Point for Point
Posted Dec 14 2006 5:37PM
I was feeling pretty crummy Thursday. I woke up with a stuffy nose, which happens quite often during the winter, but it usually goes away by the time I get to work. This time, it did not. I was sneezing and sniffing all day and a lunchtime run for some DayQuil kept me from going home early. And it allowed me to head over to the Meadowlands for the game of the year, which I had seriously considered skipping.
But I wanted to talk to Mike D'Antoni and Lawrence Frank about Phoenix's defense to further develop my theory that they're a good defensive team. And I did. And they both had interesting things to say. But after about 12 minutes of game action, I decided that the Suns defense would have to wait for another Friday.
And I guess the Nets' defense would take a hiatus as well...
There are a million things you can say about this game and the writers (at least those on a deadline - not me) probably deleted about five times as many words than ended up in their final recaps. For this particular column, I want to focus on the point guards, because really, everyone else faded into the background on this night.
They're two best point guards in the league. No questions asked.
Now, I love that we've got some great young floor leaders coming up. I'm a big fan of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and I think Shaun Livingston has freakish potential, but I'm not nearly ready to give any of them the edge over Steve Nash or Jason Kidd.
Nash, obviously, is the two-time reigning MVP. He has transformed the Suns franchise over the last two seasaons, much like Kidd did in New Jersey in his first two seasons after being dealt from Phoenix.
Sidenote: In this writer's opinion, Kidd was robbed of the MVP award in '02.
Nash, obviously, is the better shooter. Kidd, obviously, is the better defender and the better rebounder. But what seperates them both from every other point guard in the league can't be quantified like that. It's the leadership. It's the decision making. It's the games like this one.
So, let us get back to the game.
Leading into it, the Suns had won seven straight and, with Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw playing well together, were looking like one of the best teams in the league once again. Meanwhile, the Nets had lost seven of nine and to put it nicely, were not exactly playing with a lot of energy. The Suns were just what they needed to kickstart their season.
The pace was quick from the start and the energy never waned. The crowd was into it all night, which is not typical for Continental Airlines Arena on a weeknight. The front-row fans were up and toeing the sidelines after big baskets. At one point in the second half, one of the advance scouts sitting in front of me was dancing during a timeout. It was one of those nights, I guess.
Side note: Bonus points to the CAA DJ for playing Kiss late in the game, but those get taken away for not breaking out "Born to Run", a staple at the CAA during the Finals runs, for this historic night. Never again will it be more appropriate.
The energy in the building was all fueled by Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. You can tell they love playing against each other. They were teammates for more than a year in Phoenix and have a tremendous respect for each other. Like Magic and Larry, they bring out the best in each other.
By the end of the first quarter, Nash had seven points and five dimes. By halftime, Kidd had almost recorded his 78th career triple-double, with 13 points, eight boards and seven assists, while Nash was just two dimes short of a double-double himself. They were hitting jumpers and they were taking the ball to the rim. I love those outstretched, one-handed scoop layups that Nash does and I'm in heaven when Kidd gets a defender on his heels.
At one point in the second quarter, the Suns built a 10-point lead, their biggest of the night. But less than three minutes later, it was back to a one-point game. The Phoenix lead was six at the half, but neither team led by that much the rest of the game until the Suns went up six in the second overtime. And that lead didn't last long either.
Go ahead, take a look at the play-by-play. These guys went back and forth all night, 58 minutes of high-speed hoops. The Suns always want you playing at their pace. On this night, the Nets said, "Sure, why not? No. 5 ain't so bad at pushing the ball."
He grabbed his 10th rebound with 2:40 to go in the third. And his 10th assist came at the 10:25 mark in the fourth. History.
When the milestone was announced as the teams returned from a timeout a few minutes later, Nash gave Kidd a tap on the head.
"He came up and congratulated me on the triple-double," Kidd said after the game. "He said, 'You have 77 more than I do.'"
Nash ain't perfect. His math is a little off. He has three career triple-doubles, 75 less than Kidd.
Just when you thought it was over, Part I
Four seconds on the clock. The Nets were up three. They had already fouled in the same situation a possession earlier. This time though, Kidd got caught in a Kurt Thomas screen and Mikki Moore didn't switch. Nash caught the inbounds pass and let it fly from 25-feet out. Swish.
On the YES Network telecast (which of course, I watched when I got home), Mark Jackson said to broadcast partner Ian Eagle, "Ian, pinch me, man."
I knew how Mark felt. I had goosebumps and I don't think it had anything to do with my cold.
Perhaps the storybook ending would have been Kidd hitting from the midcourt line two seconds later, but then we would have missed out on another 10 minutes of the best game that has been played this season.
Kidd got his second chance at a game-winner at the end of the first OT, but his jumper hit the glass and then rolled around the rim... and out.
Just when you thought it was over, Part II
The Suns were up six with a little more than a minute to play in the second OT. Then Richard Jefferson hit a three and James Jones missed one on the other end.
With 35 seconds on the clock, Kidd, guarded by Shawn Marion by the way, drove to the lane, took some contact, and shot the ball left-handed over his head as he fell to the floor. And one. Tie game.
That would be it for the Nets however. Boris Diaw scored on Kidd in the low post and then, with a chance to tie it again, Kidd kicked the ball when he tried to take Diaw to the hoop.
Two Nash free throws later, the Suns had won thier eighth straight.
Nash finished with a career-high 42 points to go along with 13 assists. He shot 16-of-25 from the field, including an unbelievable 6-of-7 from downtown.
Kidd scored 38, five shy of his career high. With 14 boards and 14 dimes, it was the highest points-rebounds-assists total of his career and the third time that Kidd reached 14 in all 3 categories.
Nash and Kidd each played 48 minutes and they committed a total of seven turnovers. Their combined assist-turnover ratio was 3.86.
There are a ton of other remarkable numbers in the boxscore as well, but I'll let you discover those yourself.
For the Suns, it was a great way to start their five-game road trip. Unfortunately, they've got to play tonight in Boston. For the Nets, it was 58 minutes of energy, which is exactly what they needed. They lost, but it was the kind of game that can get them back on track.
For me, it was one of the best games I've ever seen featuring the two best point guards in the league (and I didn't even find the space to mention Marcus Williams' crazy fourth quarter).
Thank you DayQuil.
Do me a favor and vote for these guys
I drove home after all of the postgame chatter, and after posting this and before writing this (what you're reading right now), I filled out an All-Star ballot. It didn't matter who the other eight names were. I only care that Steve Nash and Jason Kidd get to Vegas. Seriously, these guys should start every All-Star or exhibition game (take note Eduardo Najera, Alonzo Mourning and all you other summer charity gamers) until they retire... and then for the next few years after that. Give these guys the ball, surround them with eight athletes, sit back and enjoy.
Nash or Kidd? Let me know!