Saturday, May 13, 2006

Friday Recap (May 12, 2006)

HEAT/NETS (Game 3): Heat 103-Nets 92

- Finally, a competitive game in this series. The shorthanded Nets could have pulled this game out if it were not for some costly turnovers at the end.

- The Heat role players came thru again on both ends of the floor. The Heat hit 9 3pt. shots overall--Walker was 4/9--and brought a defensive toughness to the table, holding the Nets to 43.5%. Mourning really makes the Heat defense more active when he's out on the floor, also Payton has surprisingly been still disruptive on defense for the entirety of the 2006 playoffs. Posey pitched in with 8 pts., 10 rebs., 2 3pt. & active defense to boot. I also thought Wade did a great job of creating shots for others when the Nets collapsed on him--he ended with 10 assists.

- Vince seemed to single-handedly keep the Nets in the game with 43 points. He continued to stay aggressive by attacking the basket and hitting a variety of tough shots. Although at the end of the game, he got too careless with the ball (he had 3 TOs in the last 5 minutes) and committed untimely turnovers on the high screen/rolls when the game was still close. What sort of hurt New Jersey was Krstic's cold streak from the perimeter; he could not buy a basket from outside. If he hits some of the open looks he got, like he usually does, the Nets maybe could have pulled the game out.

- I picked the Nets in 7 games, but now I think that could be in doubt with the suspension of Cliff Robinson. From now on let's just call him Uncle Spliffy. The Nets lose an important cog vs. Shaq--Uncle Spliffy could defend him well & he could draw him away from the paint on offense. The Nets bench was already thin to begin with, especially on the frontline, so the Nets have very little room for error the rest of the series. The Nets just need to keep attacking the paint & trying to get Shaq in foul trouble. But that might not be enough, as witnessed by Game 3, cause the Heat role players are looking solid.

SUNS/CLIPS (Game 3): Suns 94-Clippers 91

- I know this is very odd to say, but the Suns won this game by their play on the defensive end. This was not a pretty game to watch and really diverged from the first two games in Phoenix. Very rarely can you say that the Phoenix defense outplayed its offense, but that's just what they did.

- This was easily the best Suns' defensive effort of the playoffs. They were surprisingly doing a great job in the interior, not letting the Clips get the easy looks they wanted. They were doubling and sometimes triple-teaming Brand in the post, not giving him the shots that he wanted--Elton shot 7 for 17, after shooting nearly 75% in Games 1 & 2. Probably the most important improvement they made was shoring up their defensive glass--they only lost the overall rebound battle by 1 & held the Clippers to 8 off. rebs. D'Antoni made some good choices by going a little bigger with Tim Thomas (19 pts., 14 rbs.) and also by putting Marion on Cassell, who struggled to get going from the field (only 6 pts. for Sam).

- While neither teams' offense was particularly good, the Clips could get absolutely no rhythm offensively minus the Radmanovic barrage in the 4th quarter. The middle half of the game (2nd & 3rd) was extremely sloppy for both teams, but the Suns found a little success in the late stages of the 3rd; the Clips only managed 35 points total in the middle half. I think they struggled because they geared their entire gameplan to the post area (which I do think is the right thing to do), but they really did not have a counter when the Suns were totally committed to stopping that gameplan. The Clippers really never got anything going from the perimeter to offset the aggressive scrambling by the Suns' defense in the interior. And the Clips did not really move the ball around well after their post-ups were being denied. Cassell never got going (somewhat thanks to Marion), and Mobley was the only guy who hit some outside shots early before Vlad's 4th quarter display. The Clips hit 7 3pt. shots for the game--5 by Vlad & 2 by Cuttino. Also some sketchy turnovers in the 2nd half did not help matters--the Clips ended up with 15 TOs for the game.

- The Clippers' defense did there part by holding the Suns to 37.2% shooting and just 7 3pt. makes. You would obviously think if you could hold the Suns' offense to those numbers, you would walk away with a easy, lopsided victory. But the Suns' defense decided to show up for once. The one thing that did hurt the Clips' defense was the unnecessary fouls they gave up early in the 3rd & 4th quarters putting the Suns in the penalty early. Technically, the difference in the game came down to the free-throw line--the Suns hit 9 more than the Clips. The Clips actually made 3 more field goals than the Suns and they neutralized them from 3pt. land (Suns' 7 to Clips' 7). So the Clips are +6 right there, but then you add the 9+ Suns' free throws, you get your Suns +3 win. The Clips did do another good job of handling the high screen/roll for the second game in a row. They really hedged hard on Nash and made him take tough, contested shots all day.

- You really have to tip your hat to the Suns, because they don't usually win games in this fashion. I don't expect this to be a trend where the Suns win too many more games where they shoot under 40% & 7/27 from three. Even though the Suns did a good job of defending the post, the Clips still have to keep pounding it. But this time they need to incorporate more perimeter plays to keep the Suns guessing. Like I mentioned after Game 1, even more playing time for Radmanovic should help.