Ball Don't Lie - NBA



Portland 99, San Antonio 86

This was a great game. The score might be a bit low for your tastes, and the pace somewhat sluggish, and San Antonio has played better this season. But for about 44 minutes, this was a fantastic back and forth between two teams that couldn't help answer smart shots with smart shots, and great defense on one end with moving feet on the other.

It wasn't just the pace, though Hans Moleman would out-run these two teams. 85 possessions in this game, which is unyieldingly slow. And yet, not unyieldingly dull. In fact, it was the best of both worlds; because a slow-paced game is often the quickest game, mainly due to the fact that "24 seconds" actually means "24 seconds." It's not the (takes on a bad situation comedy affectation) thing where you tell someone that there is five minutes left in a game, and that actually means 18 minutes in real time. Both teams were draining the air out of the ball, and the contest went quickly as a result.

And because both teams were playing well, the game was fun to watch. San Antonio only had 101.2 points per 100 possessions, a poor mark, but it played well offensively. Moved the ball and attacked the rim. Portland just played great defense, moving its feet and staying in front of the drivers. So fun to take in. And on the other end, LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) was dominant.

Forty points, in an 85-possession game. Think about what that takes. 11 boards, and three blocks as well. And, yes, he's been taking it to the Spurs for years, but this was just something else -- dunks and lobs and post-ups and finishes and scoring every which way. Dre Miller (18 and nine assists) wasn't bad either.

San Antonio can't put its head down. Portland may have played its best game of the season, and San Antonio responded with smart play and dogged attempts to keep up. It's just tough to hit that running eight footer with a man in your face, and the Trail Blazers deserved all those misses they created for the Spurs.

Also, though he talks way too much (a rookie mistake), the San Antonio broadcasts are 100 percent more listenable with Malik Rose(notes) at the mic, as opposed to Sean Elliott.

I realize that what I'm essentially asking for here is for one man to walk away from a paying job, and another to take it on, but I'd be shirking my responsibility as an NBA fan with a rather large pulpit if I didn't point out that huge gobs of League Pass viewers consistently decide to pass over the San Antonio feed in favor of the other team's announcing duo. And this costs San Antonio so many viewers that could be seeing its local commercials, tourism ads, et cetera. All because Elliott acts boorish and uninformed, consistently.

Something to consider, San Antonio. We love your team. We'd also like to watch its home feed more often.

***

New Orleans 97, Washington 89

On Tuesday night, Nick Young(notes) scored 30 points. He hit half his shots from the field, a solid three of seven from long range (43 percent, my memorized high school math reminds me), and he got to the line 12 times, making nine freebies overall. This was a man who, by all accounts, did everything he could to win over Johnny Statguy. I mean, 30 points on 18 shots! Just invite the guy over for an Oregon Trail session with Kevin Martin(notes).

But if you watched that game, man, Here Lies Nick Young.

Just awful shots, throughout. Same for the Wizards, throughout. This team just has no clue. And while it kinds of stinks that Jason Smith(notes) came out of nowhere to score at will for the Hornets to start both halves, Washington did itself no favors with that terrible decision-making on both ends.

Smith had a sound start to the year as a big forward, coming off the bench to use up all his fouls and work an active style of defense that got noticed. As an actual center, on Tuesday, he used his touch and timing and managed 20 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. As with most centers that break out, there was nothing surprising about the performance considering Smith's size and talent, but there was also nothing to be expected the next time out. I don't know what it is with centers, but sometimes they have it, and sometimes they look like someone that doesn't even belong at this level. One night, 20 points in 25 minutes. The next night? Four fouls in half that time.

In all, you have to respect Washington's effort. But as much as we fret over teams taking the night off, sometimes effort isn't enough. The team doesn't play smart basketball. No other way around it.

***

Boston 95, Sacramento 90

It's hard to fault either team, in a game like this. The Celtics came out as they should, and tried to put a boot on Sacto's throat. The Kings fought back, taking it to Boston's bench and forcing the issue offensively. And then the Celtics fought back after that working its way toward good enough shots, and snapping at each other (as only the Celtics, a cohesive team if there ever was one) could, when certain players didn't take the shots they were supposed to take.

In the end, DeMarcus Cousins(notes) had a couple of punk moves, and Beno Udrih(notes) laughably tried to take the game into his own hands a few too many times, but the Kings acquitted themselves well. The C's are championship contenders, though, if not the best team in this league right now. An that's a hard group to put away. Especially if you're trying to do it with 18-footers.

14 points off the bench for Glen Davis(notes), and one clutch shot from Paul Pierce(notes) (how're you going to let him get to his spot there? Geez ...) late, as Boston pulled away. Sacramento had 12 blocks, but they needed about six or seven more.

***

Los Angeles 114, Houston 106

It's hard to question Los Angeles' effort in this game. Derek Fisher(notes) made some ridiculous mistakes defensively down the stretch, and things got a little Kobe-centric at times, but the team was trying. Just because Pau Gasol(notes) missed about 42 dunks, it doesn't mean he wasn't trying.

Houston just showed up. It didn't play the smartest game, but it did show up. Here's where we get to the part about them not playing the smartest game.

I understand that the Lakers allowed Houston to go small by fielding both Steve Blake(notes) and Derek Fisher late, but to go with Kyle Lowry(notes) and Aaron Brooks(notes) down the stretch, while putting Kevin Martin on Kobe Bryant(notes)? Kobe should have scored 40 in the fourth quarter. He shot 3-7, not bad, but there were a half dozen chances for Rick Adelman to drop Brooks for Shane Battier(notes), and yet Martin stayed out there. Between the fourth and overtime periods, Kobe shot 5-10, with two assists; and while he forced a few bad shots, he was a few dribbles away from good shots. Adelman messed up, and Kobe nearly let him get away with it.

Bryant put together a fantastic 11-assist night, on top of shooting 52 percent, just seeing over the top of the easy Rocket double-teams and making the expert pass. Could have had about four or five more assists, too, if it weren't for his teammates falling short.

20 points and 20 rebounds for Lamar Odom(notes), with four assists, as he started in Andrew Bynum's(notes) place, more or less. The Rocket point guards had 13 assists but also shot 10-30, and Kevin Martin went cold down the stretch.

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