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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Slooow Down! Dallas Controls the Pace, Beats Phoenix in Game Three

Dallas outscored Phoenix 48-36 in the second half, winning game three 95-88 and retaking home court advantage in the Western Conference Finals. The 88 points are a 2006 playoff low for the Suns, as are their 13 assists and 0 (!) steals. These numbers reflect Dallas' formula for success against Phoenix: force turnovers, don't commit turnovers and, unless there is a clear advantage in numbers or matchups, drain the 24 second clock down before shooting.

Dirk Nowitzki had another big performance: 28 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots. Josh Howard was slowed a bit in the first half by Shawn Marion's tough defense, but finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Steve Nash led Phoenix with 21 points and seven assists. Marion had 18 rebounds but only 10 points. Boris Diaw had 14 points in the first half but only six points in the second half. Phoenix went on a run late in the first quarter after Nowitzki went to the bench with his second foul and eventually built an 11 point lead. Nowitzki returned in the second quarter and Dallas cut the margin to five by halftime. The Mavericks took the lead at the 9:16 mark in the third quarter and, although Phoenix kept it close, the Suns could neither get the necessary defensive stops nor create offensive opportunities in the open court.

The games in this series will continue to be close--Phoenix is too good of a team to just surrender meekly--but Dallas is the stronger, deeper team. Even when Phoenix gets off to a good start, Dallas is able to eventually wear down the Suns. As TNT's Charles Barkley said simply, "Dallas is just the better team."

posted by David Friedman @ 11:16 PM

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