Sunday, June 04, 2006

Western Conference Finals Recap (Game 6)

SUNS/MAVS (Game 6): Mavericks 102-Suns 93

- This game turned into a near replica of Game 3, where the Suns control the 1st half, then the Mavs come out after halftime and put the clamps down defensively in the 3rd quarter. The Mavs also made the adjustment to attack the rim more in the 3rd, and that combined with their improved defensive effort helped them advance to their first NBA Finals. This is the type of game where you understand why Avery Johnson won the Coach of the Year, cause he had his Mavs in a totally different mindset after halftime, just like Game 3.

- The Mavs' offense looked sluggish in the 1st half and a part of that was, they were not attacking the paint like they should. Well, guess what sparked their run in the 3rd quarter, besides their defense? Of course, more shots going toward the basket--the Mavs had 50 points/paints in Game 6. Dirk had a couple drives where he got +1 plays and this seemed to re-energize him. Terry also came out in the 3rd and made a concerted effort to go at the rim. Basically, good things would happen when Dallas put their head down and went at the rim in this series. When they would go thru funks offensively usually directly correlated to when they would go into jumpshot-mode, like the 1st half of this game. Dirk finished with 24 pts., 10 rebs, 3 blocks, & got to the line 9 times. Terry added 17 pts., and Stackhouse was a key component off the bench once again in this year's playoffs with 19 pts. & 6/6 from the foul line.

- Howard was the one guy on the Mavs who actually was attacking all game, instead of just the 2nd half, and he did it at both ends of the floor. Josh did a wonderful job once again on defense either in making quick rotations or really frustrating Nash for key stretchs of the game, he also had 3 steals. The Mavs improved to 25-0 this year when Howard scores 20+ or more--Josh had 20 pts. & 15 boards (5 off.).

-As a whole, The Mavs' defense did a great job after halftime of giving up 42 points, and only 15 pts. in the 3rd quarter. Also, in the two key catergories of defending the 3pt. line and transition vs. the Suns, the Mavs did a great job of only giving up 8 fast break points & 6 made 3pointers. Their rotations in the 2nd half were excellent and they forced at least 4-5 instances where the Suns were uncharacteristicly in danger of shot clock violations; the Mavs just seemed to challenge every shot well, even the 3pt. looks.

- The Suns' offense started the game like gangbusters, scoring 29 pts. in the 1st quarter, but could not respond in kind to the Mavs' cranked-up defensive effort in the 2nd half. The Suns really struggled to get good looks in the 3rd, very similar to Game 3, and only managed 15 points. To go along with the aforementioned near shot clock violations, the Suns were unusually sloppy with the ball--18 total TOs, Diaw had 6 TOs. Diaw did have another good game with 30 pts. on 11/16 & 11 rebs. But like I said before, I can definitely live with Diaw getting 18 ft. looks all day, cause I'll live with those type of open 2pt. shots vs. the Suns; I would actually encourage those shots all day, just to get them off the 3pt. line. Was the Suns' short rotation effected cause of fatigue & foul trouble? Probably to a degree, but I think most people are overrating this factor. This win had more to do with the Mavs' willingness to attack the rim in the 2nd half, and to cut down on the Suns' easy points.

- It seems everyone is jumping on this SmallBall revolution lately, saying it is the new wave of the NBA. I am not quite buying it, and it is not just cause the Suns lost, even if they somehow won the Finals this year, I wasn't fully onboard. To me its more of a SpeedBall formula: where you look for athletes at every position, but you don't sacrifice the size that this year's Suns team did. This year's Suns team is not a good long-term answer cause their lack of height really cost them too much on defense and their defensive boards. I think if you are looking for a physical blueprint for the ideal team to deal with the new rules, the Pistons are still it. Even though they did not perform too well in the playoffs, their current frontline is the perfect recipe for success. They have bigs who are good athletes that can comfortably wander out on the perimeter and not get overwhelmed when opposing teams downsize. With all the emphasis on penetrating guards, you need good, quick bigs who can rotate fast and protect the rim more tham ever. So, the Suns definitely need to look for some size in the off-season. I know they are getting Amare back, but they still could use a guy to provide what Steve Hunter did last year. It seems they need someone to spell Nash for about 15 minutes a game, since they don't think Barbosa can do it.

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