Friday, June 02, 2006

Western Conference Finals Recap (Game 5)

SUNS/MAVS (Game 5): Mavericks 117-Suns 101

- Now that was a MVP-type performance. After a lackluster Game 4 where he settled for too many jumpers, Dirk decided to mix up his offensive game beautifully. Dirk put on one of the best playoff performances in recent memory and put the Mavs on his back late in the 3rd quarter after the Suns had the Mavs in dire straits. The Mavs let the Suns get back in the game during the middle quarters by settling for jumpers too much. But Devin Harris rekindled their aggressiveness when the Mavs' were trailing 77-72, with a tough drive and drawn foul. It was his only 3 points of the game but it might have been the most important basket of the game because the Mavs went on a 10-4 run to end the quarter. The Mavs started to regain their attacking mode after this Harris drive. It's almost as if a collective light-bulb went off in the Mavs head that--"Hey, maybe we should start attacking the basket like Devin did!".

- See what happens when you attack the basket vs. the Suns. I know I have been belaboring this point, but I just think the Mavs were making things a lot harder on themselves by settling for perimeter looks. The Suns have been encouraging jumpers the last couple games to protect their interior, and the Mavs were taking the bait. But in Game 5, Dirk & Howard were determined to go at the basket more and they were rewarded with a combined 73 points. Dirk scored in every conceivable way in the half-court: three pointers (5/6), his patented elbow isos, low post-ups, drives to the rim and a big tip-in late in the 4th quarter. Although, I think the overriding theme is he looked to attack the rim more instead of a steady diet of fadeaway jumpers, and he was rewarded with 18 ft. attempts (he hit 17). He had a couple big drives in the 4th, and he when he did not score on them, he drew fouls. Another big play that was a microcosm of Dirk's aggressive play happened with 5 minutes left. He was in the midst of one of his patented mid-range post-ups and he drew a foul on Marion. What was key to the play was that instead of fading away on the shot, as he loves to do, he decided to lean toward the basket, and draw the foul, when it looked like he would be forced into a bad look. Howard also added his usual all-around active play to the festivities--Josh had 23 pts. & 7 rebs. And the Mavs raised their record to 24-0 this year when Josh scores 20 or more. Maybe Avery should just start every game feeding Josh every possession until he gets 20 points, then just sit back the rest of the game and wait for the win to roll in. Terry also responded a little better after a few subpar games with 14 pts & 9 assts. Stackhouse pitched into the Mavs' party with 16 pts. & 5 assts.

- The Mavs' defense was solid for the most part, but looked lost for most of the 3rd quarter, and this nearly cost them the game. The Suns got out to a 7 point lead late in the 3rd by drilling threes, thanks mostly by Thomas. Then the Mavs started to overreact to these outside bombs and it opened up the interior, and that just led to more overall problems. But they seemed to shore them up in the 4th quarter, and Diop had a big impact late. Once again, Diop did an understated job challenging and changing shots, and also he did a superb job on the offensive boards in the 1st half--Diop had 9 rebs. (5 off.) to go along with 7 pts. He really has probably been the 3rd best player for the Mavs in this series after Dirk & Howard. Overall, the Mavs did a decent job letting the Suns shoot 45.6% overall, but they were not so hot in transition (Suns had 20 fast break pts.) & the Suns shot 10/24 from 3pt. Usually letting up that many 3s by the Suns is not advisable, but the Mavs did counter with 9 made 3pts., which definitely softened the blow.

- Well, did you really think the Suns could piece together 3 good defensive games in a row? Although, the Suns were not quite horrible, they did allow the Mavs to shoot 47.2% and 53% from 3pt. land. The Suns did revert back to their poor rebounding ways by getting outrebounded by 14 and let the Mavs get 16 off. rebounds, which led to too many second chance points. The Suns' offense was not quite as explosive overall, besides a nice run in the middle of the 3rd. Tim Thomas was probably the Suns most effective player in Game 5--he had 26 pts on 9/14, 6/8 from 3pt., and was instrumental to their 7 point lead in the 3rd. Nash was alright with 20 pts & 11 assts, but he only shot 5/17 and 1/6 from 3pt. Barbosa was not quite as effective as he had been in Game 4 either--he only shot 5/12 after shooting 10/13 in Game 4. Diaw was not quite as potent as well, he finished with 16 pts. & 9 rebs.

- The Suns did a good job in their strong areas of transition and 3pt. land, but suffered in their usual sorepoints of rebounding and defense. They need to cut down on the Mavs' offensive boards in Game 6; you just can't give up 16 off. boards when you also are letting the same team shoot 47%. Those two things compounded will usually hurt you in the end. For the Mavs, just keep attacking offensively and try to lay off the urge to settle for jumpers too much. Also, try to curb the Suns' 3pt. attempts and get their fast break points under 15, and you should be in good shape.

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