Friday, March 30, 2007

One Crazy Recap

A few signs suggest that the Mavericks-Suns matchup this Sunday might not be as exciting as we would have hoped. The first is that Avery is considering benching both Dirk and Howard with ankle sprains tonight against New York, and based on the way he's talking, we might not be surprised if he sits them against Phoenix as well. After all, Dallas’ seven-game lead over the Suns with 11 left to play appears safe enough that Avery can avoid giving Phoenix a chance to gain any psychological momentum over the Mavericks with a hard-fought win this weekend.

On top of that, the recap of the Suns’ loss to Golden State last night might suggest that they aren’t sweating the rest of the season either.

Three points in the story caught my attention.

First, the article picked on Phoenix for their porous defense: “And with every open shot the Phoenix Suns allowed, the Pacific Division champions exposed what's probably their biggest flaw heading into the postseason.”

While that may be true (especially since they showed the same problem in losing to Sacramento the other night), this is essentially the same kind of thing people were thinking about the Mavericks after their loss to the Warriors. It was a bad night for Phoenix, but Golden State is one of those teams that gets hot once in awhile. No sense in blowing this loss out of proportion.

Second, I love this quote and comment about Don Nelson: “ ‘It doesn't matter that we almost blew a lead,’ said Nelson, who used his league-high 36th different starting lineup. ‘The only thing that is important is that we got a win that we needed against a good team.’ ” Huge offensive bursts? (the Warriors scored 45 in the first quarter.) Blown leads? 36 starting lineups in one season? Does any of this sound familiar to any Mavericks fans?

A third point may just bust the balloon of what could have shaped up to be a great game this weekend. D'Antoni watched his bench overcome almost all of a 25-point second-half deficit, but even as it got close in the final minutes, he didn’t bother to put Nash, Marion, or Stoudemire back in. His quote after the game was patronizing and telling:
We've got to be a little careful," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They're fighting for the eighth spot, and we're not. Sure, we're trying to stay ahead of San Antonio, but when they come out like that and have that juice, and the crowd is behind them, it would have been hard for anybody."
For a coach who had just conceded a late-season loss to a bad team, I take the comment as an admission that the Suns aren't sweating the rest off the season. This seems odd since home-court advantage against the Spurs is at stake (with the Suns up only two games), but otherwise it’s hard to explain leaving Nash on the bench after calling a time-out with a minute left and his team trailing by only six.

The really depressing thing about this is that the Suns are the only reason Dallas has for, well, trying the rest of the season. Granted, Avery wants to keep the team in good playing form, but sitting key players in a game or two might be in his plans for preparing for playoff action.

If this is the case, 70 wins is looking like a remote possibility. Which means that all we have to look forward to are the playoffs. I feel nervous already.


scoots said...

The worst team in the east (Boston) is 24 games out of first. In the west, Denver is 25 games out of first, and they've got the seventh seed.

micah said...

Looks like Dirk and Josh both played tonight. Dirk was awesome, especially in the 4th when it counted.

scoots said...

Dirk has done that a few times this season, I think, which is really nice to see.

I haven't gotten to watch any games recently––does anyone know anything about Dirk’s rebounding dropping off like it has? He started the current win streak with a pair of 12-rebound games, but since then he’s only gotten more than 5 once, averaging 4.7 over seven games.

I have noticed that Dirk tends to get a lot of important rebounds late in games, like the one he got last night against the Knicks and turned into a pair of free throws to take the lead. But what about the rest of the time? Is he not trying that hard recently? Is he saving up energy for the playoffs?

Winning nine in a row makes the drop-off in stats a lot less troubling, especially with Dirk shooting 54% from the floor including 50% on 3-pointers over the last seven games. Still, rebounding numbers seem to reflect effort more than scoring does, and you kind of hate to see your superstar coasting through the last few weeks of the season.

scoots said...

I know I always talk about Dirk too much, but in the last 30 seconds of the game last night, Jason Terry came up with a huge steal, and Josh Howard got a huge block to save the win.

We've seen it over and over again, but if all three of those guys play well, Dallas is almost unbeatable.

micah said...

The only game I've seen in a while has been the New York game. It looked the whole team was flat on rebounding. Not sure about Dirk over the last few.