, the pass, the iffy hook, or the desperate reverse attempt? Neither. The guy just rose up and dunked it. Every time. Every damn time. It was startling.

He might be creaky for a while, and there are holes, but I was certainly won over. And the warmth of the unexpected, that whiff of "where did that come from?" ... in one night I was reminded of why, exactly, I do this, and why I'm lucky to do this for a living. It's what keeps me coming back. Every year, we get a new one of these.

Portland started slowly because of a trait that is likely to bug them as the year moves along -- the team will struggle against faster opponents. Portland was already one of the slowest teams in the NBA last year, and when you throw in big minutes for Oden and (hopefully) Ike Diogu (ten points and two blocks in 17 minutes on Tuesday), you have a squad that needs to chat quite a bit when it comes to who is guarding whom, especially in transition.

Talent overcame that, after a while, especially with Sacramento's Kevin Martin and Brad Miller out with a pair of nagging injuries. And by the time Rudy Fernandez (dunks, passes, reverses, steals, awesomeness) started acting like his bad self in the second half, the rout was on.

Fine start. More, please.

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