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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Heat Advance, Suns Win Thriller

The New Jersey Nets received great production from their "Big Three" but that was not enough to stave off elimination by the Miami Heat in game five of their series on Tuesday night. Richard Jefferson had his best game of the series (33 points, seven rebounds, five assists), Vince Carter matched Jefferson's numbers (33 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and Jason Kidd not only put up good numbers (20 points, eight assists, six rebounds, four steals) but his defense played a big role in forcing Dwyane Wade into 7-19 field goal shooting and seven turnovers. All New Jersey needed was to get some contributions from Nenad Krstic but he had one point, two rebounds and five fouls. Antoine Walker had 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Heat, Wade finished with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists and Shaquille O'Neal had 17 points and three rebounds in Miami's 106-105 win. The Heat now advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they will face the winner of the Cleveland-Detroit series. New Jersey squandered a real opportunity in this series by not attacking the basket relentlessly; when the Nets drove to the hoop--in game one and for stretches of game five--they presented a lot of problems for the Heat but New Jersey settled for too many jump shots and executed horribly down the stretch throughout the series, committing numerous careless turnovers.

In Tuesday's other game, the Phoenix Suns took a 3-2 lead over the L.A. Clippers with a heart stopping 125-118 double overtime win. With the Dallas-San Antonio game going to overtime on Monday night and then this marathon affair the next day, basketball fans on the East Coast are now easily identifiable by dark circles around their eyes and frequent yawning spells during the day--but those who stayed up to see the conclusions of both games definitely saw some amazing plays.

You could write a book about the twists and turns that happened down the stretch in the Suns-Clippers game. Sam Cassell, normally reliable in the clutch, had a great game--32 points and five assists, including 10 straight points to help cut a 19 point Suns' lead to six--but he was whistled for an eight second violation with 31 seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied. Later, the Suns' Tim Thomas launched a full court desperation heave when Phoenix could have called a timeout and advanced the ball to halfcourt just before the end of regulation. Steve Nash looked like Edward Scissorhands at the end of the first overtime, committing two turnovers that could have cost Phoenix the game. Neither team scored in the first 1:10 of the second overtime until Shawn Marion's two free throws broke the ice. Marion had six points in the second extra session, capping off a monster game (36 points, 20 rebounds) and leading the Suns to victory. Thomas had 25 points, Raja Bell had 22 points and four steals and Nash contributed 17 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. Elton Brand had 33 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots for the Clippers. This series has been very hard fought and competitive but we are seeing that, as I expected, it is easier for Phoenix to swarm and be active defensively without having to double team Kobe Bryant. The Clippers' big men are no doubt better than the Lakers' big men but Phoenix can play the Clippers' perimeter players one on one and send waves of defenders to defend the basket. Brand is putting up excellent numbers, but the Suns are one game away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals.

posted by David Friedman @ 11:16 PM

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