Where's the D?
Totally board: Clips rule glass
For the second game in a row, the Phoenix Suns yielded more than 120 points to the L.A. Clippers, but this time the Suns didn't have a group of scorching hot shooters to bail them out.
The Clippers shifted the momentum of the series Wednesday by dominating Game 2 at both ends, but the recurring story from the first two games is Phoenix's inability to get stops. The Clips not only shot 54.4 percent from the floor -- after hitting 59.3 percent in Game 1 -- but also rebounded most of their rare misses. They had 19 offensive boards for the game and 15 when they took control of the game in the first half.
Break down that first half a little closer and you'll see how important the boards were.
The Clips had 15 offensive boards to the Suns' two, and as a result they took 14 more shots than the Suns in the half. L.A. didn't shoot better or get to the line more, but because the Clippers had so many more chances they ended up with a 14-point lead at the break.
The scary thing for the Suns is that it could have been worse. L.A. rolled up its point total despite getting an ugly two-point, three-turnover effort from second-leading scorer Corey Maggette. Plus, L.A.'s tally was already up to 110 midway through the fourth quarter before Mike Dunleavy called off the dogs. And if the Clippers are piling up 122 points a night on the road, one shudders to think how high the total could go this weekend when the series shifts to L.A.
Oddly enough, the Suns did OK until a shot went up. If you subtract out everything that happened after an offensive rebound, the Clippers shot a less disturbing 49.3 percent, and did it with minimal damage from the free-throw and 3-point lines. Overall, the Clips' 55.9 percent (in true shooting percentage) on "first shots" was nothing to write home about.
But after securing an offensive board, the Clippers shot 13-of-17, made 5-of-6 from the line and had only two turnovers. In other words, the 21 Clipper offensive rebounds (including two team rebounds) became 31 points. And on those second shot opportunities, L.A.'s true shooting percentage soared to 81.6 percent.
Obviously, Wednesday's backboard domination pointed out how badly the Suns miss Kurt Thomas -- not only for his defense against post players like Elton Brand, but also for his ability to snag defensive boards once the shot went up.
Phoenix's smaller frontcourt is getting killed for a second straight series, but this L.A. team has much more skillful big men than the last one. As a result, Suns coach Mike D'Antoni has to quickly make a successful adjustment.
One option would be to say uncle and play Brian Grant, a move that would slow down Phoenix's offense a bit but also give it a lot more muscle at the defensive end.
However, that's never been D'Antoni's style, which is why he may pursue the more radical option: Go even smaller. James Jones started the first two games of the series but provided little spark, while blazing fast Leandro Barbosa has put together two straight strong games off the bench. D'Antoni's best hope for leaving L.A. with a split might be to hit the accelerator even harder by replacing Jones with Barbosa and hoping that the Clippers' big men can't keep up.
One thing is for certain: If Phoenix can't hold the Clippers under 120, the Suns will be on the golf course a week from now -- no matter how good their offense is.
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Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Dwyane Wade knocked out the Nets with 17 first-quarter points en route to a 111-89 Game 2 win in Miami.
Shaquille O'Neal was leaving the Heat's practice gym Tuesday night, just as Dwyane Wade was arriving. This was late, past 10 o'clock. It was dark, silent. Just the bounce of the ball.
So, Shaq stayed as Wade did his shooting. And they talked. And talked. And when Shaq was done with him, Pat Riley found his young star at Wednesday's morning shootaround and decided, "You could almost sense that he was in a different state."
He would come out fast and furious, slashing, shooting and destroying these Nets with a magnificent start to a 31-point performance in the Heat's 111-89 Game 2 victory. This was Game 1, reversed.
All tied 1-1.
"I normally come out and defer to guys and try to read the game," Wade said, "but tonight I wanted to come out and attack early."
He would leave the Nets laying listless on the arena floor, bloodied, beaten and never able to respond. Human nature dictated the Heat would be the hungriest, the neediest, the almost guaranteed victors Wednesday night. It didn't matter that Richard Jefferson made a game-time choice to try out his tender ankle, because the open shots and the easy fast-break baskets off Miami turnovers were not there for Jefferson, Vince Carter or Jason Kidd.
Wade loosened things for Shaq, who stopped fighting with officials and took his coach's advice: adjust. He was pure finesse, pure poetry, using his deftness to go around the Nets' Jason Collins instead of trying to go through him.
Still, this was a night for his self-professed little brother, Wade. It must be frightening for opponents to see Wade developing that 3-point shot, because he's so devastating going to the basket. "I've always been a decent shooter, but I never had confidence in myself," Wade said.
So, there was Wade late Tuesday night, shooting in the silence of the practice gymnasium at AmericanAirlines Arena, waiting to move downstairs, into the big gym, the big noise, where playoff legacies begin to be born. All alone there, Shaq told Wade to shoot. The kid listens.
-- Adrian Wojnarowski in Miami
No mystery in the desert scoring line Wednesday night.
No surprise that the Suns failed to reach 100 points for the fourth time in these playoffs ... and dropped to 0-4 in those games.
How can it be surprising when the Suns, who go into every game knowing they'll be outrebounded to some degree, surrender 19 offensive boards, counter with a mere 26 rebounds total and get pounded by a 30-6 margin in second-chance points?
Right. It's the most easily explained loss of their postseason.
Trouble is, Phoenix does have a mystery to deal with in the wake of a Game 2 pounding inflicted by the Clippers. The mystery is Shawn Marion's ongoing playoff malaise.
Marion was noticeably quiet for the first 3½ games of the first-round marathon with the Lakers, but the Suns thought their Matrix was back for good with the aggression and activity he began to flash against Lamar Odom starting with the second half of Game 4.
After two games in the second round, Phoenix might be forced to renew its Marion search.
In Game 1, even though Marion totaled 20 points and 15 boards, he stunned his own team by dropping multiple uncontested lobs. His hands and shooting aim looked uncharacteristically shaky throughout the Suns' 130-123 win.
Things only got shakier in Game 2. Suns coach Mike D'Antoni called for a lob play on the home team's first possession to get Marion going and Marion promptly slammed it home. But Marion's next five touches were nightmarish and helped the Clips establish the early domination that lasted all night.
In fairly rapid succession, Marion was called for carrying as he drove into the paint ... drew no rim with a 3-point attempt that caromed off the backboard ... hurried one of his trademark baseline push shots and missed short ... missed a baseline 3-pointer short ... and then failed to convert an alley-oop that's typically cake for him.
Marion went on to miss three free throws and finished with a muted 13 points and six rebounds. Which means there won't be a Sun to watch closer in Friday's Game 3.
Marion eventually found ways to be effective against Odom's bothersome length in the first series and, like each of his teammates, already has a familiarity with the building he'll be visiting for the next two games, which has to help.
The Clips, though, are far bigger, deeper and stronger inside than the Lakers, which means Phoenix needs its regular-season Matrix even more than it did in Round 1.
Unless they have some sort of mysterious hold on him.
-- Marc Stein
Dwyane Wade finished with 31 points. The Heat-Nets series heads to New Jersey tied 1-1.
Miami Rules Game 2
AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Clippers guard Sam Cassell splits Phoenix Suns defenders Steve Nash, left, and James Jones in L.A.'s 122-97 win in Game 2.
Quote of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
B from LA: Does the three-shot Kobe second half make you look at him differently? Or are you still sipping the Kool Aid?
Scoop Jackson: I'll still drink the Aid as long as it does what it's been doing. The deal I believe is that something went down between Kobe and Phil Jackson at halftime that made Kobe shut it down in the second half. Was it selfish? Maybe. More than anything it was bad timing on his part. But let's be real, Phoenix had that game at the jump, Kobe knew it and so did Phil. But to not compete until the end is another story. That's why I believe that Phil said something to Kobe in front of the team that rocked him to the core. No other reason for him to take only three shots makes sense to me.
AJ (Jersey): Scooop, let me make sure I read my magazine right. You picked the Nets to win the Championship right? Cuzz if you didn't you're even more of the man you already were. But if that's false, well you're just o.k. at writing stuff I like to read.
Scoop Jackson: OK lemme clear something up: I wrote that the Nets were going to win the Chip this year but that's not what I meant. See, ESPN told me (and this is the truth) that they were doing a "surprise issue." That the entire issue -- or a large section in the mag was going to be about surprise things that could happen in the NBA playoffs. They asked me if I wouldn't mind writing a small surprise story on the Nets winning the NBA title this year. So when the issue came out -- surprise! -- there was no surprise content in there. The sidebar came off as I picked the Nets to win it all.
Frank (Cleveland): Scoop. Pretend you're Danny Ferry for a minute (I know ... but play along). What is the highest priority for the Cavs this offseason?
Scoop Jackson: Learning from what happened to them in this series. And hoping that somewhere along the way, they discover someone as good as Scottie Pippen to support LBJ's Jordan impersonation.
The Clippers won at Phoenix 122-97, outrebounding the Suns 57-26.
Only one other team in the history of the NBA playoffs won a road game by 25-plus points while recording 25-plus rebounds more than its opponent.
On March 28, 1968, the Celtics won at Detroit 135-110 while outrebounding the Pistons 70-37.
John Havlicek was the leading scorer in that game (35 points) and player-coach Bill Russell had the most rebounds (21).
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Scott (Austin): What adjustment do you think the Spurs will make to stop Devin Harris from destroying their defense again?
B.J. Armstrong: One is to control the tempo of the game. Give Avery Johnson and his staff credit for not only controlling the tempo and finding a way to get easier baskets. The Spurs are going to have to do is figure out how to play better offense and slow the game down to the mid-80s. When battling for the tempo one of the big things is to control that flow and be more efficient so they can play 5-on-5 defense on the other end of the floor.
Mike (Philly): What are your thoughts on Kobe Bryant's performance Saturday night?
B.J. Armstrong: We can all speculate about what was going through his mind, but the fact of the matter is the Lakers had no answers on defense in Games 6 and 7, and if you can't get stops then the offense is always at a disadvantage. It's not like Kobe comes in and is under the radar, either. Give the Suns credit for using their offensive game play to also get in good positions on defense. Kobe was doing the right thing by passing out of double-teams, and if his teammates aren't hitting shots there's nothing else he can do. That's about all the analysis needed there.
BJ (Carmel NY): Will the pace at which the Suns play effect them in the long run of the playoffs? Can they keep this up or will they meet their physical demise against the grind-it-out Spurs or Mavs?
B.J. Armstrong: You could see that contrast with the Lakers in the first round where the grinding style gave the Suns problems. They have a unique style, starting with Steve Nash's ability to break down perimeter defense and spread the floor for the shooters. It poses problems for defenses but at some point the game is going to get organized and slow down, and eventually the team that gets more stops will come out on top. It comes down to defending, rebounding and spreading the ball around, and the team that does that best will be the champs.