Nets and Clippers Squander Golden OpportunitiesThe New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers returned home after splitting the first two games versus the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns respectively. In Friday's game three, New Jersey led Miami 81-80 with 4:36 remaining, but committed numerous careless turnovers and fouls that enabled the Heat to close the game on a 23-11 run for a 103-92 win. Vince Carter scored 43 points--a Nets' NBA single game playoff scoring record--Jason Kidd had 10 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds and Richard Jefferson scored 17 points but the other Nets combined for only 22 points on 9-26 field goal shooting (.346). The Nets were without the services of key veteran reserve forward-center Cliff Robinson, who was suspended by the NBA for five games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Dwyane Wade had 30 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and six turnovers for Miami, while Shaquille O'Neal finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Antoine Walker made an important contribution with 16 points, including 4-9 shooting on three pointers. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if New Jersey did in fact relax in game two because of winning game one in Miami--and that certainly seemed to be the case--that was a big mistake because Miami is very capable of winning on the road. Now New Jersey faces a must win game at home on Sunday, followed by the prospect of having to win again in Miami in order to advance. The Nets have shown in game one and for most of game three that they have perimeter weapons that can cause great difficulty for Miami as well as the tenacity to offer resistance to Shaq in the paint but they need to come with a strong effort and full concentration for the whole 48 minutes on Sunday.
The Clippers led Phoenix 85-82 with less than three minutes to go, but wound up losing 94-91. Shawn Marion scored 32 points and grabbed 19 rebounds for the Suns, while two-time MVP Steve Nash had a quiet game with 12 points and 10 assists--but he did score the Suns' final basket on a step back jump shot with less than four seconds remaining. Vladimir Radmanovic made his first five three pointers but missed a three pointer as time expired. Elton Brand had 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Clippers but only shot 7-17 from the field. Those are good numbers, but the Suns can live with that kind of production from Brand. As long as their defenders are active and their double-teams are aggressive the Suns can beat the Clippers. Phoenix only scored 94 points on .372 field goal shooting and still won; I doubt that the Suns will shoot that poorly again in this series. This game was played at the Clippers' preferred pace but L.A. lost anyway. San Cassell had a very quiet game, producing a triple single--6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists on 2-10 field goal shooting; he and the Clippers will have to come up with a much better effort to avoid going to Phoenix down 3-1.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:54 AM