Tuesday, May 23, 2006

NBA ... SUNS V. MAVERICKS?

Daaaaaammmmmnnn! The 2006 NBA second-season has been punctuated by great games, compelling series', and replete with more drama than a day in the life of Paris Hilton!

As an interesting aside, what do Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Rip' Hamilton, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, Devean George, and Manu Ginobli all have in common? .... ALL have represented in this years' post-season, ALL were taken in the 1st round of the '99 draft... all except Manu, who was the 2nd to last pick in the 2nd round!

After the Heat dispatched an upstart Chicago team in 6, and the Nets took 3 straight (including a pair of Road games) and made Indiana go the way of the Passenger Pigeon in the same number of games, 6, the subsequent Heat / Net series definitely intrigued, didn't it? What, with Dwyane Wade flying around the court like the forgotten Walenda brother (tight-rope walkin' family), Antoine Walker stepping-up late in the series, and the Heat beating the Jersey-ites in 4 consecutive games (including the season-ending 105-106 loss)... didn't that grab your attention? If not, then the Cavalier / Piston series most assuredly rivetted you. After nearly dropping out if the series altogether, the continued maturation and growth of the boy King James had to have captured your attention! Detroit, even playing below their usual level of excellence, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and the Pistons will now have the honor of knockin' heads with the Miami Heat, a team they are well-suited to beat.

Look, if the NBA makes your pulse quicken then the Sun / Clipper contests had your heart pounding! Forced to a game 7 by the indomitable will of Elton Brand, Nash and Co. looked sluggish and heavy-legged in games 5 and 6, but a 4 day layoff restored the Suns' energy and their crisp passing and dead-eye shooting eclipsed the Clipps' good, but not good enough, play.
Shawn Marion started to come on hard towards the end of the Laker series and, in his last 9 games, "Matrix," the heart and soul of the Suns, has recorded a whopping 6 Double-Doubles including an inspired 34/20 Game 6. Likewise his "Clipper-thisis," Elton Brand, notched 3 Doub'-Doub's over the course of the series, including his signature game; 30/12 with 5 Blocks in L.A's Game 6 W.

Now, the Suns will do battle with the Giant German and his merry band o' Mavs'. Nowitzki is a rare player; a legit' 7-footer with an arsenal of low post moves, a very credible jumper (Nowitzki shot better than 50% from the floor and buried 1 of every 3 shots from beyond the arc) and the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop like a guard. The Mav' Power Forward is a gritty, nose-to-the-grindstone player who can single-handedly take over a game with both his shot and his stifling D. Although Nowitzki is a Double-Double waiting to happen, the team is remarkable deep and should match-up well with Phoenix.

SUNS V. MAVERICKS:

PG Steve Nash V. PG Jason Terry: Nash enters this series rested, ready, and shooting like a house a'fire. When the reigning MVP sank his first 3-pointer, Clipper Corey Maggette said, "that's when I knew it was going to be a long night." With a Hoops IQ virtually unmatched (Jason Kidd may be the only other PG who can equal Nash's vision and ability to raise his teammates' games), and the ability to dart into and out of the paint like a Hummingbird, Nash can lay the ball in, kick it out to the open man for a 3, or roll back out beyond the 3-point line and sink his own shot. Tough to defend, Steve Nash definitely gives the Suns an advantage at this position. This doesn't mean that Jason Terry's a slacker, far from it. Nash is, however, operating on a whole other level and the Maverick PG would rather shoot first, pass later, and is therefore more of a Shooting Guard. Indeed, Dallas' young Devin Harris offers another look, a different dimension, and oozes potential.
Advantage Phoenix: When the Sun Point' needs some oxygen, Leandro Barbosa enters the game and his blinding speed makes Nash look lethargic. Watching the wiry guard thread his way through defenders as if they were standing still, you can't help but think that with a few more seasons under his belt Barbosa will be ready to grasp the team's reigns and they'll be in excellent shape. Terry will put up 20+ points, but his assist totals pale in comparison to Nash's. The future looks to be Devin Harris; we, however, are only concerned with "now."

SG Raja Bell V. Jerry Stackhouse: Again, the speed of Bell coupled with his passing acumen and penchant for sinking the clutch perimeter shot afford Phoenix with a very palpable advantage. Mav' Jerry Stackhouse was, at one time, one of the NBA's premier players... alas, no more.
Advantage Phoenix: Bells youth and versatility give the Suns the edge at this position as well.

SF Tim Thomas V. Josh Howard: Thomas can shoot, he can defend, and he can move laterally. Josh Howard, finally healthy, is a dynamic talent who doesn't eschew D. This will be a VERY intriguing match-up. If Thomas can clean the glass, stay out of foul trouble, and hit his outside shots... the Mavs' will be pressed.
Advantage EVEN: If Howard can ratchet his game up another notch, his youth and aggressiveness could end up being the difference in this series, especially if Thomas goes cold for a couple of games.

PF Shawn Marion (Kurt Thomas) V. Dirk Nowitzki: Marion is a Small Forward forced to masquerade as a Power Forward due to the injuries to Kurt Thomas and Amare' Stoudemire. Although Marion's high flying, hot-handed style helped guide Phoenix passed the Clippers, as good as Elton Brand is? Nowitzki's better. The Giant German is a whole other animal... think a younger Tim Duncan, but noy quite as fundamentally sound.
Advantage Mavericks: Nowitzki is without peer and Marion's small compared to him. It's not inconceivable that "Matrix" is marginalized in this series, though I can't see it happening.

C Boris Diaw V. Eric Dampier: Another Sun who can run, Diaw's elevated his game to another level over the course of this season... rest assured, the suns are thrilled to have signed him. Dampier is quick to foul and slow of foot, especially when compared to the speedy Diaw.
Advantage Suns: Diaw gives the Suns size and speed; Dallas will not match-up well against him.

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