May 2005 - Posts
Despite the San Antonio Spurs best effort, the Phoenix Suns simply could not be denied tonight. Leading after the 1st quarter (1st of the series), the Suns kept up with the Spurs all the way until the end and came out victorious.
Play of the game - Amare Stoudemire blocks Tim Duncan's dunk attempt with less than 2 minutes left and recovers the ball.... ohhhh my!!! Nash nails two free throws to cement the game and Phoenix walks away in a 3-1 series. Still down, they now have shifted the momentum heading back to Phoenix.
While Stoudemire made the play of the game, I think Joe Johnson was the player of the game. His 3-point shots and drives to the line were the primary reason the Suns were able to stay in the game and come out with the win.
One point of argument... Q' Richardson cannot play defense, period. Manu Ginobili again lit him up for 28 points on 50% shooting. It seemed at one point that Ginobili could do no wrong driving down the lane; twisting and turning he either made the difficult shot or drew the foul on a Suns defender.
Props to Joe Johnson for 67% shooting (10-15 FG) and 50% 3-point shooting (3-6) and keeping the Suns in this series. I hope the Suns re-sign Joe for as much as possible to keep this nucleus in-tact. Stoudemire played a solid game, despite only grabbing 5 boards and Nash finished strong with 12 assists; much better than his game 3 output of 3 assists.
Perhaps the biggest surprise and possibly the Suns reason for victory was Shawn Marion's resurgence, with 11 pts (low), but 14 rebounds and 3 blocks.
While it's hard to put the Phoenix Suns in the Finals just yet, it is encouraging to see them win a game against the “complete” San Antonio Spurs team.
This series is going back to San Antonio for Game 3 on Saturday with the Spurs up 2 games to none over the Phoenix Suns. Despite the best record in the league and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, Phoenix is struggling from the get-go, and hasn't had enough juice left in the 4th quarter to walk away with a victory. The Suns have fallen behind in the 1st quarter in both games, but has battled back and has led both games going into the 4th quarter. What does that mean to the Spurs...absolutely nothing.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (Tim Duncan too) are carrying this team and simply confident they'll win in the 4th quarter. To top of this scoring trio, the Spurs defense is doing wonders on the suddenly struggling Suns. Btw - that spinning off-hand layup by Ginobili in the 4th quarter of Game 2 was a travel. Watch the replay - 3 steps. This has become a common no-call by officials in the NBA, so I'm not going to force the issue.
Phoenix will get Joe Johnson back for Game 3, though there's a lot of talk about how much he'll be able to contribute. He'll obviously be wary of getting hit in the face, but hopefully he toughens up and helps the Suns get a win. If the Suns win Game 3, it's a series again; if they lose, it's 99.9% over. Barring a Red Sox like comeback, Phoenix will not make it to the Finals this year.
I also like Joe Johnson for his defense - he should be able to help contain Ginobili a little bit better, but the way Manu swings those elbows, Joe better be careful.
I don't know about all of you out there, but I'm about fed up with the NBA and ABC's airing (or non-airing) of the NBA Playoffs so far this year. The first non-Miami Heat game aired on primetime TV was Game 6 between San Antonio and Dallas on Thursday. Granted, it was a Game 6 and the series was pretty good, but what's up with not showing the Suns & Mavs Game 6 on Friday night? 130-126, overtime, series clinching game... need I say more?
To top this off, Miami has been off for damn near 2 weeks now (it would seem) and Detroit finished off Indiana a few days ago, but which conference has to play first? That's right, with only 2 days rest, the Suns will play San Antonio on Sunday afternoon, with Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to be played on Monday.
The fact that the Suns would play a game two days after a Game 6 isn't that odd, but the fact they would've had to play Game 7 against Dallas on Sunday had they lost last night just adds to the fact that the league is scheduling in Shaq's favor.
To me, this just seems like another NBA league decision to help a team from the East coast (namely Miami) get to the NBA Finals. They have been reporting all week that Shaq isn't practicing and it seems like the league is giving him all the time in the world to get healthy enough to play against the Pistons. Btw - I think the Pistons can take the Heat in 6 games (think last year's sweep of Shaq's Lakers).
Conspiracy theory?? Sure seems that way to me.
Despite the Mavericks success in Game 4, they couldn't stop Steve Nash in Game 5 and the Suns came out victorious. Thanks mostly to Nash's first career playoff triple-double and only his 3rd ever, the Suns overcame a close game in the 4th quarter to take a 3-2 lead in the best of 7 series.
Amare Stoudemire came back to life after a subpar game and Jim Jackson scored 15 of his 21 points in the 4th quarter when Phoenix put the game away. Jackson did a great job playing for the injured Joe Johnson, who could possibly be back for the Western Conference Finals, though he'll probably have to wear a protective mask.
This series resumes Friday night in Dallas and the Suns look to close out the series and get some much needed rest in preparation for the San Antonio Spurs, who likely will close out Seattle in tonight's contest.
Look for a Phoenix & San Antonio matchup in the West, and a Miami & Detroit matchup in the East. I'll take the Suns and the Heat in the finals.
Game 1 Recap
The Phoenix Suns started out in Game 1 by thoroughly running the Mavericks right off the floor. Had they wanted to, they could've easily won the game by 40 points. Dallas came out flat and never really got close enough to contend. Amare Stoudemire for the Suns was virtually unstoppable in the game, notching 40 points and about 15 boards. Eric Dampier couldn't stop him, Nowitzki couldn't, etc...
Dirk's Comments after Game 1
A lot of people are criticizing Dirk for calling out his teammates, particularly Eric Dampier, for their lack of effort in Game 1. I say it was the right thing to do and the results from Game 2 speak for themselves. Dampier stepped up in the first half scoring 13 points, which helped Dallas jump out to an early lead. Dirk got the other players to take accountability for their play and they really showed a different side in Game 2.
Suns Last Shot
Last night's last shot, a 3-point attempt by Quentin Richardson is a little discouraging, as a 2-point basket would've tied the game and sent it to overtime. Dan Bickley from the Arizona Rebublic stated this morning that common knowledge tells you to go for overtime on your home floor, and to go for the win when you're the visitor... Apparently Q' didn't agree with that philosophy, stating that “that's not his game“ and the 3-pointer was what he thought was best. I do like the confidence to do so, but considering the circumstances, including losing Joe Johnson, they should've taken their chances in overtime and tried for the 2-0 series lead.
I do think the Suns are in a bit of trouble now that Joe Johnson is out for at least 2 games with a broken bone in his face. I haven't seen the replays of the flagrant foul, but the fact that it was flagrant indicates that it was unnecessarily hard. If Johnson is unable to play again in this series, it would be a shame. If that happens, I like Dallas' chances also, as Joe is a large reason for Phoenix's success this year. His 3-point shooting and ability to create his own shot opens up the floor and forces the defenders to stay honest.
With the win, Dallas has taken home-court advantage from the Suns as they head back to Texas with a 1-1 series tie. Both teams play good on the road, so I would expect them to come back to Arizona with a 2-2 tie at the least; or Phoenix will be up 3-1.
Today's games marked the beginning of the NBA Playoff's 2nd Round.
I read a small column in this week's Sporting News magazine that I completely agreed with. The writer was pointing out that the NBA is doing a bad job of promoting “basketball” by showcasing only the most popular players (& their team) on national telvision (ABC). Basically, we've had three Sunday games so far, and guess who has been on each and every Sunday? Shaq & the Miami Heat... To top that off, each game has pretty much been a blowout, including today's victory over Washington.
While it's nice to see the Wizards on TV, as well as Shaq and Dwyane Wade, I'd much rather see the Suns or a game from the Boston/Indiana series. Actually, one of the Houston/Dallas games would've been great (except Game 7). The Phoenix Suns have the best record in the league and the most exciting offense to watch, and yet we are forced to watch an injured Shaq and company steamroll New Jersey and Washington... thanks a lot David Stern.
Now to today's games...
Washington made a game of it in the first half, coming back from a 17 point deficit, but couldn't keep up with Miami in the second half. Wade pretty much took over the game and the Wizards poor shooting helped put them down for the rest of the game. No one played particularly great for either team, but Miami's bench played a little bit better and the team pulled out a win.
San Antonio pretty much handed Seattle their dinner plate in the later game today. This series appears to be over already. Radmonovic and Ray Allen both went down with ankle sprains before halftime and the Sonics never recovered. San Antonio cruised to a double-digit victory. Tony Parker played well, particularly on offense where he disected Seattle's defense for easy layups & assists to San Antonio's big men.
On tap tomorrow are the Suns & Mavericks and the Pistions & Pacers... I expect both games to be much closer and more entertaining.
Round 1 of the 2005 NBA Playoffs is nearly completed. With San Antonio, Phoenix, Miami, Seattle and Detroit making it to the 2nd round, only 3 series remain.
Each of the remaining series are being played very tough and all of the teams desperately want to move on to the next round.
Washington survived a late scare last night, nearly blowing a 22 point lead, only to win at the buzzer on a fadeaway jumper by Gilbert Arenas. Credit the Bulls for making a game of it and not giving up.
Indiana and Boston are now going to a 7th game after the Celtics won in overtime tonight. Paul Pierce was ejected in the 4th quarter and Antoine Walker nearly was as well, but he recovered and led Boston to the victory in OT. I still think Indiana will be able to pull out another victory and move on to the 2nd round.
Houston is leading Dallas right now at halftime in game 6 of their series, so they could force a game 7 with a victory tonight. The Mavericks are hoping that doesn't happen. Whichever team wins, they will have a strong foe (Phoenix) in the next round. I doubt either team is looking forward to playing the Suns, but probably more so than having to play the Spurs right now.
Second round matchups look like this so far:
Spurs vs. Sonics
Heat vs. Wizards
Suns vs. winner of Houston/Dallas series
Pistons vs. winner of Indiana/Boston series