|12:00 PM Pacific / 9:00 PM Eastern|
|Steve Nash||PG||Jason Kidd|
|Raja Bell||SG||Jason Terry|
|Grant Hill||SF||Josh Howard|
|Amare Stoudemire||PF||Dirk Nowitzki|
|Shaquille O'Neal||C||Eric Dampier|
On Saturday, NBA TV replayed game 2 of the 2005 semi-finals meeting between the Suns and Mavs. Suns fans will likely most remember this game for the horendous introduction Joe Johnson's face had with the floor courtesy of a hard (but not cheap) Jerry Stackhouse foul.
Stack is appearantly still feeling quilty about that and according to the Mavs game notes is sitting this one out with a groin injury. Feel free to insert your own joke here.
The game - which was extremely entertaining in its own right - got me thinking about the progress of both teams since.
It was a classic performance by the Sun's big three
Pre-knee surgery Amare had 30 and 15 and while he hadn't yet developed his outside shot he was unstoppable in the paint and in isolation. It was interesting to compare his play then and now and realize both how much he's improved and yet how much of the "old" Amare explosivness and aggression we are seeing again over the past few months. Amare is a beast again.
Nash had 23 and 13 and while he's lost some hair since then mostly what's he's gained is more help. That Suns team was very good 1 through 5 but the backup PG was JJ. LB was barely out of diapers and there were no other options for distributing the ball. It was all Nash all the time. And while he was awesome in this game it took its toll. This version of the Suns is so much better in the half court and so much more potent with Nash able to play off the ball.
The other day after the great performance against Denver, Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones (a MUST listen daily podcast) opined that Nash needed to shoot more. I disagreed then and after watching and remembering the Suns of two years ago that relied on Nash being Kobe I am even more convinced - the Suns now are better because they are less dependent on Nash. He's getting easy open looks because his teammates are making things happen without him. Of course, it sure is comforting to know that The Producer can still deliver when he has to.
The Matrix. It was great to see Shawn flying again. For those who say he didn't show up in the playoffs - how does 23 points, 15 reb and 6 blocks sound? Just awesome. Its really a shame what those quacks on the Heat training staff have done to him. Despite everything, I still miss you Shawn and will be rocking my Marion #31 at this year's playoff games.
The Bench. 2005: Jim Jackson, Walter McCarty, Stephen Hunter and Baby Barbosa. 2008: The Brazilian Blur, Diaw, Giricek and Skinner. Need I say more?
The Dallas Two-Step
The Mavericks on the other hand have gone nowhere. Well, its more fair to say they took two steps forward and two steps back. In the two years since they were able to move Harris to a starting role to add speed and defense at the PG and depth and athleticism up front with Diop. They lost Finley - who single-handedly won that game 2 with a slew of HUGE timely 3's and a game high 31 points - but they replaced him with an improved J-Ho and the ability to play Terry off the ball and off the bench.
But then got punked by the Warriors and punched the panic button and they are right back to where they were in 2005. Overly reliant on Dirk and without the versatility and depth that made them so dangerous last year.
The Mavs are still a good team. Dirk can go off and be as unstoppable as anyone in sneakers. But this team is worse then last year's and unless they figure out how to play defense again they are going to have a very early summer.
Phoenix Stan's Nice Things to Have if you Want to Enjoy your Sunday
- Attack the paint. This is becoming as repeative as it used to be when we said "three point shooting" as a key for the Suns. Fortunately, the percentages are a bit higher now and there's added bonus of drawing fouls. Amare and Shaq need to go right after Dampier early and often. Get him in foul trouble and the cupboard is bare.
- Hill on Ho. Grant doesn't need to out play the big garden tool. He just needs to keep him somewhat in check. Make him shoot jumpers and deny him the ball. Even with Kidd, I don't think the Mavs have figured out how to play as a team and do much more then run the same isolation plays in the half court.
- Wake up. Drink some coffee. And have fun.
oh, and don't forget to drop in our buddies at Mavs Moneyball and ask if they've received their locker room credentials from Cuban yet. And while your there think about all the crap Suns fans have given Sarver and look around Mav's world and just think how much worse it could be.