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7:49 PM ET, 5/15/06
Clippers' backcourt plays big
Posted by Arash Markazi
LOS ANGELES - If someone had told you before the game that the Phoenix Suns would have scored more than 100 points, shot better than 45 percent from the field and have five players score in double figures, including Raja Bell going for a career-high 33 points, how many of you would have picked the Suns to lose? About the same number of people who would have picked them to win Game 3 after they scored 94 points, shot 37 percent from the field and got only six points from their bench.
As enigmatic as the Suns can be, they were one of the most dependable teams in the playoffs as far as stats go. If they scored more than 100, they won, and when they didn't, they lost. That obviously hasn't been the case in the past two games, in which the Suns won Game 3 and lost Game 4 despite stat sheets that probably should have been reversed to make sense of the final outcomes. "The difference in the two games in Los Angeles is that in the first game, we didn't necessarily play great offensively," said Steve Nash. "We scrapped and really didn't give away anything. In the second game, I thought we waited around and were pretty passive. We didn't play like it was a must-win game."
The strange statistics behind the Clippers' 114-107 win in Game 4 are even more perplexing when you consider that Chris Kaman, who had started all but four games at center for the Clippers this season and was averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds against the Suns, was a game-time scratch due to a shoulder injury. Starting in his place was Vladimir Radmanovic, who scored 13 points but combined with Elton Brand to bring down only 10 rebounds. Still, the Clippers found a way to out rebound the Suns 55-37, thanks to monster games from Corey Maggette, who had 15 rebounds, Sam Cassell, who had 11 rebounds and Cuttino Mobley who had eight boards. "Wow, we outrebounded our bigs," said Cassell, as he looked at the stat sheet incredulously after the game. "Elton Brand is not going to like that but as long as we can outrebound those guys and continue our productivity in Game 5 I like our chances."
Sights and sounds from Game 4 at Staples Center:
In the Suns locker room before the game, Amaré Stoudmire was fixing his tie as he grabbed his dark green jacket and put it on and popped the collar. "Oh yeah, you got to pop that collar," he said. "Pop it." Considering Amaré was getting a lot of love for his attire from his teammates I decided to give him a chance to give me the rundown of who he was wearing as if he was at a movie premiere. "Well, this is Hollywood," he said. "The coat I'm wearing is from Warell Boswell, the jeans are from Red Monkey jeans, the shoes are Prada and the shirt and tie are Burberry."
Stoudemire went on to explain his style was urban sophisticated and could be worn at a club, a nice restaurant or at a basketball game. "When I go to the big cities I go shopping since Phoenix doesn't have too much urban gear, plus they don't carry our sizes," he said. "So I shop in other cities like L.A. and New York."
While Brian Grant and Raja Bell were asking where they could get a cup of coffee before they went out for shootaround, Kurt Thomas was giving the ball boy some money so he could get a pregame hot dog. "When was the last time you ate?" asked James Jones. "I haven't had anything since breakfast. You're acting like I'm supposed to be on a diet or something," Thomas shot back. "I'm just saying," Jones said.
Although the team was focused on the upcoming game, the television in the middle of the locker room, which is usually tuned to basketball, was showing 3,000 Miles to Graceland, which was on TNT before the Clippers-Suns game.
Prior to the game, NBA commissioner David Stern had an impromptu meeting with the media, as the commissioner walked into the press conference room, took off his jacket and stood in front of table and microphones and said, "Let's keep this informal." Although I kept my jacket on, I stayed with the informalities and asked the "commish" if he ever gets with the other commissioners to, you know, chill at a New York watering hole from time to time. "There is a fraternity amongst us commissioners," he said. "There's an old joke about four commissioners sitting around at a table and one says, 'Oh, God,' the other says, 'Oh, God,' the other one says, 'Oh, God,' and the fourth one says, 'I thought we weren't going to talk about owners.' So there is a shared passion that we have and we do get together from time to time."
And while we're getting comfortable David, what do you do when you're not watching basketball? Do you take in a baseball or hockey game perhaps? "I've been married for 42 years and [going to more sporting events] would not be a very good idea," he said. "That would not go over very well. I have been to the theater during the playoffs and I am planning to go once more. I watch an awful lot of basketball at home and I watch a fair amount of football as an old line Giants fan, and as a season ticket holder. [Former NBA commissioner] Walter Kennedy got them from [former Giant] Andy Robustelli when they put up the Meadowlands, so I go to a number of Giants games, and we'll also go to the U.S. Open every year."
The sold out crowd at Staples Center was understandably late-arriving on Mother's Day. Coupled with the odd 5 p.m. local start time, the arena looked about half empty until the second quarter, when the seats began to fill up. Staples Center also took on a distinctive Clippers look with Clippers banners being placed along the walls of both the home and visiting player entrances, Clippers stickers being placed over the glass around the lower bowl of the arena and a Clippers banner hanging outside of Staples alongside red, white and blue balloons.
Not sure how appropriate this was during an afternoon game on Mother's Day, but the sultry Clippers Spirit Dance Team appeared during a timeout in the first half dressed up in skimpy school girl outfits and performed a hot little dance to the tune of Brownsville Station's Smokin' in the Boys' Room.
Celebrity Watch: Terrell Owens, still wearing his Sam Cassell jersey, sitting on press row next to my friend and the newest member of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Jim Hill, Billy Crystal, Penny Marshall and Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf, who was at the game cheering on his friend Boris Diaw.
I had a weird exchange with Clippers owner and media recluse Donald Sterling after the game as he walked into the media workroom to take a quick look at the reporters working on their stories as I was walking out. "Hey there," I said to Sterling, nothing better coming to my mind at the moment we crossed paths.
"You guys are on deadline?" he asked.
"Yeah, something like that," I said. "You want to trade jobs?"
"That's OK," he said, winking and patting me on the back. "Good luck with your story."
Ok, I have to eat some words here. I previously said that the Clips wouldn't keep up with the Suns - too young, inconsistent, slow. I was wrong.
However, the lineup change sort of proves my point - athleticism trumping size. Aside from Cassell - still a bigtime performer, though not every time - the difference was Maggette. They seemed better with him out there more, and I'm not sure they missed Kaman much. When he's back, I'd be tempted to let him sit some, or go out and bang till he fouls out, and not worry about him. Radmanovich can spread the defense, which helps.
I still pick the Suns, but in 7. When it has to happen, Nash, Diaw, Marion and Bell will outplay Cassell, Brand, Mobley and Maggette. (I hope)
Clippers played great. I believe that they are somewhat better w/o Kaman this series because its too hard to guard quicker Suns perimeter players. We will need him against SA, DAL, DET. If Clippers win the swing game they will take it in six at LA.
Clippers rule LA, baby! Kobe, watch and learn! Shaq's riding high, Kobe's quitting, and Sam - I - Am is stepping up BIG! #8, oops, #24, sit back and soak it all in and maybe, one day, you'll approach Lebron or Nash. MJ? Never. Ha ha. Rock them, Clips!