Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Cleveland 106, New Jersey 82

The Cleveland Cavaliers are first in the NBA in offensive efficiency right now.

I'll let that sink in a little bit, you might not want to buy it, it might not make sense that one of the ugliest and most frustrating offensive teams of the last four years is now pumping out the league's best offense, but that's what happens when something sick like LeBron James happens.

Nobody should be surprised by James' play, this is right in line with the expected growth from last year, when he out-scored, out-shot, out-rebounded, out-assisted, out-blocked and had a lower turnover ratio than the guy who was voted NBA MVP (they tied in steals, though James did on a slower-paced team). This is right in line with where he should be. And he should continue to be what he's been since the spring of 2007: the NBA's best player.

And his contributions, through the roof by most standards but maybe not as mind-boggling due to Cleveland's slow (24th in the NBA) pace, are what is driving this top-heavy Cleveland offense. That one that, somehow, is tops in the NBA. Yes, Mo Williams, blippity blah. Yes, Big Z still hits shots. Yes, Delonte. But Williams has actually played worse in Cleveland than he did in Milwaukee last year. This is on James.

31 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three turnovers and a block in 34 minutes in the win. And this was his easy night.

Los Angeles Lakers 116, Chicago 109

The Lakers lost because they're better than the Bulls, much better, and that isn't in doubt. But coming in second in the blame/praise column is the team's focus coming out of timeouts, deadballs, and quarters/halves. Los Angeles' play in the third quarter turned this into a blowout after it'd been a game for a while, and though Chicago came back, advantages built in the first and third quarters were too much to overcome.

Pau Gasol (34 points, 24 in the first half) built his initially, and then Kobe Bryant came out firing in the third quarter. The Bulls rallied behind Derrick Rose (25 points, nine assists, two turnovers), but Ben Gordon (6-22 shooting) never plays well in Los Angeles, and Luol Deng (4-10 shooting, nine points) has been left behind by Vinny Del Negro's offense.

Orlando 103, Toronto 90

What happens when your team loses a player who contributes 13.5 points, nine assists, and one of the best assist-to-turnover marks in the NBA?

You lose by 13. You only dish 12 assists as a team on 35 field goals. You turn it over a sickening 21 times, or on 24 percent of your possessions. Too simple? Too right. You know it.

The Raptors miss Jose Calderon, even if the shots aren't going in and he's not providing the direct assist, his ability to keep a live dribble and run things acts as the straw that stirs the offensive drink for Toronto, and they just didn't have enough in Orlando on Tuesday night. Toronto isn't giving up without JC, they played a tough game, but the talent just isn't there at the point guard slot.

Backup Will Solomon had seven turnovers and four assists, needing 13 shots to score 10 points. And Roko Ukic just isn't an NBA contributor. He missed six of eight shots and had two turnovers in 16 minutes to one assist. Chris Bosh's 40 points on 19 shots, 18 rebounds, four assists, three turnovers, two steals and a block (geesh) kept Toronto in it.

Orlando started J.J. Redick, and guess what? He tied for the team lead with a +20 mark. There are all sorts of factors that go into that stat, and it's not always the best representation of how well a guy does, but the number is there, take what you want from it. He had 10 points on 4-9 shooting and didn't turn the ball over in 34 minutes. Hedo Turkoglu turned it over five times, but his activity (22 points, seven assists) stirred a few drinks for the Magic.

Memphis 109, Sacramento 94

The Kings just can't be expected to compete with all these injuries, and when a guy like Rudy Gay (22 points and eight rebounds doesn't seem like much, but he was brilliant in the first half) is going off, you're lucky just to escape with a 15-point road loss. Especially when Bobby Jackson has to carry the offensive load for significant stretches.

And Tom Ziller? How dare he dispute some of my poorly-conceived hyperbole and bluster?

Indiana 113, Atlanta 96

We're in the test phase for the Hawks. They can't jump right back into the playoffs, we still have a little over five months to go before that, and they're going to have to go through the doldrums of an 82-game season just like everyone else. Also, if the Hawks are going to compete at all, Atlanta is going to have to play inspired defense just about every night. Because just playing up to form is going to leave the Hawks well short of .500 and out of the playoff bracket.

On Tuesday, they played to form, as it was during the home-and-home losses to the Nets. Atlanta's early win streak came because they were playing over their heads, but that is something that can be sustained. It's not typical, but it can happen if the effort is there. These guys need to get after it in the first quarter, and not let up. They have to work harder than other teams, because they're not as good as most other teams.

That wasn't there on Tuesday, and while a 17-point loss to an injured Pacer team may seem surprising now, it wouldn't be surprising to you way back in October, when you were wearing parachute pants and drinking New Coke. Or whatever we did back then.

Danny Granger has really left me more than surprised on his own this year, he's been reflexively great. I thought he was a nice wing player who stood still out on the perimeter and nailed a bunch of shots, while contributing the occasional drive and offensive foul. And you can't blame me for that, because that's all he did last season. Shoot the lights out and pick up charges.

This year, he's a full-on all-around force. With handle and touch and the ability to create new and different and potent shots. 34 points in 35 minutes for Granger in the win.

Golden State 111, Portland 106

I watched it early this morning, and I'll be honest, I have no idea what happened. So I'm off to watch again, and anyone with any questions can just hit up this afternoon's BDL Live Chat, which will take off around 3 p.m. or so.

Miami 94, Washington 87

A worrying game for both teams, for me at least.

The Heat continue to go away from Michael Beasley. I understand that he's a rookie on what is essentially a veteran team, a rookie who doesn't often make himself available for shot attempts in a way that Shawn Marion (a master at working off the ball and pouting a little bit) would appreciate, but the Heat have to involve this guy more often. For on and off-court purposes. And for the porpoises. Yes, he was in foul trouble, and the defense was iffy; but six shots and 15 minutes of play is not enough.

Meanwhile, the Wizards (who have played a grand total of three games this entire season, off memory) took in a pair of tres efficient games from Antawn Jamison (25 points on 15 shots, 12 rebounds, four assists, zero turnovers) and Caron Butler (21 points on 12 shots, 12 boards), that's not going to happen much, and they still lost at home to a Heat team that played well, but not that well.

19 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, five turnovers, two steals and three blocks for Dwyane Wade in the win.

Denver 114, Milwaukee 105

Good thing the Nuggets are starting defensive stalwart Dahntay Jones, otherwise Charlie Bell (25 points) may have had 45 for the Bucks on Tuesday.

A hot first half for Denver allowed the Nuggets to take it easy and rest the starters, and that's probably a good thing. Meanwhile, the win now-Bucks are 5-7, and Andrew Bogut took (and made) just one shot in 16 minutes. This cannot work.

What does work? Pickaxe and Roll and BrewHoop's takes.

Dallas 100, Charlotte 83

Charlotte needed a banked-in turnaround jumper, going over his right shoulder from the right block and into the paint, from Adam Morrison to make it to 10 points in the first quarter. And you know what? You're supposed to bank that in. Larry Bird did it. Sometimes it's good to hit a banker that goes over the front of the rim. I'm not being a prick, ‘ere. I promise.

The Bobcats stunk in this one, though. They made few second half runs but they had a truly tough time creating good shots, and Dallas just did what it could on the other end. The Mavs had 50 rebounds to Charlotte's 34, while Dirk Nowitzki (34 points) and Josh Howard (21) had another devastating performance. Made Bobcats cry.

Boston 110, New York 101

I'll say it. I think starting Brian Scalabrine in Kevin Garnett's absence was a little cruel and a little lame and quite wrong. To Leon Powe.

Doc Rivers might like Powe's work off the bench, but so what? He's young. He's not a KG-type that has to cap minutes at 34. Start him, sit the starters, leave Powe and his scoring acumen out there with the reserves. 14 and 7 in 28 minutes for Powe off the bench.

We're probably about to start going nuts about Wilson Chandler around here, but the guy had 23 points on 23 shots. He had seven rebounds in almost 39 minutes, but he just shoots a lot for a team that runs a lot.

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