One More Challenge
By John Schuhmann
MIAMI, June 17 -- Jerry Stackhouse played in 55 games during the regular season. The Mavs were 41-14 (.745) with him and 19-8 (.704) without him.
That's not much of a dropoff and in November, the Mavs won in Miami without Stackhouse (and with Shaquille O'Neal missing from the Heat lineup).
So, is the loss of Stackhouse to a one-game suspension a critical blow to the Western Conference champions?
If you look at Stack's numbers in the Finals, the answer is yes.
In Dallas' two wins, Stackhouse averaged 16.0 points on .455 from the field and .571 (4-of-7) from three-point range. In the two losses, he averaged 10.0 points on just .259 from the field and .167 (1-of-6) from downtown.
In their 14 postseason wins, Stackhouse scored 14.3 points on .424 from the field and .405 from beyond the arc. In their seven losses, he is averaging just 12.9 points on .367 from the field and .227 from downtown. Additionally, in the 14 wins, Stackhouse has gone to the line 4.1 times per game versus just 2.3 free throw attempts in the seven losses.
This isn't the first suspension the Mavs have had to endure this postseason. Center D.J. Mbenga is just now coming back from a six-game suspension for entering the stands in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Before that, Jason Terry was suspended for Game 6 against San Antonio.
In that Game 6, the Mavs lost by just five to the defending champs and had chances to tie it in the final minute. Keith Van Horn stepped up that night, scoring 10 points off the bench. He knows that Stackhouse's suspension could provide an opportunity to do the same in the Finals.
"I think collectively as a bench, we're going to have to step up," Van Horn said. "I'm excited about getting out there. I can play five minutes. I can play 25. That's the nature of our bench and our team."
Even if they did have Stackhouse, Van Horn knows that there's room for improvement.
"I think collectively as a team, we all need to play better anyway," he said. "We haven't really played a great game these four games. We're 2-2 right now and we're fortunate to be in that position."
Dirk Nowitzki agrees that it will need to be a group effort, one much better than their 32 percent shooting performance in Game 4.
"Obviously Josh, myself, Jet have to shoot the ball better," Nowitzki said. "We all have to pick up some slack."
It's something they're used to doing though. Stackhouse missed 27 games this year and coach Avery Johnson believes that losing him in the Finals is no different than what the Mavs have been going through all season.
"We've been adjusting all year," Johnson said. "We've been injured all year. We've had more players suspended in the playoffs than any team."
Game 5 is one more test for the Mavs, bit one they're willing to take on, according to Nowtizki.
"If you want to get to the top," he said. "You have to fight through some stuff ... That's how we look at it."
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