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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.
2:59 AM ET, 5/17/06

Hard not to love this game

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
It's sad to have to put a capper on this classic, mainly because I never wanted this game to end. Don't be fooled by the 243 combined points in tonight's Game 5 –- because this was hardly a shootout. The Clippers and Suns put together 58 minutes of inspired and resilient end-to-end basketball. Both coaches seemingly made offensive and defensive adjustments on every play without reducing the pace into slugfest territory. Players somehow overcame tired legs to expertly execute, nail perimeter shots, and stroll back on defense in time to try to drive through yet another series of staggered screens.

It was the ninth time these teams have met in 2005-06, and yet there were no instances of chippy play, or angry shoves, or stolen playcalls. Amazingly, both these coaches and players have managed to keep things fresh and stay one step of their enlightened opponents. All we've seen in this series is respect, reverence for the opponent, and a healthy love for the craft. And if tonight's Game 5 didn't turn you on to the true prime of pro playoff basketball, then you need to cease following all manner of sport.

Shawn Marion played like a man tonight, and though he's had his ups and downs in the playoffs, it's hard to expect anything less from the MVP candidate. Playing 54 out of 58 minutes, he gave his team 36 points, 20 rebounds, and turned the ball over just once. Amazing. As always, he was the most active defender on the Suns roster, having to lord over every screen and roll and double-team Elton Brand whenever the big Clipper got the ball. After that, Shawn was asked to rebound the ball, give it up, run about 94 feet in three seconds and make himself available for a lob pass. Also, in case you missed the second sentence of this paragraph, he was asked to do this for 54 withering minutes.

On the other end, Elton Brand was just as brilliant in defeat, offering 33 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in the same amount of minutes. And as with Marion, he's is Los Angeles' roamer on defense, asked to show on every pick and roll, while patrolling the glass and looking to block shots. Onto the notes …

• I mentioned in my first-half roundup that Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy may want to start Quinton Ross in the second frame over Corey Maggette after a lackluster opening. Though Corey remained in the starting five, Dunleavy seriously needs to re-consider his initial lineup heading into Game 6. Maggette played the first five minutes of the second half, during which the Suns went on a 16-5 run. He forced shots (both in the post and from 20 feet), missed defensive assignments, and failed to make any positive impact. Not surprisingly, Dunleavy didn't call on him for a single second of the final 29 minutes.

Ross came in with 7:17 to go in the third, forced (both in isolation sets, or off switched screen-and-rolls) Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa into misses, made the solid play (a quick post-up score, an extra pass for a score) on offense, and allowed the Clippers to close the quarter on a 21-10 run. I'm not saying Ross is the key to all of Los Angeles' problems, but when you start off the pivotal third quarter in a pivotal third game by giving up a minus-11 run with Player A, replace him with Player B and consequently go on a plus-11 run, you have to wonder. All told, the Clippers had a 37-24 advantage with Ross in during the second half.

Two qualifiers to Ross' Run: Steve Nash sat out the final 2:49 of the third, during which the Clippers outscored the Suns eight to six. Also Vladimir Radmanovic replaced Chris Kamen just as Ross was entering. Vlade gave the usual strong and weak side whiffs on the ball (though he did block one shot) and missed two three-pointers.

• Loved the third quarter switch that forced Radmanovic onto Leandro Barbosa for a possession. Barbosa destroyed Vlade on a crossover, leaving him patently unclear if it was New York or New Year, and found Shawn Marion for an easy 15-footer.

• For two squads replete with heady, intelligent players with long histories of clutch production, the final minutes of regulation were a wee bit surprising -– until you figure the mental and physical exhaustion that go into trying to keep up with competitive playoff action. Still, missed free throws, 8-second violations (can't recall the last time I saw that in the final minute of a game, much less a postseason contest), and a botched last-second possession belied the smarts and drive these two teams have shown since November.

• THAT'S the Tim Thomas I remember. Boneheaded play in the final seconds, lots of pretty 3-pointers (5-for-8), four blinkin' rebounds in 45 minutes.

• One reason the Clippers came back in the second half to turn this game into a classic? Turnovers. Eight in the first half for Los Angeles, just nine over the final 34 minutes of play.

• With Game 6 about 44 hours removed from the end of Game 5, expect a defensive struggle that falls right into Los Angeles' calloused hands. That's the hope, at least, because I'm not ready to give up on this series.


Posted: 3:15 AM   by maribel
As a Lakers fan I just want to offer my condolences to the Clippers fans out there. I watched this game in awe, as the Clippers came back from 19 down. All the missed opportunities made me cringe, and the bad call on Shaun Livingston (he DID NOT step out of bounds) made this loss unbearable. I hope the Clips can regroup, refocus and regain momentum going into Game 6.

Not to take anything away from the Suns - Raja's 3 was a freakin' dagger.
Posted: 3:22 AM   by Anonymous
i have been a clipper fan since i was 12. this is the greatest season i have ever seen and i'm 25 now. i have gone through
One of the most intense games I've seen in a while.
It's just too bad that most of those east-coasters were probably asleep during this fine display of high-class Playoff Basketball.
No matter which team comes out of this, the Mavs-Spurs are going to be going up against a REALLY good team with good chemistry. All the Mavs-Spurs can do is hope that this series will go into a game 7 so that the Suns-Clippers wont have a rest before the Conf. Finals.
Posted: 5:24 AM   by Anonymous
We are you hating on Tim Thomas? How is he supposed to be looking at the clock and getting the rebound of the missed jumper at the same time, refs take time to aknowledge timeouts. Also... Its hard to rebound when Marion is pulling down 20 and Nash is crashing the boards with 7.
Posted: 9:34 AM   by Anonymous
I love the Suns, but I've come to love the Clippers too. I'll be sad to see either team lose.
Posted: 10:11 AM   by Andy
The Tim Thomas I remember sits near the end of the bench, wears $1,000 suits and forgets which "sprained ankle" he's supposed to be limping on.
Posted: 10:17 AM   by Anonymous
Amazing Game, Boring Article

The article doesn't illustrate how amazing (and ugly) the game was.

The game was amazing itself. I said it was ugly because of the stupid mistakes the players committed during the end of regulation and OT. Cassell, Nash, Thomas, Suns Bench, Clippers Bench and Daniel Ewing all made some critical mistakes.

Quote: "Both coaches seemingly made offensive and defensive adjustments on every play without reducing the pace into slugfest territory."

What? Both coaches had mental lapses. Suns' Coach not mentioning to call a time out if the ball was shot early (which it did, cassel's big mistake) and Clips' coach not mentioning about the 8 secs backcourt violation (cassel again is part of it) I guess Cassel is too old during regulation. :D

(I hope you won't do the blog for the spurs-mavs game) :p
Posted: 10:30 AM   by Anonymous
It was a great game. I love the fact that there is no chippy playground garbage going on. One thing needs to be said though, and it is coming from a loyal Nash fan - was that Steve choking at the end of OT 1? Those were two awful throw-aways he made that could have clinched the game much earlier. Raja bailed him out, but I was shocked to see him playing so flustered and out of control.
Posted: 11:19 AM   by Anonymous
As a Suns fan I have to say that was the most emotional rollercoaster of a game I have ever seen. Is it possible for the home to to steal a win? Also it is because of games like this that I will never live on the east coast. In order to get to bed at a decent hour you miss all these classic games.

Posted: 11:39 AM   by Case
As far as I know Shawn Marion always plays like a man.

Has there ever been a more fundamentally unsound superstar then Shawn Marion?

His shooting form is awful he travels all over the place he never boxes out yet he produces huge numbers.

I really thought the officials made the right call when Marion and Ross each went to the basket and were mugged.
Flagrant fouls would've been unnecessary.

One thing I don't understand is why the officials provide almost a 20s timeout between free throws. Coaches get enough
timeouts. I know that they may be substituting, but come on...

Will Steve Nash ever be whistled for defensive three seconds it seems like the officials don't see him squatting in the paint waiting to double.

I think Doug Collins was right on in his assesment of how post play and perimeter play are officiated in today's game.

The NBA should do something about the head fake and lean in. Cassell is just ridiculous with this move. It was nice to see Raja Bell get him in the 4th quarter.
Posted: 12:54 PM   by Anonymous
I'm not a fan of either the Suns or the Clippers, but I'm a fan of good basketball. This basketball series has been entertaining to watch, but it's seriously cutting into my sleep time. I'm on the east coast and the games are usally over by 1:00 a.m. EST, but if there's an overtime or two, then I'm up until 2:00 a.m. EST. At work, I'm dragging like an 18-wheeler stuck in 1st gear, but it's been worth the sacrifice. This series, as well as the Mavericks and Spurs series, have been great to watch.
Posted: 1:42 PM   by Anonymous
WHY OH WHY....do you put a 6 foot, 1 inch guy on Raja Bell for the last play????? A rookie no less! You know either Nash, Bell, or Barbosa is going to shoot that three---Marion was missing them left and right and Thomas is too slow to get it off in time. Argghhh!!! The guy on Bell should have been at least 6'8"!!!
Posted: 5:37 PM   by MARGE
I liked the game too but I think the suns will win.
Posted: 7:58 PM   by jeff in phoenix
i'm a huge suns fan... everybody needs to lay off the clippers for their mistakes particularly the use of ewing at the end of the game. They are playing well and could very well be up in this series. I give the clippers a lot of respect.
Posted: 9:39 PM   by peter michael
Bail out 3's has become a habit for the Suns. First it was Tim Thomas who saved Suns from the brink of elimination against the Lakers.

And now Raja Bell. wow, that 3-point shot with 3 seconds left in overtime was a big time dagger! it eventually provided the Suns the luxury of being ahead 3-2 instead of 2-3 going to Game Six.

Wow! the resiliency of the Suns is unbelievable.
Posted: 10:07 PM   by Anonymous
just done watching Pistons/Cleveland
NBA going for mano-a mano James/Wade Say hello to WWF