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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Clash of the Titans: Phoenix Wears Down Dallas, 129-127 (2 OT)

In a highly entertaining prelude to a possible playoff showdown, the Phoenix Suns took a 16 point first half lead over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night and survived a huge Dallas comeback to prevail 129-127 in double overtime. Both teams made impressive runs just when the other team seemed to have put the game out of reach. Steve Nash had 32 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds. He scored 10 points in the last 57 seconds of regulation and hit the three pointer that tied the game at 111, sending the contest into overtime. Nash also made a key defensive play near the end of the second overtime, deflecting a Dallas inbounds pass off of Jason Terry, regaining possession for the Suns. Amare Stoudemire also had a tremendous night, making 12 consecutive field goals at one point and finishing with 41 points and 10 rebounds, shooting a blistering 16-19 from the field. Jerry Stackhouse led Dallas with a season-high 33 points, while Dirk Nowitzki had 30 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. Nowitzki shot just 11-28 from the field, missed a key free throw late in regulation, and cost his team a point in the second overtime by losing his composure and getting whistled for a technical foul (he did seem to have a legitimate gripe but chose the wrong time and manner to express it). He also missed a jumper that could have tied the game at the end of the second overtime. Jason Terry finished with 27 points, five assists and five rebounds.

While this is a thrilling win for the Suns and their fans, it is important to note that Phoenix is still just 2-6 against the other top teams in the West--Dallas, San Antonio and Utah--while Dallas is 5-3 against San Antonio, Phoenix and Utah. This game showcased all of Phoenix' strengths and weaknesses. The Suns are a great offensive team. Nash is a masterful creator and a very accurate shooter. Stoudemire is not merely living off of Nash's assists but also creating his own opportunities with powerful one on one drives to the hoop. Shawn Marion is "Mr. Do Everything," contributing 15 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. The speedy Leandro Barbosa provides instant offense off of the bench (17 points). The Suns shot .557 from the field and made more than .800 of their fourth quarter field goal attempts. The bad news? The Mavericks pounded them on the glass, 55-38, including 27 offensive rebounds. The Mavericks accomplished a 32 point swing--from down 16 to up 16--by being physical, shutting off dribble penetration and attacking the Suns in the paint on offense. Phoenix will not become bigger, stronger or more aggressive in the playoffs. What will happen in a playoff game if the Suns are not able to shoot at such an astronomical rate? Dallas is a more physical team and a more defensive minded team. Anyone who has watched Phoenix play knows that even if the Suns have a double digit lead that the other team can come back. The Suns cannot put away teams because they don't have the mindset to play the kind of defense that is necessary to do that. During the regular season they can run most of the inferior teams out of the gym, hitting them with waves and waves of offense. This style does not work at the championship level of the playoffs, because in the postseason there is more time off between games and all of the teams have at least eight highly talented players. Barring an injury to Nowitzki, I cannot see the Suns beating the Mavericks in a seven game series, nor can I see them beating the Spurs in a seven game series unless Tim Duncan is sidelined by injury.

This game does reveal at least one chink in Dallas' armor, though, and this must not be glossed over: the Mavericks seem to lack a killer instinct at times. Who can forget last year's NBA Finals, when Dallas was just six minutes away from taking a 3-0 lead? Who would have thought at that point that the Mavericks would not win another game in that series? Dallas was one free throw or one rebound or one stop away from winning this game in the fourth quarter but failed to grasp each of those opportunities. Detroit raced to a great regular season record last year but faltered in the playoffs. Dallas will face tougher teams in the 2007 Western Conference playoffs than the Pistons did in the 2006 Eastern Conference playoffs, including a San Antonio Spurs team that has looked unbeatable since the All-Star break. This loss has to remind Dallas' players and coaches of last year's failure in the Finals. Dallas' theme this year is supposed to be "Finish" and the Mavericks certainly failed to do that on Wednesday night. The rematch in a couple weeks in Phoenix, the final regular season meeting between these two teams, should be very interesting.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:46 AM

4 comments

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4 Comments:

At Thursday, March 15, 2007 10:37:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Ah the killer instinct. This was a great game but there is one thing I noticed and have noticed for awhile. Dirk is overrated. When I think of Dirk, I dont think he is MVP or MVP type player. He doesnt carry the Mavs. Nash carries the Suns. The past MVPs carry their teams. You have to finish the game at home. Just look at the Finals last year. You have 2 games at home to close it out and you cant do it. And I wish Dirk would stop shooting fadeaways. He is 7 foot 3. Post up and get to the line. He should average 10-15 free throw attempts a game.

Steve Nash is very good......he will be a 3-time MVP, but as I have said before on this blog, can name 5-10 point guards who would kill him. That doesnt take away from his game. Its amazing what he is doing right now.

And what about the 2 MVP candidates being white. Everybody says the NBA is a thug league and the white consumer, who doesnt watch on TV but still and will always dominate the ticket buying, have 2 white players as 2 of the top players of the league. Imagine that.

 
At Thursday, March 15, 2007 12:18:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

nash is the mvp

kobe is a nice player, but if you give the MVP to someone whose team has won about 2 games in 2007, then why not give it to Paul Pierce?

Dirk -- outplayed by Nash, appaarently...

give Nash his 3rd trophy (unless you want to give it to Diaw)

 
At Thursday, March 15, 2007 1:21:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

No give it to Jalen Rose.

 
At Thursday, March 15, 2007 5:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Kobe's team is still in the playoff picture, last I checked, unlike Pierce's. Kobe is the best player, which I think just about everyone acknowledges--ESPN's Coast to Coast crew talked about that on Tuesday, before moving on to whether Nash or Nowitzki will win the award this year. Bob Ryan wrote recently in Basketball Times about the MVP voting process and actually said that, based on his value to his team, Pierce could be considered MVP. I don't think he really meant that Pierce is the MVP, but that no one has really defined exactly what "MVP" means. ESPN's Ric Bucher says that the NBA intentionally does not define this in order to spark debate and discussion. Kobe's won titles, clearly makes the players around him better and has no weaknesses in his game--he can finish, post, shoot mid range, shoot long range, rebound, pass, defend, dribble with either hand, etc. His game is complete.

That said, Nash clearly had an MVP performance last night against Dallas, the best team in the league, and he is having an MVP-worthy season. Interesting that Amare puts up 41 and 10 and is considered a side story. He is an MVP caliber player, too, and Marion is certainly an All-NBA caliber player. That Phoenix team is very talented. I have no problem with Nash or Nowitzki getting the MVP, particularly if the standard being employed is "best player on the best team." If the standard is best player or most unstoppable player or player with the fewest fundamental weaknesses, I'd still go with Kobe. Based on keeping the Lakers afloat all year despite the injuries, Kobe should finish no worse than third in the voting. I actually think that he will get more MVP votes this year than he did last year, but I have no insider information--just a hunch.

Despite the thrilling win, Phx has a losing record against the best Western teams and will lose to Dall or the Spurs in the playoffs--whichever team they run into first.

 

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