MAVS/SUNS: Mavs 119- Suns 112
-Western shootout. It was not like the Suns' defense was really to blame, the Mavs were just drilling tough jumpers all nite long. Dirk, J-Terry, & Stack all shot the ball great--the Mavs shot 54.8% from the floor, mostly on mid-range jumpers. Stack was particualrly hot tonite, iso-ing up high when Dirk was not iso-ing & just burying pull-ups all over. Dirk basically did the same thing.
-Dampier did a nice job defending the pick/roll, sagging in the paint not allowing Amare to dive with a head of steam for the rim. Also, Dampier was tough on the glass, especially with 4 off. boards.
-The Suns did not really give up easy looks in the paint, which was encouraging, but for the second nite in a row they could not protect their def. glass (14 off rebs for Mavs). Particularly, the Suns got hurt by 3 off. rebs by the Mavs late in the 4th. This is nothing new for the Suns, and has to remedied if they want to get deep in the playoffs.
-Amare looked pretty good once again & had a few nice finishes. Barbosa continued his blistering play with 30 pts (5/8 on 3pt)--he might be soon supplanting Raja Bell in the starting unit. Nash had an off nite where he forced passes into tight spaces all game which led to 10 TOs--but he looks to be hurting, so stay tuned.
- 100% agree with what Chuck Barkley said about the Jalen Rose acquisition. Much ado about nothing. This signing will have little effect on the Suns in the long run. He's overkill and he will siphon minutes away from Diaw, Bell, or even Kurt Thomas. The Suns do not need anymore offensive help--they need someone about 6-10 or bigger who will focus on defense & rebounding, period. This is not like Tim Thomas last year--you had no Amare & Kurt Thomas at the time, which opened up more minutes & Thomas was perfect because of his 3pt shooting prowess; Jalen's not that great from deep. Jalen might help a little if Marcus Banks struggles, and you can maybe play Rose with Barbosa in the backcourt for limited minutes.
-I am not real worried about the Suns turning things around soon--they've played the Clips (twice), Spurs, Mavs, Jazz, Lakers so far. And they played the Spurs & Mavs close on back-2-back nites, so they should be fine for the reg. season. But like I've said too many times to count: the rebounding & defense has to be addressed if they want to get out of the West.
BULLS/CAVS: Cavs 113- Bulls 94
-No surprise, but the Bulls have difficulties putting up points. I don't think it's such a hot idea to have someone as streaky as Ben Gordon be your top scorer. This is why I thought the Ben Wallace signing was slightly overrated--it did not address the glaring need for a low-post scorer.
-One bright spot for the Bulls was the play of Kirk Hinrich (20, 11 asst, 1 TOs & 3/4 from 3pt), who's game is slowly looking like Steve Nash's everyday. I mentioned this in the spring with his play vs. the Heat, and he continues to progress. Kirk is probing the defense, keeping his dribble alive like Nash and has the ability to finish at the hoop. But one key difference is Kirk actually plays some defense. Right now he just needs to keep his shooting % in check. Swiss import Thabo Sefolosha impressed me in limited minutes once again. Heady player with long arms with a good handle & passing skills and also the potential to be a defensive force; this kid could turn out to be the steal of the draft.
-Drew Gooden continues his strong early play with 20 & 9 rebs on 10/13 shooting. Drew helped the Cavs keep their great rebounding rep intact--Cavs' 47 to the Bulls' 30. The Cavs also got an encouraging game from Sasha Pavlovic (16 & 6 rebs), --they are going to need his shooting later in the season. Back-up PFs Varejao & Marshall both pitched in with 15 pts. LeBron only took 13 shots, but dished out 12 assists to go along with his 19 pts.