May 2006 - Posts
It's not like me to brag, but I did pick Phoenix to surprise the Mavs in Game 1 and they did exactly that. They followed their game plan to try and score more points than Dallas, and they were successful.
Boris Diaw had a career game for the Suns, finishing with 35 points. Steve Nash played spectacular w/ 27 pts and 16 assists, and Shawn Marion provided the 3rd scoring punch & much needed rebounding that helped the Suns win.
Raja Bell went down with some type of calf injury late in the 4th quarter and his status for Game 2 is currently in question. He's quoted as saying that it felt like he got shot in the leg with a paint-ball gun. Marion also twisted an ankle in the game, but it wasn't serious enough for him to sit out.
Despite a career high from Devin Harris, the Mavs will likely be making some drastic changes to try and slow down the Suns attack. I'd expect them to clamp down defensively in Game 2 and lower the scoring range down into the high 90's or low 100's. A repeat 120 pt game by the Suns is not likely.
The Phoenix Suns square off tonight against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Suns took out the LA Clippers in Game 7 of the last series, their second straight 7-game series, and the Mavericks withstood a late charge and overtime to take out the San Antonio Spurs in their Game 7.
Both teams will be looking to run and score a lot of points, but expect Dallas to go through some phases where they're trying more on defense than they are on offense. Coach Avery Johnson will not be happy, nor will he allow them to be complacent and let the Suns run up & down the court.
Dallas presents a couple matchup problems, similar to what the Clippers presented - a lot more size. They also have more able bodies to put in the game to foul and/or bruise up the Suns starting squad. There is a chance that Kurt Thomas will play in this series, and his defense and rebounding would be a great addition if that was so.
The game is in Dallas, but I expect the Suns to be a little fresher and take Game 1.
In other news:
- The NBA Draft Lottery was completed last night and the Toronto Raptors were awarded with the #1 pick. Most analysts believe they'll pick Adam Morrison from Gonzaga, but GM Bryan Colangelo says a lot can change before the NBA Draft (in a month).
- Kevin Garnett is constantly being rumored in various trade scenarios, but management says that's not going to happen unless a marquee player is traded in return (ie: Kobe Bryant, Lebron James). Since that's not likely, look for the Timberwolves to make some other moves during this offseason.
It's official... there will be another Game 7 between the Suns and a team from L.A. this year.
Phoenix beat the Lakers in Game 7 of the first round, and find themselves in a similar situation now against the Clippers. Game 6 didn't prove to be anywhere near exciting as Game 5's double-overtime Suns win, as the Clippers led most of the game and were too strong for the Suns to overcome in the end.
Leandro Barbosa was phenomenal, scoring almost at will, including 2 key 3-pointers late in the game. Shawn Marion was also spectacular, but it wasn't enough to get the win.
The Clippers bench played well, and Quinten Ross, who was inserted as a starter was key in their 118-106 victory.
The Suns didn't look themselves several times during the game... their apparent lack of energy was easily visible - jacking up 3-pointers like crazy, not rebounding, turning the ball over, etc. Let's hope they can get that energy back before the next game, which isn't until Monday in Phoenix.
Mavs/Spurs... I wish Dallas would just finish off Duncan and the Spurs so everyone can shut up about how good they are. Granted, the've won a few titles, but one was with David Robinson and the others have been against teams not known for playing defense.
Cavs/Pistons... What the hell? Now I know Lebron James is the next Michael Jordan (there's no doubt), but taking his team to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year (playoffs)?? This is crazy... The Pistons have completely fallen apart, no doubt in part because of Rasheed Wallace's stupid guaranteed win.
Heat/Nets... Heat advance to Eastern Finals w/ strong performances in the series by Wade, O'Neal and Antoine Walker (yes, I just said Antoine Walker...lol).
After getting beat on thier homecourt in Game 3, the Clippers responded with a brilliant performance against the Suns in Game 4. L.A. led in the rebounding department again (55-37), something they did very well in Game 2, which also led to a Clippers win.
Phoenix will need a much stronger showing from Steve Nash if they expect to win Game 5 (in Phoenix) on Tuesday night. Nash finished with only 8 points on Sunday, but had 11 assists. Raja Bell led the Suns with a career-playoff high 33 points. Boris Diaw and Shawn Marion each played well, but it was the performance of Sam Cassell for the Clippers that really made the difference. Cassell finished one assist short of a playoff triple-double w/ 28 pts, 11 rbs, and 9 assists.
For whatever reason, the Suns only played with a 7 man rotation in Game 4, something that probably helped lead to the loss. The Clippers had a 10 man rotation, which means they were fresher and were attacking the boards a lot more frequently than the smaller Suns.
The only way the Suns can win this series is if they rebound competitively and keep pushing the ball. They still have the homecourt advantage on their side as well, but we've already seen them blow that against the Lakers last series, and against the Clippers in Game 2.
Starting with the lastest NBA hardware handed out...
- Defensive Player of the Year - Not much of a surprise here with Ben Wallace from the Detroit Pistons winning the award for the 4th consecutive year. This is really one of those awards that makes you go, “huh?“. The guy can't shoot (period) so all he does is rebound and play hard on defense. Let's see... how good would David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, etc. have been if they didn't have to lead their team on both ends of the court. This award, in my opinion, is lame...
- Rookie of the Year - This is a total no-brainer.... Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. Paul was the simply the best rookie at any position in the league this year. He was so good that folks complained when we was snubbed from the All-Star Game.
- Sacramento Kings fire long-time coach Rick Adelman. The Kings had risen to a top team in the league mostly in part to Adelman over the past 10 years, so it's surprising to see management let him go. They didn't have a great season, but played a great second half after acquiring Ron Artest. Rumors are that the Maloof brothers didn't see eye-to-eye witih Adelman and his departure has been a long time coming.
- The Dallas Mavericks tried something different in Game 2 by starting Devin Harris alongside Jason Terry and Josh Howard. It seemed to work and the Mavs played a Suns-style game and simply ran the Spurs out of their own building to tie the series at one game a piece. Tim Duncan played solid, but the rest of the Spurs didn't have enough juice/legs to keep up, which led to the loss.
- The Detroit Pistons are going to be in the Conference Finals in two more games, no doubt about it. After surviving a late scare in Game 2, the Pistons pulled out and now lead the series two games to none. Lebron James put on quite a show trying to keep the Cavs in it, but in the end Detroit was too much.
- New Jersey ran all over the Miami Heat, which is kind of a surprise to me. I know they aren't the worst team, but the Heat are suppose to be so much better. The injury to Richard Jefferson is really going to affect their chances of taking another game in Miami though, so look for the Heat to win Game 2.
- Of course, where would my analysis be without talking about the Phoenix Suns. They head into Game 2 with the LA Clippers up one game to none. Expect the Clippers to be more physical and to try and slow the pace of the game down. The Suns can win by rebounding the ball and preventing 2nd chance opportunities for the LA big men.
Steve Nash was presented with the league's MVP trophy before the game, and afterwards looked like he deserved it (again). Nash finished with 31 points and 12 assists in the Suns 130-123 victory over the other LA team. Elton Brand led the Clippers with 40 points on 18-22 shooting, but he didn't score much in the 4th quarter and Phoenix took advantage.
The Suns got a solid performance from everyone, as six players reached double figures. Raja Bell finished with 22 points, Shawn Marion had 20 points & 15 boards, Boris Diaw had 19, 5, 5, Leandro Barbosa finished with 17 and Tim Thomas added 12. Barbosa followed up Game 7's victory over the Lakers with another solid performance off the bench.
I think the Clippers were expecting the Suns to be a little more tired after winning Game 7 against the Lakers less than 48 hrs earlier, but that wasn't the case. Phoenix jumped to an early lead and led for most of the 1st half until the Clippers put on a run and led by 5 at halftime. LA shot a better FG% than Phoenix, but the Suns were 24-25 from the charity stripe. The Suns also made 12 3-pointers, compared to just 4 for the Clippers.
The Suns will probably be a little sluggish in Game 2, but they need to keep pressing the ball and forcing the tempo of the game. Expect another big game from Elton Brand and the other LA big men.
On another note...
What the hell happened to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in Game 7? After leading the series 3-1, they basically gave up in Game 7 and Phoenix advanced. The thing that bothered me the most was Kobe's performance in the second half. What, 3 shots in the entire half when you're team is down by double figures? Unless he's trying to show he's a team player and get his team believing in that for next year, he really blew it. Considering that Raja Bell returned from his Game 6 suspension, it's puzzling as to why Kobe did not show him who's boss.
My prediction... Phoenix wins Game 2 at home over the Clippers, 107-97.
The Lakers and Suns head back to Phoenix for Game 7 of the their western conference playoff matchup. The Suns should have the advantage w/ the homecourt, as well as having Raja Bell back in the lineup to slow down Kobe Bryant.
Game 6 was one for the ages... Kobe Bryant finished with 50 points, but it wasn't enough to get the win. Steve Nash had an MVP-like performance in the overtime victory, and Tim Thomas hit a couple huge 3-pointers to force the overtime (and in overtime). Leandro Barbosa was a huge factor in the victory as well, despite his best efforts to guard Bryant.
Keys to Game 7...
- Avoid a fight - It's already been a pretty intense series, and with Bell returning to the lineup it's only going to get worse. The Suns will need to avoid getting caught up in the Lakers head games and/or reacting physically. A fight or serious flagrant foul will affect the Suns if they make on to face the Clippers.
- Rebound - The Suns have been victorious that past 2 games because they've been rebounding the ball better and taking away the Lakers 2nd chance points.
- Stop Kobe's supporting squad - I said this before the last game and it worked, so they'll need to do it again. Let Kobe go off for 50 points again, just as long as the Odom and Brown are kept in check.
Looking for a Raja Bell jersey?
Many retailers are now starting to carry Raja Bell's jersey, so you can buy one online now. Previously, the jerseys were very hard to find.
Game 5 between the Suns and Lakers was just about as intense as you can get.
Both Raja Bell from Phoenix and Kobe Bryant for the Lakers were ejected from the game. Bell was ejected after clotheslining Bryant on the baseline late in the game, and Bryant was ejected with just a few minutes remaining in the game. With the game out of hand down the stretch, Phoenix took out Nash and a few other players as a precaution to make sure they weren't involved in anything that would affect them down the road.
Boris Diaw, who received his Most Improved Player award before the game, did not disappoint. Diaw was one assist away from a triple-double and helped lead the Suns to the Game 5 win. His energy and hustle were a big part in the win. Shawn Marion on Steve Nash also played solid games and they were able to minimize the efforts of the Lakers' squad, aside from Kobe Bryant.
Raja Bell could get a one-game suspension for the near tackle of Bryant, but based on other hard hits throughout the series (see Kwame Brown), no penalty should be given.
The series heads back to LA for Game 6 and I'm sure the Lakers will make some adjustments, including being more physical to keep the Suns from running so much. If Phoenix can simply match the Lakers level of intensity and continue to push the ball, I think they'll be fine.
Raja Bell was suspended by the league for Game 6 of the Lakers/Suns series for the flagrant II foul he committed on Kobe Bryant in Game 5. I still think Kwame Brown should have gotten a suspension for the hits he laid out in the first two games of the series, but the league has to set an example if you attack their star player(s). It remains to be seen if Reggie Evans from Denver will be suspended for grabbing & yanking on Chris Kaman's nuts during Game 5 of their series.
The Suns find themselves in a horrible spot waking up today - facing a possible elimination game Tuesday night in Phoenix against the Lakers. Despite their hard work & determination, they were unable to stop the Los Angeles and Kobe Bryant from taking a 3-1 lead in the series. They're actually lucky to have one win if you think about it - a controversial call at the end of Game 1 is the only reason the Suns have a win. Tim Thomas even admitted to fouling Kobe at the end, but it was a no-call and Phoenix was victorious.
The Lakers are really outplaying the Suns in nearly every aspect of the game, particularly in slowing down the run & gun Phoenix squad. Shawn Marion fouled out of Game 4 with just over 2 minutes left, so the team was without their best rebounder & defender for the rest of the 4th quarter and in overtime.
Kudos to Smush Parker who hit a huge 3-pointer late in the game and who also stole the ball from Steve Nash on the last possession of the 4th quarter, leading to a Kobe Bryant layup and subsequent tie-game.
Kobe stole the show in overtime and won the game on a 17-foot jump shot.
How the Suns can win Game 5:
- Rebound better - besides Marion, no one else on the team is consistently rebounding the ball.
- Stop relying on 3-pt shots - they need to get closer looks at the basket and quit shooting 25 3-pointers a game. I know this is part of their game, but they're not doing a good job of it right now so they need to adjust.
- Stop the Lakers team - that sounds trivial, but stopping everyone BUT Kobe should be the focus. The Lakers usually lose when Kobe is the only one playing well, so shut everyone else down.
I see the Suns winning Game 5 and heading back to LA with facing another elimination game down 3-2 in the series; at least they'll still be in it though.