Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Western Conference Finals Recap (Game 4)

SUNS/MAVS (Game 4): Suns 106-Mavericks 86

- This game was shaping up to be a replica of Game 3 where the Mavs were only trailing by 5 at halftime after looking subpar in the 1st half. Even the halftime scores of both games was nearly the same--Game 3-52-47, Game 4-51-46. You were expecting the Mavs to turn up the defensive intensity in the 3rd quarter like they did in Game 3, and they were hanging tough midway thru the quarter (67-65 with 4 min. remaining). But the Mavs could never get the lead, partly because they could not get their offense functioning smoothly, and the Suns went on a 12-2 run to end the 3rd quarter and a 17-4 run to start the 4th quarter.

- The defense of the Suns actually showed up for consecutive games-- now if they show up again in Game 5, you better horde the duct tape & bottled water cause here comes some sort of biblical disaster. They continued the gameplan they installed after Game 1, where they encourage the Mavs to take jumpers and try to surround the paint to protect the interior. The Mavs took the bait by settling for too many outside looks once again--the Mavs only had 34 pts/paint and shot 41.8% overall. The Suns also kept the rebound margin close (Mavs 41-Suns 37), and nearly neutralized the off. rebound margin (Mavs 11-Suns 9). The Suns' offense seemed to return to their normal self by getting better shots in the interior and shooting a high percent from 3pt. (7/15)--the Suns shot 54.4% overall. Barbosa gave them a tremendous shot of energy off the bench once again either from deep (4/6 3pt.) or by nifty drives to the bucket--he finished shooting a blistering 10/13 from the floor for 24 pts. Diaw also did his damage inside 20 feet by either popping open jumpers or by displaying his flawless footwork in the paint to finish off post moves.

- The Mavs' offense probably put in its overall worst performance of the playoffs. They never really got any continuity going and just seem to settle for way too many jumpers. Dirk was particularly putrid, shooting 3/13 and in general, just settling for too many fadeaway jumpers. He never got his post game going and again was not being forceful enough attacking the rim. He needs to go at the rim more, instead of leaning back on his post moves, especially vs. the Suns--Dirk only got to the line 5 times. Another example came when he got a point-blank off. rebound in the 2nd quarter and he decided to kick the ball, just like he did in a previous game--Dirk has to go right back up with that shot, he's got to recognize better that the Suns don't have a guy bigger than 6-9. This is the sort of stuff that leads me to cringe when people mention Dirk for MVP. Basically, no Mav brought much to the table offensively besides maybe Josh Howard. He did a nice job of keeping the Mavs close in the first half with some tough shots in traffic and just his all-around effort was commendable. The Mavs also got a unexpected lift from Adrian Griffin, who shot 6/8 for 13 pts. & 7 rebs. The Mavs overall ragged performance was not helped by the 14 turnovers in Game 4 after only 6 in Game 3. The Mavs' defense was not totally bad--they kept the Suns' fast break points under double digits and even though the Suns shot 46% from 3pt, the Suns made only 7, so that's a number you can live with. I know I am beating this point into the ground, but the Mavs have to attack the interior as much as possible the rest of the series. Even if the Suns are collapsing around the paint, they are still vulnerable protecting the basket--you must pound them non-stop down low.

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