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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
1:49 AM ET, 5/19/06

Clippers pick up where Lakers left off

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
The Clippers cut over, around, and across any number of shorties in Game 6. They made the Phoenix Suns look every part of the general stereotype that seems to follow just behind that wisp of purple -- too small, too skinny, too interested on only one end of the floor. It was a thorough domination, with the Clippers winning by 12 even as they were outscored by 33 points from behind the arc, and in spite of the fact that they turned the ball over nearly twice as many times as their Arizonian counterparts.

And yet, even if the stats tell us that the Clippers were no more than big bullies, we know better. This is a skilled squad, able to stay with each of the Phoenix starters -- five guys who essentially make up 71 percent of Mike D'Antoni's rotation. Los Angeles closes out on shooters, it dominates the glass (a 48 to 28 edge Thursday), and is able to glide its way past a Phoenix defense that is just dying for a charge call; or one pass too many and a three-second whistle. This is an intelligent, focused squad that wants nothing to do with bounding up and down the court, though the Clippers are potent enough on the break to keep the Suns wary of the occasional transition answer.

If anything, the Clippers are a five-star answer to the Lakers' three-star first-round flameout. If Los Angeles was one giant Humble Pie, the Clippers are Rock On while the boys in purple and gold are merely Smokin' -- and the moves that Phil Jackson's bunch made in the first round gave Mike Dunleavy the blueprint in which to work with this go-round: Move your feet on defense, keep a rebounding edge, force Steve Nash to shoot, and pick your spots in transition. It seems simple enough, but it takes a real patient lot to keep the fire for 48 minutes, and the Clippers have the talent to match the focus.

Game 7 is anyone's guess. In NBA history, the home team has won 76 out of 93 games in this instance, three full days off between games will do wonders for D'Antoni's tiny rotation of players, and Nash's sputtering motor. Whatever the results, it's been a pleasure to watch the Clippers at least match wits with these Suns, holding serve at home with equal parts talent and savvy.

I couldn't file tonight's post without adding an addendum to Wednesday's batch of thoughts following Cleveland's surprising Game 5 win over the Pistons. Cleveland fans were beyond ticked at this pasty scribe for choosing to nit-pick at LeBron James' (few) shortcomings, while documenting the travails of an uncertain Pistons squad - rather than laud the 21-year-old's play, and credit the Cavs for taking three in a row from the Eastern Conference champs.

Well, the Cavs should be credited. Since last Saturday's Game 3, they've been a tougher, smarter, more resilient and altogether more, uh, together team than the Pistons. They're a game away from the Eastern Conference finals because they're showed the most heart, and a staunch refusal to back down against a Detroit team that usually feeds off a mental edge over their opponents. onyell Marshall's played brilliantly, the rest of the team has picked their spots on offense while never letting up the D, and James has led the way.

But he has missed some bad jump shots. Too many for my taste. It hasn't detracted from a legendary postseason thus far (31, 8, and 6 at age 21 -- geesh), but I'm a worrier, and I worry it will.

Should the Cavs drop the next two, I'm not looking forward to another 12 months of TV talking head tripe telling us about how LeBron "choked," when all real NBA followers know better. I want nothing to do with the sort of mess we had to sit through last February and March, when LeBron hadn't hit enough game-winning shots for everyone's taste. That stuff was moronic, on several different levels, and not even worth revisiting.

So my plea, in order to ensure a nail-biting Game 6 that sees each and every participant at the top of their respective games, includes the Pistons regaining their edge, and LeBron heading to the post or the free throw line more often. That's all Wednesday's post was about. Now, for Cavs fans breathless at the thought of the game's best player leading their team to the Eastern Conference finals, I can understand the disappointment of racing to the computer for a recap on Wednesday night, only to see some boring stuff about footwork and such. I guess I'm too much of a fan of cold showers and Charley Rosen, so you'll have to excuse me.

But I meant what I said -- LeBron, you've been blowing our mind all season, now stay righteous and take it to the hole a little more.

Comments:

Posted: 2:46 AM   by NBAfan
simply put, there's nothing that compares to the NBA playoffs. This playoff has been AMAZING and it is a clear indication as to where the League is headed and that's very promising.
Posted: 2:46 AM   by NBAfan
simply put, there's nothing that compares to the NBA playoffs. This playoff has been AMAZING and it is a clear indication as to where the League is headed and that's very promising.
Posted: 3:10 AM   by Anonymous
Nice wrap up but I'm pretty sure it's "Arizonans."
Posted: 4:37 AM   by Anonymous
I hope the Clippers can win against the Suns in game 7. Phoenix thrives on pressure, while the Clippers have not yet been tested in these situations....
Posted: 5:27 AM   by Anonymous
Both team shave done extremely well and it is an exciting time for the NBA. Who would have thunk four months ago that we could be legitimately facing an NBA Finals with out Detroit or San Antonio??

Imagine a Finals with Cleveland and LA or Dallas and Miami! The growth that Cleveland (& LBJ) and the Clips have shown over the past three weeks has been FANtastic..

A new era is ariving and we are all a WITNESS...
Posted: 9:14 AM   by Cato Felan
I can't say I'm a realy big fan of this whole NBA Playoff Blog thing. Does Blog mean you can let spelling and grammatical errors pervade your story? Does it mean there are no proofreaders to let you know you left out the first letter of a guy's name? If I wanted USA Today-type writing, I would buy it. I expect more. Please no more blogs.
Posted: 10:08 AM   by Jakiri
I spent the last 20+ years of my life believing that the Lakers are L.A's Team A. It's great to know that the Clippers are finally showing an identity greater than L.A's Team B. By displaying brilliant basketball, they are showing to the world that there is packed muscle inside the script-written name. Their longtime jokers will finally recognize them as an NBA team -- and give them the respect that a good basketball team deserves.
Posted: 10:42 AM   by Jason
Much better then your orginal post as far as the Cavs go. I understood what you meant, but from a Cavs fans perspective after all the years of putrid play we need constant encouragement and affirmation to know that we are finally doing somethign right. I whole-heartedly agree that LeBron needs to stick with what he does best and what Corey Maggette did for the Clippers last night; Drive and get to the foul line, alot. Otherwise we will be hearing the same thing they are saying about Kobe, he choked, and it won't be true.
Posted: 11:24 AM   by Anonymous
I liked your LeBron column and I like this one too. You're right about LeBron and his air balls: he should be taking it to the hole. With his strength and body control and quickness, he belongs in the paint. Let the fleas heave from afar. The deciding game will be more likely won with LeBron's muscle and grit than LeBron's underdeveloped outside shot.

You struck a nerve with your last column, but you were trying to do LeBron a favor.
Posted: 12:03 PM   by Anonymous
Well said... here too:

http://www.tagworld.com/birdsblog
Posted: 12:10 PM   by Mark Kateli
Just do not count those Pistons off. Even when Cleveland loses we still think of Lebron as a great player who makes his average team mates look so much better
Posted: 4:57 PM   by Anonymous
Clippers pounded the Suns throughout the series on the boards. With the rest, the Suns will be more energized and high on adrenaline because of the home crowd, but Clippers have shown that they can handle the Suns' surges. I thought they were out the other game when they were down 19, but they fought back to go to ot. I believe this is the year of the Clippers. Clippers kind of remind me of the Anaheim Angels when they won the world series.

Go Clippers!!!
Posted: 5:29 PM   by Anonymous
Suns will win.
Posted: 8:19 PM   by Rocky
To Cato Felan:

These guys are busting their a**es giving you the inside and outs of basketball on a different perspective - pure, raw stories not being limited by the consciousness of grammatical errors. These guys are providing us with entertaining and informative articles by having a loose cannon of words make their way into the web. If you're not a big fan of NBA Playoff blogs, you're better off sitting on a toilet seat and reading your favorite no-room-for-error newspaper.
Posted: 4:18 AM   by Anonymous
typical SUNS bashing with no respect for what they have done this year for an ad-hoc group of guys with tremendous heart -- the whole country will see us take care of home court advantage on monday night
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