Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tuesday Recap (May 16)

HEAT/NETS (Game 5): Heat 106-Nets 105

- This game started out similar to Game 1 with the Nets looking really sharp early, but this time the Heat weathered the early storm and righted the ship in the 2nd quarter. Miami got another great contribution from their secondary players and did just enough to hold off the Nets in the 4th quarter.

- After a shoddy start, the Heat turned in a smooth performance offensively the rest of the game. The Heat shot a tremendous 56% from the floor and dominated the points/paint battle 62-40. They did it again without Shaq having a dominating performance (Shaq being in foul trouble again helps as well). Wade had another terrific floor game where he drew the attention of the NJ defense and created good looks for the Heat role players. Walker came thru again in this series with 23 pts., 7 rebs., and a big 4/9 from 3pt. land. Shaq & Wade got aid from other role players as well: Haslem did the garbage work again with 10 rebs., & 8 pts., and also Williams, Payton, & Mourning all scored in double figures.

- For the third game in a row, the Nets had a great chance to win in the 4th but just could not get over the hump. At least in Game 5 the Nets did not really do anything egregious to sabotage the game like in Games 3 & 4 with costly turnovers in the 4th. You can not fault the New Jersey offense for their effort--the Nets shot 54.1% and ran out to 22 fast break points. Carter capped off his playoff run with another strong showing of 33 pts., 7 rebs., 5 assts., but he still fell in love with the 3pt. line too much (1/7). Jefferson was extremely active attacking the basket, especially in the 3rd quarter--Richard ended with 33 pts., 7 rebs., 5 assts., & 3/4 from deep. But Krstic could not get anything going (Nenad had 1 point) and an already thin Nets' bench did not offer much besides Lamond Murray. Nets really need to acquire some bench scoring over the summer to go along with a starting 4-man.

- I felt that the Miami role players would be a major key to the series, and they really performed well. The same performance needs to carryover into the Conference Finals to supplement Shaq & Wade so to compete with the Pistons. Whoops, I should have said the Pistons or the Cavs.

SUNS/CLIPS (Game 5): Suns 125-Clippers 118

- The Suns were indeed saved by Raja Bell. Not only was the desparation 3 at the end of the 1st OT huge, he also hit 4 other timely threes overall. I don't think you can fault Ewing for his defense, he was right on Bell, who had to sort of hitch up his normal shooting motion. The Clips could be regretting this game and Game 3 for a long time, if they can't win two games in a row.

- One important key for the Suns in Game 5, was that they kept the rebound margin relatively close--57-50. Although, the Suns gave up 20 off. rebs to the Clips, they got 14 off. rebs. of their own. Another mildly surprising fact for the Suns, was they really dominated the painted area--Suns' 56 points/paint to 36 for the Clips. Marion had a great overall game of 36 points and 20 rebs. (6 off.); no one dives to the basket better than Marion, that's how he gets the majority of his points & boards. The aforementioned Raja continued his timely 3 pt. shooting (5/7) and was a general nuisance on the defensive end (he also had 4 steals). Tim Thomas also continued his sharp shooting from deep (5/8).

- I think what ultimately cost the Clips this game was the stretch from roughly the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 3rd. The Clips looked pretty sharp early and had a lead of about 7 points (I believe it was 35-28) in the 2nd quarter. Then they just started getting sloppy on offense by taking ill-advised shots and not getting the ball into Brand enough. This let the Suns get back into the game --the Suns ended up outscoring the Clips 30-17 to end the 2nd quarter after the 35-28 Clip lead. The Suns then built up a 19 point lead in the middle of the 3rd thanks to the Clips still getting bad off. possessions. The Clips finally stemmed the tide late in the 3rd by doing what they should have been doing all along--getting the ball into Brand and Cassell making overall smart decisions. You just can't go away from Brand that much in this series even if they are aggressively doubling him--anytime the Clips' offense needed some rhythm established, Elton would either get a good shot off or get fouled. Elton ended with 33 pts., 15 rbs. (7 off.), 5 blocks and 13/17 on the line. Granted, Cassell hit some big shots during the game and ended with 32 pts., he also threw up alot of questionable shots and did not offer much in the way of defense. His shot at the end of regulation was not a good one--he took it to early and should have waited for the pick from Brand. Also, he made a blunder late in the game leaving Raja open at the top of the key, when he seemed to be going to double the ball when there was already two guys there. You just can't leave Bell in that situation, especially the way Bell has been shooting lately. Hey, I am probably the biggest proponent of Sam having the ball in pressure situations, but he was making some curious decisions in some spots Tuesday night. Coupled with the ill-advised shots for the Clips, were ill-advised turnovers (16) which alot of the time led to easy points for the Suns (15 fast break pts.). I stated before that you just can't have sloppy offensive possessions vs. the Suns--if you make smart decisions on offense, the Suns will usually let you shoot a good percentage.

- The Clippers shot only 40.8% overall, you would think the Suns should get alot of praise, but not really. I thought the Suns defense was decent by their standards, but I think the numbers had more to do with the Clips' poor decision making. The Suns defense did have a somewhat easier time doubling in the interior cause the Clips were not hitting their outside shots. The Clips were getting second chances (20 off. rebs.), they just missed alot of chip shots that usually fall. I thought the Clips' defense was solid again on Nash & the screens, but I just think they made some bad recognitions on doubles. I just think you can't come off of Bell & Tim Thomas right now very much, give up some good two-point looks, just stay on Thomas & Bell.