Monday, May 16, 2005

MAVS KNOCK SUNS OUT OF ORBIT

Last night the Dallas Mavericks managed to do what few teams have this season; shut down the high powered Sun offense.

The Suns' game is built on speed. Fast break basketball. They play fast break off of misses, makes, turnovers and steals. It's tantamount to Football's "No Huddle O." But that's no secret. What did the Mavs do that others failed to? They shut down the Suns' jitterbug Point Guard Steve Nash, that's what. They also managed to thoroughly stymie PF Amare' Stoudemire. But in hindsight, and though his thunderous dunks and overall powerful play in their prior wins was instrumental, the Suns really do orbit around their electric PG. Although Nash dropped 48 points on the Mavericks last night, they still succeeded in shutting him down; Nash dished but a handful (5) of Assists. And therein lies the secret to eclipsing the Suns. When teams faced the dynastic Chicago Bulls of last century, the only option open to them was to allow Michael Jordan his baskets, but to deny his teammates theirs. Last night, the Maverick's played a smothering style of defense; forcing turnovers, clogging passing lanes, pulling down rebounds, and in general, frustrating the heck out of Phoenix, and in particular, Nash.

But there's one more component at work here. Could it be that Phoenix is it's own worst enemy? Yesterday, both Josh Howard and Dirk Nowitzki had good games for Dallas, but the team also received exemplary bench play. Phoenix doesn't really have "bench play." Sure, backup Point Guard Leandro Barbosa can spell Steve Nash for a few minutes and Walter McCarty can trot onto the floor for a couple, he's always good for a few fouls. But the team sorely misses their dead-eye Shooting Guard, Joe Johnson. He's out with... well, a bad eye. A fall that resulted in a fractured orbital bone has him watching, and wincing, from the sidelines. So, while the Suns "run n' gun" style of offense exhausts opponents, it also wears them down as well. The difference? Dallas can bring Jerry Stackhouse, Darrell Armstrong, and Marquis Daniels in to the game and receive quality minutes. The Suns, well, they're far more reliant on their starters. The Suns received a grand total of 3 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds from their bench, while Dallas received 36 points, 6 dimes, and 10 boards from theirs. Coincidence? I think not.

Going into last night Dallas had to deny Phoenix the 3 pointer... a weapon the Suns used with impunity in earlier games. Going into last night Dallas had to capitalize upon their possessions. And going into last night, Dallas had to limit the Suns most dynamic weapon, Steve Nash. They managed to accomplish all three tasks, and now the series is knotted up at 2 games apiece.

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