Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Chicago 103, Atlanta 94

The most intriguing game of a rather uninspiring Tuesday night lot, and it still wasn't enough to convince me (the pie-eyed red and black optimist) that Chicago has an outside chance at the playoffs.

Chicago did play well, and though his shots weren't falling in the fourth quarter, Kirk Hinrich finally grabbed his team by the blankety-blanks when it counted the most. That's a significant improvement for a player who has moped the year away and likely cost Chicago a playoff berth more than any other rotation player.

Newish Bull Drew Gooden had a 20 and 10 game by halftime, finishing with 31 and 16 (Al Horford worked hard against the Chicago veteran, but Gooden was on and the Hawk rookie didn't have a chance). He was brilliant, and active, and had the sort of game that sort of unfolds slowly before you. I'm not sloughing off his energy level, which was through the roof, but everything came very slowly and easily for Gooden on Tuesday.

Luol Deng was all over the place in the second half, Joakim Noah was a fixture both in the paint and on the perimeter watching Josh Smith, and Ben Gordon was solid off the bench with 16 points on eight shots.

The Bulls are two games behind the eighth place Hawks, but ... eh, I'm not feeling it.

San Antonio 107, Orlando 97

Orlando plays this sort of game against any other squad outside of the Lakers, and they win by 15 - even with Jameer Nelson (bruised jaw) and Hedo Turkoglu (sprained wrist) leaving the game for good in the first half.

The Magic worked its tail off, but San Antonio's ball movement was too good, Manu Ginobili was too potent offensively (he had the Magic scrambling all night), Tim Duncan was a game-changer defensively, and Michael Finley (24 points, most from the perimeter) had a game he's not likely to duplicate.

New Orleans 114, Indiana 106

Just as it was down in Orlando, the Indiana Pacers deserve credit for staying with an obviously superior Western team until the final buzzer, incessantly trying to make more than a close game of things.

The issue is, the Hornets are too good. Chris Paul (31 points and 14 assists with one turnover, geesh) and David West (35 and 16 rebounds) had an answer for every Pacer run, and Indiana couldn't make up for the fact that the Hornets (who don't usually get to the line much) nailed 30-39 free throws.

Utah 128, Charlotte 106

Call me a party pooper, but I do not like the fact that Utah - given new life with a Dirk Nowitzki ankle injury that could keep him out for the rest of the year (I don't care what Marc Stein says, this is a high ankle sprain, not a normal sprain) - allowed a crummy Bobcats team to make half its shots and score 106 points in spite of 19 turnovers on Tuesday night.

Offensively, the Jazz were brilliant: 53.6 percent shooting, 31 assists on 45 field goals, free balloons for the kids. It's that other end that continues to bug me. Also, in my day, those damned kids had to work for their damn balloons.

Portland 102, Washington 82

The Wizards, playing a million miles from home, getting out-rebounded by 19, and taking in a combined 9-33 shooting night from Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, were lucky not to lose by 47 in this one.

Martell Webster - 23 points on 14 shots - had the sort of game he's going to have for twice a month for the rest of his career.

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