Monday, May 29, 2006

Western Conference Finals Recap (Game 3)

SUNS/MAVS (Game 3): Mavericks 95-Suns 88

- The Mavs just put on a defensive clinic in the 2nd half by holding the Suns to 36 points and ultimately 88 points for the entire game. Defense was the overriding theme for Game 3, not just for the Mavs, but somewhat surprisingly for the Suns as well. The Suns' defense was not too shabby itself by only letting the Mavs shoot 41%, and arguably outshining it's offense. Most importantly, the Mavs did not give the Suns many easy scores--they only allowed 4 fast break points & the Suns hit just 7 3pts.

- Most of this victory can be accredited to the Mavs' defense--they were simply stifling, especially in the 2nd half. Holding the Suns to a total of 36 points in a half is nearly unheard of, indeed a rare event. You combine that with the Suns shooting 42.7% overall, making only 7 3pts., and scoring a paltry 4 fast break points--you will more than likely end up on the winning end vs. the Suns. After coming out of the locker room for the 2nd half, the Mavs were on a mission to shut down the interior defensively, and they were pretty darn successful. I thought Diop had his second good game in a row, by doing a tremendous job of challenging nearly every Suns' attempt in the paint. He was definitely the anchor, but it was also the quicker help rotations from the rest of the Mavs, especially their wings, that added to the Suns' rough 2nd half. Believe it or not, but I thought Dirk did a wonderful job defensively, particularly protecting the basket and by hauling down every rebound in his area. Josh Howard delivered another superb all-around game with 22 pts., 12 boards (4 off.), & 3 steals--one steal which was huge when the game was 88-84 and he pushed the game to 6 (the Mavs had 8 steals to 0 for the Suns). Howard was also just overall disruptive on the defensive end the whole game. The thing about this game was the Mavs were successful not only clamping down in the interior, but also doing a admirable job of not letting the Suns go off from long-range. Usually it's a tradeoff your team makes-- we will shut down the 3pt.-line at all cost understanding we will be vulnerable to allowing easier looks closer to the bucket, or vice versa--but in this game Mavs were able to do both. That is not something that is very easy to do vs. the Suns.

- I know you usually don't get to say this much, but the Suns' defense probably outplayed their offense in Game 3. They seemed to have made the decision to sag around the paint and have the Mavs beat them with perimeter jumpers as opposed to going thru the paint. This strategy was working fairly well in the 1st half, because the Mavs were settling for a lot of jumpers and they were not falling that well (Suns held the Mavs to 41.1% overall) But in the 2nd half, the Mavs made a concerted effort to get Terry open off of screen action and he started to knock down his shot, as did the rest of the Mavs to a better degree than in the 1st half. Diaw put in another solid effort for the Suns with 20 pts., 6 rebs, & 4 assts. But again, I think the Mavs will live with him getting offense inside the 3pt.-line, especially his 15-18 foot jumpers. The Suns did keep the overall rebound margin close (48-45), but gave up just too many off. boards to the Mavs (19), who just seemed to be outhustling the Suns the entire 2nd half. Also, what hurt the Suns' fortunes in this game were the turnovers--13 TOs to 6 for the Mavs.

- Even though the Mavs came away with the victory, I still think they settled for perimeter looks too much. Dirk still needs to attack the paint more--he only had 6 ft attempts-- and, again Stackhouse loitered around the outside too much again as well & shot only 2/8. I am not so sure they can have another game where they take away the 3 & the easy 2-point shots so well vs. the Suns; they are more than likely going to have to accept one or the other. From the Suns' perspective, they have to try to get out in transition more. Or maybe they can't because the injuries & short bench have possibly caught up with them.


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