Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Utah 140, Oklahoma City 139

Over the top fun, this game, from beginning to end.

Well, not the end. The end was terrible. The very end, I mean. Not the trading shots in overtime or Deron Williams'(notes) brilliant go-ahead jumper (Jerry Sloan, somehow, managed to place 12 cutters on the floor at once for that last play; genius) with 1.1 seconds left.

No, Kevin Durant(notes) was hacked on the shooting arm as he unleashed a hopeful game winner. It was obvious in real time (so much so that I was hoping it was a mirage of sorts, that the impending replay would show a clean block), and there's no excuse for that. Referee Tony Brothers, a guy I've never been able to find a fan of, probably won't be seen much over the next few weeks, and I have no problem with that. Even a split-second decision like this should have some ramifications.

The previous 52 minutes and 59 seconds were gorgeous, though. And despite all the games going down last night, I got to see every second of it, and it was as compelling as the recaps and box scores would have you believe.

Both teams played like nutters for most of the game, coughing the ball up like mad while acting as if this was a play-in for the postseason. Though the turnovers settled down as the night went on (both teams combined for 34, a solid number considering the pace and 53 minutes), it was almost shocking to note just how many points either side was putting up despite the miscues.

And there weren't miscues defensively. I'm sure Sloan and Scott Brooks can shoot all sorts of holes in my take in this particular regard, but there weren't many screwups to these eyes. Both teams executed well and hit their fair share of contested shots.

When the Thunder went down double-figures in the fourth quarter, mind you, Kevin Durant took that ideal to a new level.

Hands to the face still matter, even to a 7-foot Ray Allen(notes), but Durant was just tossing it in from all over the court in that fourth quarter. 17 points and four three-pointers for this absolute and utter freak. He was brilliant, in a way that was almost startling to watch. He back-rimmed a 40 foot turnaround (over his wrong shoulder, fading away) at the buzzer in regulation, and it was a bit of a surprise that the thing didn't go down. There's nothing that would surprise me with this guy.

The teammates disappointed me, though. Jeff Green(notes) hit shots, James Harden(notes) hit shots, but Durant barely got any meaningful looks in overtime. Hard to argue with a one-point loss, but this has to be a point of emphasis as the Thunder move into the playoffs. They need to make a point to find this guy, and not to excuse a Jeff Green up-and-under three-pointer late, just because it goes in.

The Jazz? They know how to run things.

They go to the league's best point guard, this season, and watch him take teams apart. Deron Williams had 42 points on 23 shots with 10 assists, consistently keeping the Jazz either in the game or away from meltdown stage with a needed score or pass.

Carlos Boozer(notes) started slowly, having one of those nights where nothing goes right, until things started going right. 28 and 15 for Boozer, who also had five assists. Carlos made nine of his last 11 looks from the field, with a pair of his shots being rejected by Durant.

Durant had 45 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks. Though I can't get over the feeling that more than three shots (or better plays) in overtime would have turned this in OKC's favor.

That, and sending the 90 percent free throw shooter to the line for three freebies with his team down one.

***

Cleveland 113, Toronto 101

The Raptors impressed with the way that they hung with the Cavaliers after Chris Bosh(notes) went down with a nasal fracture, but they just didn't have the horses.

Bosh was smacked in the face by an inadvertent elbow from Antawn Jamison(notes) just a few minutes in, and though Jarrett Jack(notes) did well to keep the pressure on Cleveland, LeBron James(notes) was picking teammates off (13 assists, including some real fireballs), and the shooting was too hot for the Cavs (121.5 points per 100 possessions).

The Raptors can still make the playoffs without Bosh. The Bulls are that bad, and Toronto has a one game cushion to work with. But this is pretty cruel.

I will remind you of this. Reggie Miller, and impending free agent, had his eye socket broken by Otis Thorpe late in the 1995-96 season. And though he was courted by the New York Knicks that summer, he decided to stick it out with the Pacers. And, O, the championships that resulted.

***

Washington 112, Golden State 94

Clearly, the Golden State Warriors were out-coached.

Don Nelson will have to wait a little bit before he can top Lenny Wilkens' all-time coaching record (and we all know where we were when Lenny earned his record that one year when he was coaching that one team), as the Wizards got out to an ultra-quick start and never had to look back.

Javale McGee(notes) was as good as that stat line, and that stat line (25 and 15 boards, three blocks), and he did his work off the bench.

The Warriors had no chance. They had seven healthy players, one of them had to be Devean George(notes), and Stephen Curry(notes) scored 27 points while playing with a bum shoulder.

21 points and eight assists for Randy Livingston(notes) (no turnovers), 29 points for Nick Young(notes), and none of this means anything. Even by the usual Warrior-standards.

***

New York 104, Boston 101

Yes, the Celtics took the Knicks lightly. You can't deny that. But the Knicks earned this win. Grabbed it from Boston with active play. The Celtics made some dumb plays and didn't have much focus, but the Knicks were quicker even when the Celtics tried.

31 points for Danilo Gallinari(notes), including a banked-in three-pointer to clinch it and a massive third that helped shut up the C's. He was rolling for most of the game, talking and swaggering and making for a good show.

DG sat for the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter, and I have no idea why. He had just dropped 19 points while playing all 12 third quarter minutes, but the quarter break and a three or four minute blow at longest should be enough for someone his age. The Knicks were -10 while Danilo sat, just in that run.

But Boston can't run. They came back, but couldn't make up for the ways the Knicks pushed them around from the outset. Especially Earl Barron(notes) (he's a Knick), who registered 17 and 18 while playing 44 minutes.

***

Detroit 124, Philadelphia 103

The 76ers had no interest in this game at all. None. No interest in defense, no interest in coming through with anything outside of chances to pad their stats. And the guy that led them in scoring last night was the worst offender of all. Not even mentioning his name, so there's a link up above you can follow.

Credit the Pistons for ... scoring? How about this - credit Ben Wallace(notes). He was great. 18 and six rebounds in 24 minutes, with three steals.

***

San Antonio 95, Sacramento 86

The Spurs struggled with the team's offense early, but luckily for San Antonio, Sacramento struggled with its offense throughout.

Manu Ginobili(notes) came through with 11 fourth quarter points to put the Kings away, and Sacto managed fewer than 97 points per 100 possessions as the focus was off a bit, some parts were missing, and the Spurs had the defensive touch.

Tony Parker(notes) was short on shots, grabbing at his shorts, and clearly winded by the end of his five minute first quarter stint. I also have to remind that TP wasn't at an All-Star level even when healthy this year, so his return is no panacea, but we should all be clearly hoping for a major turnaround as the season dwindles. He can do so much for a team, especially in the playoffs.

Eight points on eight shots, two assists and four turnovers for Tony, who played almost 17 minutes (including some mop-up duty late in the fourth; Pop knows what's up).

***

Charlotte 109, Atlanta 100

The Hawks were without Joe Johnson(notes), and they played like it. Not in a way that tells you they were one great all-around wing player away from winning. No, they played like it because they played as if they expected to lose. Don't discount Charlotte's role in earning this win, but the Hawks took some bad shots, and made some bad decisions defensively.

The stats help me out in this. Johnson can play solid defense, but Mike Bibby(notes) (also hurt) cannot, and will not. And yet the Hawks gave up over 128 points per 100 possessions to one of the worst offensive teams (currently 24th, after this point pileup) in the NBA. The Hawks just looked like their heads were somewhere else on Tuesday night.

Charlotte got to the line a ton, 32 times, and converted. That was the biggest killer, to me. Gerald Wallace(notes) had 28, and Boris Diaw(notes) contributed what he should have been averaging since 2005: 17 points, nine boards, nine assists, two blocks and a steal.

***

Houston 113, Memphis 103

With quite a bit happening last night, I didn't see much of this game, though I've enjoyed the hell out of watching both of these teams all season.

Every time I flipped over, it seemed the Grizz had no idea as to how to stop Houston. Lots of Princeton-y stuff, too, for the Rockets in my limited viewership. Jared Jeffries(notes) had a double-double off the bench for Houston with four blocks as well, while Kevin Martin(notes) dropped 29 in the win.

***

Milwaukee 79, Chicago 74

It's all designed to infuriate me, you know.

I rail against the Bulls all year for shooting long two-pointers, nobody comes close to them in the amount of long twos per game, and it's the reason why they've been amongst the worst offensive teams in the NBA this year. It's what dug the team's hole in this game (and what dug Milwaukee's hole, because they're coached by Scott Skiles, in the first quarter).

And then, even down three and four points in several possessions late in the game, what are the Bulls shooting? Long two-pointers! Because you get an extra point for making the coach happy, there, slugger!

Chicago was awful in this loss. 86 points per 100 possessions, which is just as bad as offense gets. The team scored 24 points in a 24-minute span over the second and third quarters, and because I have to balance out all those Eddy Curry(notes) jokes from this season (including the one I didn't make in the wake of Earl Barron's play on Tuesday), I should point out that Ben Wallace scored 18 points in a 24-minute span on Tuesday night.

The Bulls aren't coached well because they refuse to spend money on good coaches, so they bring in people who you've heard of who haven't the foggiest and don't know how to run a team. And if you think veteran-y assistant Bernie Bickerstaff is lording over Hoopdata.com deep into the night, well, I've got an 86 points per 100 possession game to force you to watch.

Kurt Thomas(notes) was exceptional in Andrew Bogut's(notes) absence, moving his feet well and coming through with 14 rebounds in 32 minutes, as well as a key score and stop late. John Salmons(notes), who it must be pointed out was absolutely terrible for 90 percent of his year with the Bulls, continued to play well for Milwaukee, tossing in 26 points.

Kirk Hinrich(notes) had about as bad a basketball game as you'll ever see at this level, finishing with zero assists, nine points on 16 shots, and five fouls. Haven't seen play that bad since Salmons was in town.

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