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Eastern Conference Click and Roll: Pistons-Heat

C&R: WEST FINALS EDITION

TAKING CONTROL
Posted by By John Schuhmann on June 2, 2006 11:45 p.m. ET

It was an MVP performance.

No, not from the two-time MVP. From the guy who finished third this season, Dirk Nowitzki.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Nowitzki poured in 50 points, 22 in the fourth quarter as the Mavs won Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a disappointing loss in Game 4, the Mavs were inspired by a speech from Darrell Armstrong.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

And the win wasn't just about Dirk. The Mavs got big contributions from a lot of guys.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Still, it was Dirk who saved them when the Suns made a run and took a seven-point lead late in the third quarter.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Much of that Phoenix run came from Tim Thomas, but he was nowhere to be found in the fourth.
-- [Arizona Republic, Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

So, the Mavs are one game away from the first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. Game 6 is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Familiar Territory

The Suns are on the brink, but they've been there before.
-- [Arizona Republic]

This time, they put themselves there by losing their cool.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Familiar Foes

Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki are best friends. Nash's wife points Nowitzki out to their twin 19-month-old girls whenever he's on TV, calling him "Tio Loco" (Crazy Uncle). It's probably a little tough for them to face each other in such an important series, but they realize that this probably isn't the last time.
--[ESPN.com]

Six Less Fouls

Dallas' D.J. Mbenga was suspended six games for entering the stands in Game 4. Mbenga hadn't played since Game 5 of the San Antonio series, but his absence could hurt should the Mavs meet the Heat in the Finals.
-- [NBA.com, Fort Worth Star-Telegram]


WORD OF THE DAY
Posted by By John Schuhmann on June 1, 2006 9:45 p.m. ET

piv·ot·al
Pronunciation: 'pi-v&-t&l
Function: adjective
1 : of, relating to, or constituting a pivot
2 : vitally important : CRUCIAL
-- [Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary]

There's some sort of unwritten rule that this word must be used when we have a Game 5 with a 2-2 tie. We must admit, even if you're tired of the word, that second definition pretty much hits it right on the head.

Whoever loses this game puts themselves on the brink of elimination, needing to win two straight. If it's the Mavs, they would have to go back to Phoenix with their season on the line. If it's the Suns, they know they would need to win a Game 7 in enemy territory.

It would help Dallas if Jason Terry could find his shot or if Devin Harris could take advantage of Steve Nash's prevent defense.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

And of course, they need Dirk to be Dirk.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

A better effort in general wouldn't be a bad thing either. After Game 4, they owe that to each other.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

The Suns need to find a way to win another one in Dallas, which may be a daunting task, but they're a confident group, despite their laid-back demeanor.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

And despite what the perception of this series is in the media.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Or what the perception is of their defense.
-- [East Valley Tribune]

Still, they're treating this one like it's Game 7. Urgency is the other word of the day.
-- [Arizona Republic, East Valley Tribune]

Despite some soreness, Raja Bell will be ready to provide a lift once again. Of course, if Leandro Barbosa can repeat his Game 4 performace, Bell won't have to lift as much.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Call it pivotal. Call it crucial. Call it whatever you want. Just make sure you don't miss it. 8:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

He's No. 1

Kobe isn't the only star changing numbers next season.
-- [Arizona Republic]


SURPRISE!
Posted by By John Schuhmann on May 31, 2006 11:45 p.m. ET

You didn't think the Suns were done, did you? You didn't think they were worn out, broken down and ready to be put to rest by the Mavs.

Did you?

Good, because Phoenix answered any doubters they may have had last night with a convincing victory in Game 4 to draw the series even at 2-2.
-- [NBA.com]

It guarantees Suns fans another chance to rock the US Airways Center on Saturday in Game 6.
-- [Arizona Republic]

The Suns, lacking energy in the last two games, got a boost from the return of Raja Bell, which surprised a lot of people, even his mom.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Of course, some people will claim that it didn't surprise them at all, while the Mavs, upon hearing the news before the game, thought there might be even more surprises.
-- [ESPN.com, Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

The Mavs actually provided a surprise of their own, a rare off-night from Dirk Nowitzki. It could have been just bad luck, or the Suns could have had something to do with it. Either way, Nowitzki doesn't seem too worried about it.
-- [Arizona Republic, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

In all, it was a pretty crummy night for the Mavs. So, it's time to move on to Game 5 on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
-- [Dallas Morning News, DallasBasketball.com]

Comeback Kids

It's clear that Phoenix plays well when they're down, but that's not exactly the plan going in.
-- [East Valley Tribune]


TIME TO GET IT IN GEAR
Posted by By John Schuhmann on May 30, 2006 11:45 p.m. ET

The Suns need to run. They need to put up as many shots as physically possible in a 48-minute game. They need to score lots of points.

That hasn't been happening, as the Phoenix offense has become congested and ... believe it or not ... slow.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Just don't say that the Suns are tired. They don't want to hear it. Steve Nash says he feels "pretty good" actually.
-- [Dallas Morning News, East Valley Tribune]

Still, Phoenix needs to show some more energy tonight in Game 4 (9 p.m. ET, TNT), a "must-win" according to Coach Mike D'Antoni.
-- [East Valley Tribune]

In the Driver's Seat

Up 2-1, the Mavs don't lack motivation either. Going home with a 3-1 series lead would be a nice situation to be in.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

But have they broken the Suns' spirit? We'll learn a lot tonight, but we do know that Dallas has out-hustled Phoenix so far.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

The Suns key to success is pretty clear. Score a lot of points. For the Mavs, as much as Avery Johnson preaches defense, the key may be scoring as well. Josh Howard's scoring that is. Of course, Howard would rather you not pay too much attention to him.
-- [Arizona Republic, Dallas Morning News]

Coach of the Year

If Howard is the key, Johnson is still the one who has directed the Mavs to their 2-1 series lead, despite the funny voice.
-- [East Valley Tribune]

Johnson like to analyze everything. D'Antoni ... not so much. It's a very interesting contrast in coaching styles.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Cancel Those Vacation Plans

Jerry Stackhouse isn't used to playing games this late in the season, but he's not complaining.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Will Raja Return?

After suffering a partially torn left calf muscle in Game 1, Raja Bell is making good progress and could be ready for Game 5 on Thursday.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Sure, the Suns miss Bell's defense and shooting, but it may be his leadership that they miss most, according to Steve Nash.
-- [East Valley Tribune]


KEEP UP WITH THE TEMPO
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 26, 2006 11:23 p.m. ET

Stunned.

That was how Keith Van Horn described the Mavs' reaction to the Suns' team speed in Game 1.
-- [The Arizona Republic]

Wrote Mavs teammate Jason Terry in his playoff diary: "We have to play transition defense, that's No. 1, first and foremost."
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Seems Shawn Marion's streaking down court after a made or miss shot proved problematic.
-- [The Arizona Republic]

Meanwhile, coach Avery Johnson called the 121-118 loss their "second worst defensive game of the season."
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Bell to Miss Game 2

Raja Bell is expected to sit out Game 2 after he felt something pop in his leg, dropping him to the court in Game 1.
-- [Toronto Star]

In fact, Bell could be out for at least three games. He was on crutches Thursday and has been diagnosed with a partially torn left calf muscle.
-- [The Arizona Republic]

For the resilient Suns, it's just another obstacle to overcome.
-- [The Dallas Morning News, Arizona Republic]

Howard Could Be Out As Well

On the Mavericks' side, Josh Howard is a game-time decision tonight. An MRI performed on Howard's right ankle revealed a bone bruise, which is associated with discomfort, but not swelling.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

If Howard's out, Marquis Daniels is going to have to step up his game, like he did earlier this season in place of Howard.
-- [The Dallas Morning News]

Return of Nellie Ball?

One Dallas columnist says it may be the Mavs' best bet vs. Suns. Might we see Dirk at center?
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Spice is Nice

There are a number of compelling storylines that fill this series.
-- [SI.com]

JACK SPEAKS...
Posted by By Rob Peterson on May 25, 2006 3:35 p.m. ET

You listen.
-- [SI.com]

ANYONE ELSE NOTICE...
Posted by By Rob Peterson on May 25, 2006 3:32 p.m. ET

This came to me when these two guys were guarding each other last night in Game 1.

Phoenix's Tim Thomas wears No. 2. Dallas' Keith Van Horn wears No. 2. On Feb. 15, 2004, they were traded for each other. Thomas went to the Knicks, while Van Horn went to the Bucks. As you can see, neither plays for those two squads any longer.

Just thought I'd point it out.

THEY FOUGHT THE DIAW...
Posted by By Rob Peterson on May 25, 2006 12:32 p.m. ET

... and the Diaw won.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Steve Nash ...

... is the NBA's MVP. Stop talking and arguing that he's not worthy of the award. Please. Thank you.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Meanwhile, one writer thinks the kid may amount to something.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Shootout or Shut Up

This writer says the Mavericks weren't fast enough on the draw in Game 1.
-- [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

The Suns, meanwhile, walked the bow-legged walk. At least, that's what Suns.com implies.

Mavs Fans: No Time to Panic

So says this sportswriter.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Well, It Definitely Ain't Shakespeare

To boo, or not to boo. That is the question about Nash.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Does It Hurt When I Do This?

In the first quarter, Dallas' Josh Howard went down with an injury.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Three quarters later, Phoenix's Raja Bell went down with a calf injury. Bell's listed as "very doubtful" for Friday's Game 2.
-- [Arizona Republic]

As a matter of fact, the above link has so many intriguing tidbits, from Amare working up a sweat before Game 1 to Nash getting name-dropped in Nelly Furtado's new single "Promiscuous," I implore you to click.

Roundball Rejuvenation Nation

Basketball is back. Sez who? Phil Taylor. And Bill Simmons.
-- [SI.com, ESPN.com]

SUNS, MAVS WIN GAME 7
Posted by By Brad Friedman on May 23, 2006 12:32 p.m. ET

MAVERICKS MOVE ON

Talk about a back-and-forth series.

After the Mavs took a 3-1 lead, many in Dallas thought the series was over.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

After the Spurs stormed back to even the series in Game 6, people expected San Antonio to be doing the celebrating after Game 7.

But thanks to a mighty push from Dirk Nowitzki and Desagana Diop in the OT, the pendulum swung back in the Mavs direction last night as Dallas dethroned the Spurs on their homecourt 119-111. Back in the Big D, they celebrated at bars and restaurants.
-- [NBA.com, Houston Chronicle]

Color Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram impressed:

"When there had finally been overtime survival, when the Spurs had finally been overcome, the flashback over the Mavs' 26 years of existence says this: Biggest win ever. Best big game team performance ever. Most impressive playoff series win ever."

Yet, if it wasn't for Dirk Nowitzki's three-point play to tie the game moments after, what seemed to be a three-point dagger from Manu Ginobili, Dallas media may have been humming a different tune.

Nowitzki drove to the basket, drawing a foul while converting a lay-in. The First-Team All-NBA Forward, who says he sings David Hasselhoff classics to calm himself at the line, nailed the bonus free throw.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

"I don't know how the ball went in," Nowitzki said about the field goal in the Dallas Morning News. "Manu hit my hand. It was a lucky bounce."

Dallas Morning News columnist Eddie Sefko thinks the hoop gods had something to do with it.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

GOOD TO THE LAST DIOP

When the Mavericks signed DeSagana Diop this summer, many questioned the acquisition. After all, this was a guy who was nearly invisible in Cleveland and showed no consistent progress there. He was coming off the worst season of his career in his fourth year in Cleveland, averaging 1.0 points per game on 29 percent shooting.

On Monday night, Dallas' move proved justified, as Diop made several key plays in overtime and finished with seven points, four rebounds and two blocks in 10 minutes despite losing his starting job to Erick Dampier that night.
-- [Dallas Morning News]

Writes Mike Finger in the San Antonio Express-News:

"His biggest moments came in overtime. After he took a pass from Terry and made a dunk to put Dallas ahead, he knew Duncan would be looking to respond. But this time, Diop had a surprise for him. 'I had been bumping him, and he thought I was going to bump him again,' Diop said. 'But I backed up.' The classic "pull-the-chair" move caused Duncan to commit a traveling violation, and the Spurs never tied or led again."
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

WHAT'S LUCK GOT TO DO WITH IT?

To the Spurs, it certainly played a role.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Maybe in a few years from now, they'll be able to look back and smile about all of this. Maybe.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

SUNS ECLIPSE CLIPS

The Suns may have been favored, but it was the Clippers everyone was talking about in the other Western Conference semifinals series. The Clippers had advanced to the second round for the first time in 30 years, and were the media darling, the one that NBA fans were rooting for.

It's not a complete surprise then that in getting past the Clippers in Game 7 with a 127-107 win, Steve Nash felt like the Suns were proving people wrong.
-- [NBA.com]

"Every day is redemption for us, being an underdog team in some ways," Suns star Steve Nash said. "We take that stance every time we take the floor."
-- [The Arizona Republic]

The Suns have proved people wrong all year. Nobody thought they'd return to the Western Conference Finals minus Amare Stoudemire, and now they have a chance to even go deeper in the playoffs this year than they did last season.

"We have a lot more guys who hang out together," Raja Bell told The Arizona Republic. "Last year's chemistry was good but we're maybe even closer this year. It's the total package. Everyone hangs out together and we really enjoy being around each other. That's a bonus and a fun part of our success."
-- [The Arizona Republic]

Writes Paola Boivin in the The Arizona Republic

"This team continues to win games it shouldn't, continues to make shots others wouldn't, because of a will that is startling in an era of professional sports where individualism often trumps desire. (Steve) Nash, who finished with 29 points and 11 assists, defined the team's effort. He entered the game with national analysts second-guessing his MVP crown. His multiple ailments, which he revealed Sunday include a congenital back condition that involves a slipping vertebra, have been the subject of much debate and raised questions about his ability to contribute in this postseason."
-- [The Arizona Republic]

Three days rest helped that aching back in Game 7. Nash moved with much more energy than in recent games, and made 11-of-16 shots after going 2-for-18 from three in the previous five contests.
-- [Washington Post]

Also catching fire was teammate Shawn Marion, who made only 3-of-22 three-pointers in the first five games, but knocked down five last night.
-- [The Arizona Republic]

The Suns' offensive explosion continued with Leandro Barbosa, who was 8-of-10 from the floor.
-- [The Arizona Republic]

For the Clippers, sadly, it's over.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

But, even though the season is over, this team has arrived.
-- [L.A. Times]

Dirk and the Mavs are one win away.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
QUICK QUOTE
Suns coach Mike D'Antoni on on a pregame rumor that Amare Stoudemire would play in Game 5:

"I heard that rumor. Let's see. I just can't see how a guy who hasn't played for 10 months, hasn't practiced and has no desire to play would suddenly wake up one day and say I want to play. It would be great, but it's not going to happen. Take my word for that."
--[East Valley Tribune]

2005-06 ARCHIVE
Conf. Semis. -- Pistons-Cavs
Conf. Semis. -- Heat-Nets
Conf. Semis. -- Spurs-Mavs
Conf. Semis. -- Suns-Clippers
May 5 -- The Wait Continues
April 28 -- One for the Little Guy
April 19 -- Still Mostly Cloudy
April 14 -- You Can Do Magic
April 6 -- Work to be Done
Mar. 31 -- Will Suns Rise?
Mar. 24 -- Artest Fit For A King
Mar. 17 -- Almost Doesn't Count
Mar. 10 -- A Magical Game
Mar. 3 -- Revenge of the Herds
Feb. 13 -- The Heat is On
Feb. 10 -- Left Out in the Cold
Feb. 3 -- We're Going Streaking!
Jan. 27 -- Trade Winds Blow
Jan. 23 -- Points a Plenty
Jan. 20 -- Give the King a Break
Jan. 13 -- Who's the Man?
Dec. 1 -- Welcome Back, Larry
Nov. 17 -- League Pass Surfing
Nov. 10 -- Setting OWGs Straight
Nov. 4 -- Season Underway
Oct. 27 -- The Central Is Stacked
Oct. 19 -- All Dressed Up
Oct. 14 -- LeBron Out Of Hospital
2004-05 -- Archive
2003-04 -- Archive