Phoenix Rings Dallas' Bell 106-86, Evens Western Conference Finals at 2-2Four Phoenix Suns scored more points than Raja Bell's nine in the Suns' 106-86 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night but Bell had a huge impact on the game. His return to the starting lineup provided some much needed fire and grit and strengthened the Suns' bench by enabling Leandro Barbosa (24 points on 10-13 field goal shooting) to return to his role as a non-starter. Steve Nash had 21 points and seven assists and Boris Diaw produced 20 points, nine rebounds, four assists and one "facial" on Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks completely failed to execute their game plan of forcing turnovers, limiting their own turnovers and running the shot clock down. Dallas committed 14 turnovers while only forcing seven and failed to control the pace of the game. Josh Howard led Dallas with 16 points--14 of them in the first half--and nine rebounds, while Nowitzki had a very rough night: 11 points on 3-13 field goal shooting and seven rebounds, ending his streak of six straight playoff games with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds.
It is not necessarily shocking that the Suns won a game on their homecourt but it is surprising that they routed Dallas by 20. The Mavericks' four previous playoff losses this year came by a combined 11 points. Most statistical indicators pointed steadily downward for Phoenix since game one, which the Suns won on a last second shot, but the X-factor for Phoenix is always energy. When the Suns are energetic and aggressive on defense and in pursuit of loose balls that translates into open court opportunities and then it becomes a feeding frenzy. The Suns are 2-0 in this series when Bell plays and 0-2 when he sits out.
This game looked like it could turn out to be a classic case of what Yogi Berra might call "deja vu all over again." The Suns led by as much as 11 in the first half before Dallas trimmed the margin to 51-46 at halftime. In the previous two games, Phoenix had halftime leads but wilted in the second half and the Mavericks won. Dallas did take the lead briefly in the third quarter and with 3:09 remaining in the period the score was tied at 67. The Suns then went on a 25-6 run, ensuring that one of these teams will face elimination in a sixth game in Phoenix.
Speaking of "deja vu all over again," during the second quarter TNT analyst Steve Kerr made an observation that should sound very familiar to 20 Second Timeout readers. He said that Nash's ability to drive baseline and then find cutters flashing to the basket reminds him of Wayne Gretzky. This is what I wrote about Nash and Gretzky almost two months ago (in this post: Kobe Scores 51 but the Lakers Play Like Zeroes):
"Speaking of hockey, the way that Nash dribbles behind the basket on one side and comes out the other to either make a shot or deliver an assist is reminiscent of how Wayne Gretzky operated in his 'office' behind the goalie."
posted by David Friedman @ 12:49 AM