Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Portland 101, Houston 99 (OT)

I think I've figured out why the Rockets haven't been able to take that next step, despite all the team's talent, and why they consistently drop the ball during the playoffs. Sure, they've never actually lost to a lesser team in the postseason during Yao Ming's time in Houston, but this is significant.

The Rockets are a rusty bunch of geezers.

These guys come out of timeouts, dead balls, and starts to quarters and halves about as creaky and rusty and deliberate as an old Edsel. I don't exactly know if there are any old Edsels floating around these days, or why they would be rusty and deliberate; but that sounded like a comparison that Rick Reilly would come up with, and he makes tons of money, so I went with it.

It takes Houston so long to warm up, and though they can overcome it for 55-60 wins or so, it does tend to haunt the team at times. The Rockets don't do anything terribly wrong during their creaky starts, the team isn't coughing up the rock or badly missing shots while it takes time to get going, but shots are rimming out, and moves are a quarter step behind. Think of a Tracy McGrady turnaround that seems like a good shot that spins around and out, or a makeable Yao Ming jump hook that hits back iron.

The Rockets probably should have won this one, but they had no real chance with Rudy Fernandez for stretches, and LaMarcus Aldridge (27 points and nine rebounds) is about four inches taller than Luis Scola or Chuck Hayes, and Ron Artest couldn't stop Brandon Roy in transition or on a quick inbounds for a 30-footer shot in .7 of a second. Come on, Ron. Get it together.

There were other issues, a bit too many for a two-point overtime game. Small forward Travis Outlaw pulled in as many rebounds in 34 minutes off the bench (13) as Houston's starting frontcourt combined, and Yao Ming/Scola/Artest played almost 110 minutes. Overall, the team played a fine game, I mean that, but you can see why things didn't go the Rockets' way.

The game didn't go Brandon Roy's way for a good 98 percent of the time on Thursday night, which is just fine with him, because he nailed a couple of ridiculous jumpers toward the end of overtime to, you know, kind of win the game. Before draining those two he was a stout 4-16 from the field, as Ron Artest did a number on the third-year guard.

Orlando 98, Philadelphia 88

I just finished watching the game this morning, and I'm still not confident in any significant read when it comes to the Philadelphia 76ers. All I can do is fall back on what I thought before the season: Philly will either take a while to gel, or they will disappoint and fail miserably if Andre Miller slides this season.

Both takes seem relevant right now. The 76ers have had their moments this season, but this team still has a while to go. Meanwhile, Miller turned in a horrid game on Thursday with 15 points on 7-24 shooting, offering just two assists and getting his shot blocked three times.

The Magic weren't lights out on the other end, Dwight Howard still doesn't appear to have what we call "offensive moves," but the team spread the floor when it needed to and had enough to pull out a solid win. Jameer Nelson worked his baby-Mike Bibby routine with 16 points on 12 shots, and nine assists in 35 minutes, while both Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis offered 20 points and eight rebounds. They did combine for 15-40 (37.5 percent) shooting, but ... TGIF!

On the other end, if Andre Iguodala hasn't figured out what a good shot is at this point, we're in trouble. We let things slide last spring mainly because he was going at it alone against Tayshaun Prince in the postseason, but there haven't been many encouraging signs thus far this season. 11 points, 4.8 assists, 3.5 turnovers, 5.3 rebounds, and 37.7 shooting for Iguodala this year.

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