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1:50 AM ET, 5/11/06
Clippers beat Suns at their own game
Posted by Arash Markazi
Sam Cassell had 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting as the Clippers evened the series.
A six-pack of thoughts from the Clippers' 122-97 win over the Suns in Game 2:
1. The Clippers did the unthinkable on Wednesday: They beat the Suns at their own game. It's a scary game plan that worked to perfection in Game 2, but backfired during their 130-124 shootout loss on Monday. The Clips have scored 30 or more points in five of the eight quarters so far this series, while holding the Suns to two (both in the first game). Bigger than the Clippers' scoring prowess was, of course, their defense, which finally showed up in holding the Suns under 100 points, Phoenix's magic number in these playoffs. Anytime the Suns reach triple digits they win, and every time they come up short they lose.
2. The veteran backcourt of Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley, which has been largely credited with the Clippers' turnaround this season, stepped up big on Wednesday, combining for 46 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. The big key was the continued calming presence of Cassell, who not only leads the team on the court but also takes the role of a player/coach on the bench, barking out instructions to the players and talking with the assistants about matchups during breaks. "He is like a coach," coach Mike Dunleavy told me last week. "Your point guard is usually your coach on the court, but he takes it to another level off the court."
3. No team lives and dies by the 3 more than the Suns, and their 9-of-26 performance in Game 2 certainly killed them and helped the Clippers get out in transition. Amazingly, the Suns had more 3-point attempts (2,097) than free throws (1,475) this season. That continued to be the case on Wednesday with the Suns shooting 26 3-pointers and 23 free throws. "Like Kobe [Bryant] said we're just going to flush it down and move on," Mike D'Antoni said after the game. "We'll get better."
4. Everyone knows the Suns can't match up with the Clippers' size, but they are going to have to do better than getting outrebounded 57-26. The biggest number was the Clippers' 19 offensive rebounds to the Suns' 5. The Clippers exploded to a 20-point lead early in the second half, getting second-chance buckets and exploiting the Suns after their misses in transition. "The difference was off the glass," Steve Nash said. "We just didn't compete as hard as we needed to. We weren't tough enough or scrappy enough. When you give up that big a discrepancy, it's not a good equation."
5. It might get old the longer the Suns are in the playoffs, but for now, I can't get enough of seeing Tim Thomas give love to rapper Tony Yayo by doing the Yayo Dance (waving your hand in front of your face) every time he hits a shot. Speaking of Thomas, when was the last time a signing this late (he was signed by the Suns on March 3) made this big of an impact on a playoff team? If it wasn't for Thomas' hot hand off the bench, the Suns might have been swept by the Lakers in the first round.
6. The Clippers once again proved "Lawler's Law" to be true. The Clippers' equivalent of Chick Hearn's refrigerator for the past 27 years has been Ralph Lawler's Law, which states that the first team to score 100 points wins. It's not exactly going out on a limb with a game like Wednesday's, but it's usually a good bet regardless.
Speaking of Lawler, a few things have changed with the Clippers since we last teased them for their media coverage, or lack thereof. The team's radio broadcasts, which used to be a one-man booth on a progressive talk station until last week, are now a three-man show with Lawler and Michael Smith calling the game and Matt Pinto, the former radio play-by-play man, providing courtside reports. The broadcasts have also been switched to the more powerful XTRA Sports 570, the Lakers' home. Yes, slowly but surely, the Clippers are moving up in the eyes of Los Angeles sports fans. Who knows, they might even sell out all their playoff games this round.
Clippers were in game 1 playing the sun's style but lost it when brand sat. Today they smoked the suns playing smarter. Clippers are in every game this playoff. they could have been 6-0 right now. I say Clippers in 6.
The dance that Tim Thomas is doing is not really the Tony Yayo dance. IT's the John Cena,(WWE champ) you can't see me sign. But I also like the sign too. Even though you couldn't see me either if I made $14 million this year.
The Suns get complacient after a win. They will win one in LA and then the series in 7. Besides who really wants to see these Suns out of the playoffs? Do you really want to see a San Antonio/ Detroit finals again?
I agree with anonymous - the Suns are exciting, they're athletic, they're fun. I honestly think with Stoudemire back in the same form as last year no one would beat them. He was literally unstoppable. I predict a title for them next year.
Right now, my hat is off to Tim Thomas for his rebounding in game 3. He has always seemed to like to shoot outside, and play rather small, but he is not a physically small player, and I had a hunch that he could play bigger (physically) if he wanted to. Plus it must be great to be with a team that wants him, in a winning situation.
The athleticism of these guys is inspiring - Marion and Diaw in particular. I think this is the Mavs year (I hope), but I bet on the Suns after this.
Oh, and this series - I was worried about LA's size, but I think Diaw is a better center than Kaman. Being able to jump (and pass, and shoot, etc.) will beat banging in this series. Suns in 6 (Mobley, Radmanovic and Cassell too streaky, the others generally too young. Brand can't carry this team).
Hey David - if you're the same David that posted on the blog from a couple days ago, I wanted to let you know I posted a followup there earlier today to apologize for my harsh response to your comments. I guess I was just in a grumpy mood that day. :(
Anyway, I agree the Suns look good to go for next year, assuming they don't do anything too crazy in the offseason. The only thing that concerns me about Stoudemire's return--other than health--is how it will affect the team's chemistry, e.g., whether he'll expect it to be "his" team. Right now, everybody pretty much gets the same number of touches, and the scoring is very balanced. These guys look like they really enjoy playing together, and for the most part, there's not an oversized ego in the bunch. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see enough of Stoudemire to know how he's going to fit into that. Hopefully, the answer is "perfectly", since this team was put together with him in mind to begin with.
In the meantime, absolutely awesome that these guys finally managed to win a one-possession game (and an overtime game before that). Maybe that horrible Game 4 in the Laker series was a turning point.