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1:11 AM ET, 5/26/06
Mavs tie series, but there's cause for concern
Posted by Kelly Dwyer
Dirk Nowitzki, who had 30 points and 14 rebounds, was one of the few Mavs who showed up.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Game 2 of the Mavericks-Suns Western Conference final was a lovely bit of basketball, boasting more aesthetic punch in the initial 15 minutes than both games of the Heat-Pistons series has managed to combine for thus far. On the surface, the outcome went according to rational thinking. The Mavericks, playing for their playoff lives, came out ready to rock and knotted the series at a game apiece before the two squads jetted off to Phoenix.
Actually, only some of the Mavs came out ready to throttle it, Mickey Jupp-style.
OK, three Mavericks.
Alright, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, and DaSagana Diop were the only ones to show up –- and they were fab, but the game was a bit worrying.
The win, we'll get to later. First, the worries. Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse missed a ton of open looks. They combined to shoot a passable 9-of-22 (29 points in 70 combined minutes), but considering the batch of jumpers both players were afforded, it's a scary stat to note heading into two games in Phoenix. Secondly, the Suns actually outrebounded the Mavs in the first half, by two. For Phoenix, merely matching another team on the glass is akin to any other squad beating their opponent by 15 in the rebounding department. Nowitzki had nine second-half rebounds, while Diop pulled in 11 for the game (and the Mavs torched the Suns 30 to 19 on the glass in the second frame), but that sort of passive instinct –- to start a game as big as this – is a bit vexing.
Other than that, the win went according to plan. The Mavs thoroughly dominated Phoenix at the free throw stripe, making 25 out of 36 (69 percent, compared to 8 outta 11 for their opponents), and cut their turnovers in half (16 to 8) in between Games 1 and 2. Dirk was all over, meeting his cutting teammates for precision passes, getting to the rim with the game on the line, scoring 30 points with 14 boards and six assists. Howard absolutely refused to relent, from the opening tip on, staying aggressive and articulate with his drives -– scoring 29 points on 10 of 19 shooting.
Diop should probably come off the bench in Game 3, but he needs to play at least 30 minutes. I'd give Keith Van Horn, who had just two points and a rebound in 15 minutes Friday night, another chance at starting. I know he stunk –- but you know you're going to get jack from KVH off the bench, so you might as well start him one more time and see if anything clicks. What coach Avery Johnson needs to worry about is the rest of his team, the one that has to wear blue shirts in Games 3 and 4.
Unless they speed up the gradual "getting used to Phoenix" period that seems to have dominated parts of the first two games, the Mavs are probably in trouble. The pick and roll defense on Steve Nash and his cast of screeners improved considerably in Game 2, but with two games looming in Arizona, you'd have to expect the Mavs to take a step back and lose a little bit of the defensive focus that allowed them to tie the series tonight.
The Mavs did a fantastic job on ignoring their Spurs-honed instinct to help on pick and rolls in Game 2, a bit of defensive philosophy forged through seven games of trying to keep Tony Parker out of the lane. That spate of thinking helped hold Nash to just two points (scored in the meaningless final seconds) in the second half –- after throwing in 14 first half points, and 30 in the first game of the conference finals. But on the road, where the focus tends to wane, don't expect to see the same late-game dominance. I wish it were there, I'd like to see some close back-and-forth between these two righteous squads, but something is telling me the Suns will be at ease back at home.
Terry, to me, is the key. He's always been a tough little bugger on the road. I expected him to come through with a big game in San Antonio in Game 7 of the conference semis, and he didn't disappoint -– scoring 27 points. If Terry plays the perfect game in Phoenix, the Mavs will have a solid chance of stealing one or even both of the games. But here's his pitiable laundry list:
1). Stay aggressive on offense; look for quick shots off screen and rolls to keep the D on its heels.
2). Don't be Suns-level "aggressive," because any quick miss will result in an easy transition bucket for Phoenix on the other end.
3). Slack back on Nash on the pick and roll defense, to help your bigs stay with the shooters (Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, Tim Thomas) who are usually setting a screen on you.
4). Don't slack off enough to where Nash can nail a 3 on you.
5). Don't slack off enough where you panic, dive back out at Nash too quickly, only to watch him drive right past you.
6). Don't slack off enough to where your weak-side help teammates consider you beat, only to cover the play, and leave their own men open for easy shots.
7). Call Dr. Becker for his Swedish ginger cookie recipe. Those little things are tasty!
If Terry keeps his wits about him, the Mavs have a chance at grabbing the home court advantage from Phoenix. I'm not too confident in their chances, however. After tonight, even with that superb second half defense, it's hard to imagine Dallas pulling one out. Even the best team in basketball can have potentially devastating matchup issues.
Only three Mavs came to play and they won the game by seven. Three point shooting teams like Phoenix can make runs, but the basket tends to get smaller for them as the pressure heats up in the later games of the series. Terry and company have been playing great all year but had a somewhat off game 2. They'll be fine. Nash is unbelievable, but he won't have enough to overcome a superior basketball team. Mavs in 6.
i honestly think that the mavs dont have what it takes to beat the suns.... yes they won game 2, but we are back to phoenix and we will win this match im 6!!!! MVP Nash i aint worried about anything...
The Mavs barely lost game 1, which was a transitional game for them, i.e. getting accustomed to the running Suns after playing 7 against the slower paced Spurs. They won game two. The displayed horrible un-Mavericks like shooting in both games. They are a great road team, and they proved it by taking 2 in San Antonio. the Mavs will find their shooting stroke and take this series in 6.
I think the mavs are in trouble because they aren't taking advantage of their size. The reason the suns are so good isn't just because they have speed and shooting mismatches, it's because on every possesion they take advantage of it. Several times Dirk had a smaller man on him and settled for a jump shot. In one paticular case he had Nash guarding him after a pick and instead of taking Nash down low he shot a fadeaway around the free throw line and missed. If the mavs can take advantage of their mismatches they can win.
Like in the previous series against the Spurs, the Mavs are the more talented team here. All they have to do in order to win this series, is play like it.
Phoenix are tough to play against purely because they are such an un-restrained basketball team. All NBA players are taught to value the ball, hold posession, run the offense, and only take the designated shot. But because Phoenix play so spontaneously, they trick you into doing the same.
Plus, they can score so quickly, having an 8 or 9 point lead - which is usually so safe in a normal, contrived-posession game, can be erased in the blink of a Steve Nash eye.
As the Mavs have seen in these first 2 games, beating this team may not be easy, but it is perfectly achievable.
First let me clarify, I am a Suns fan. MVP Nash all the way hopefully. But your article makes no sense.
? Dallas should be concerned because ? :
a) they outrebounded PHX by 9
b) they held the MVP to 2 points in a half
c) they got to the line and made their shots for the most part
d) they forced Marion (although solid) to shoot many bad shots of the " running floater" variety
This has the makings of going 7 games easily. I would love a 5 game series so my Suns can get some rest... but there is no way this is going anything shorter than 6, and I could not even presume my team would win.
If i was the Mavs, I wouldnt worry until PHX had 3 wins. Your reasoning is suspect at the very least.
Nash attempted 1 shot in the 2nd half.. and that was w/ 11 secs remaining... yet the suns only lost by 7 pts. He won't be that bad going back to phx, where the suns will finish 3-1, w/ the Suns winning in 6.
D'Antoni knows how to make adjustments too, and the Mavs can't beat the Suns.
Who cares that only three Mavs came to play tonight? THEY WON THE GAME. As Brett R said, don't expect Terry and Stackhouse to have poor games two times in a row. They will show up on Sunday night. Plus, Diop is the X-factor. His long wingspan and energy hinders the Suns from driving the lane and kicking it back. Though I like the way Dampier is playing so far, he is a step too slow. If the Mavs keep the game at their pace, like they did in game 2, the series will be a rather short one.
It's a tight series from the get-go. Why? The Mavs are built to beat the Spurs. They did that. But the Suns are really the opposite kind of team. They are really so unique in today's game, that they are tough. I liken the Suns to a left-handed fighter...They pose match-up problems just because you don't see them enough.....bla bla...
But the Mavs are a better team. They have a deeper bench, better D (which isn't saying much, but the Sun's D is horrible), and more dominant big-name players.
Am I the only one that thought Phoenix Suns' coachM ike DiAntoni did a horrible job in the 4th quarter?
He left Steve Nash on the bench for far too long, kept an ice cold Leandro Barbosa in the game and took Eddie House out, who, by the way, scored 7 points in 14 mintutes compared to Leandro's 8 points in 39 minutes, not to mention House had the same amount or rebounds and commited less fouls (which speeds up Phoenix's game). Also, let's take a look at James Jones. He played 23 minutes (most in the 1st half when Phoenix was in control of the game) and had 6 blocks, yet he sat the entire 4th quarter. As soon as Phoenix started getting out-rebounded on the offensive glass, James Jones should have come back in the game.
As a resident of Phoenix and a long -time Suns fan, I thought Mr. DiAntoni did a terrible job managing the 4th quarter of that game and felt he let one get away from him.
Dallas should be 2-0. All Avery Johnson has to do is look at the blueprint provided by the Master of Zen, Phil Jackson whose less talented almost shocked the Suns. The Suns will have energy in game 3 but will get tired after that. Barring an injury to Dirk "Bird" this series will be over in six games
I know the MVP could provide it all for the Suns to win games. However, I believe that Dallas is a far more superior "team"------ the starters + the bench. Phoenix's starters could slug it out all the way with Dallas' starters, but the latter's deep bench, and i mean really really deep bench, could be the difference. Dallas to reach the finals.
I remember a few years back when the Mavericks played the Suns style of basketball, and the league treated them like a joke. The truth is that the run and gun style gets exposed. So far in two games I haven't seen the Suns do anything on defense when they needed a stop. Game one the Suns were fortunate to get the ball last, and talented enough to make the take advantage, but it would have been more encourging to not allow an open jumper with four seconds left. The Mavs also seem to be able to drive the lane almost at will. In a series where points come easy, stops are at a premium, and amazingly the Mavs have the best chance of getting a stop when it matters.
It was a great game and I really like your analysis, but what I have been struggling to understand is how people continue to overlook the hand the referees have in these games. You see their mistakes (often huge ones) on TV and sometimes hear about them on the radio stations or Mark Cubans rants, but it would really be nice for a national sports writer to devote an entire article to the problem. True, I do see more referee mistakes when they are against my favorite team, but their ineptitude is showing all the time in every game. If a team wins by 20 we can be fairly sure the refs could not have decided the outcome, but 7 game series where the final scores are close are decided by whether the refs do their jobs or not. Why can't refs start out with a base salary and then get money subrtacted depending on their mistakes? That is basically what happens if you take your car to a shop and they don't fix it correctly. It's hard to crown a king when the court is blind.
With the Suns run and gun style and inability to stop the Mavs from driving the lane, points are easy this series. In a series where the points come easy, stops are at a premium. I'm reminded of the old Kings-Mavs series a couple years back, where both teams could get 110 without breaking a sweat. The Mavs were a better offensive and running team, but in the NBA you just flat cannot out run a team. And in the last two minutes, the Kings were close and could stop the Mave when they had to. The Mavs are better suited to get a stop when they need to, where I don't think the Suns have a chance to stop anybody. As good as Nash is at playing near the brink of out of control on offense, he is such a liability on defense, which is why the Mavs would not max him out two years ago. It is similar to to Shaq's inefficiency at the stripe makes it more difficult to play him in crunch time, Nash's inability on D, along with absolutly no shot blocking threat(I know Jones had 5 blocks, but he doesn't stop a team going to the basket the way Mutumbo used to) makes it more difficult for the Suns to get a stop late. I think this will play out as the series goes on and it will be proven again that if you can't play a lick of D, you don't have a future in the Playoffs.
Mavs in 6. The Suns are helpless anytime a team remembers to play D. They were lucky to win game 1, and will win one more game, at most. The Mavs looked exactly like the Suns under Don Nelson -- extremely entertaining, but not fit to win against a quality D team, like the Spurs.
Potentially, Mavs win in 6 games. However, if the Suns are lucky to hit most of their 3 pointers late in the game, they could do the same win in 6 games. Mavs gotta be very aggressive and take at least double digit lead come into 4th quater to secure a win in Pheonix. Mavs also have to play the winning game and not the "not-to-loose" game.
solly, while it's pretty obvious you are a suns fan, you offer no input as to why the suns will win in 6. Don't forget that the MVP Nash only hit 2 points in the 2nd half, on a shot attempt that came late in the game when the Mavs were already up by 7. Even though the Mavs did not play that well until late in the game, they offered a solution to the Suns transition offense, which torched the Mavs in game 1. The Suns show no defense and rely on their offense to pull them. When the Mavs stop that (i.e. hold them under a 100), expect Josh Howard to come up big on offense and continue his record of 22-0 when scoring 20 points.
"Three point shooting teams like Phoenix can make runs, but the basket tends to get smaller for them as the pressure heats up in the later games of the series."
Have you even watched the playoffs this year? I guess you must be referring to the pressure the Suns felt in game 7 vs. the Clippers when they shot 60% and made 45 points off 3s, right? Or were you referring to the pressure the felt in their other game 7, when they shot 61% from the field and 47% from behind the arc?
Yeah, this is definitely a team who struggles later in playoff series.
Mavs got out-rebounded in the first half because they were getting back on transition D. Not a concern, Kelly. They still out-rebounded them by 10 after it was over. Jason Terry will get started soon enough, Mavs have 6 guys that can consistently have a big game. Suns have only 3, so they all have to show up every game. Suns look tired.
Everybody is saying that it was a must win game for the mavericks, it was game 2, it would have been nice to win, but last year they lost the first two in Dallas to Houston and won the series, lost game 1 this year to SA and won the series, Dallas is the better team and will prevail. Dallas knew they did not need to panic or have a great game from everybody, they did what they had to do to win, when it needed to be done. Mavs in 6.
I really don't see the problem. Honestly, I even think it's great! This game shows two things which should concern Phoenix and not Dallas.
First: Any guy with a basketball can have an off night. But seriously: It won't happen to two starters in consecutive games. Both Jerry Stackhouse and Jason Terry had a bad night - which to me says the chances of them having another game like this one in this series are somewhere around the big 0.
Second: The Mavs won with just three starters playing serious ball. Can't you just see them crushing Phoenix when everyone has a good - or even average - night? Okay that won't happen but next game'll be a bit tougher for Phoenix because Dallas knows what's coming. They're gonna be hot.
The Suns are a scary team - and that's reason enough to be worried. At this stage of the playoffs, very good teams remain. But the Mavs are a scary team too. They have great depth...and the ability to win even when a couple of their players are having an "off" night. The rebounding edge for the Mavericks won't be as pronounced for the remainder of the series because they realize now that they need to GET BACK on defense - otherwise Phoenix will "run and gun" on them like they did in Game 1. While Game 2 wasn't perfect, it's the style of play that the Mavs would prefer to see. This series will continue to be close. But the Mavericks have more depth and should win it in six or seven games. But yes, Phoenix is scary. But no more scary than Tim Duncan and the Spurs.
I am sorry everyone seems to forget that the Mavericks should have won the first game. They outplayed and were out coached by the Mavericks. The Mavericks inability to guard the perimeter once Josh Howard got hurt murdered them. Give Steve Nash and Boris Diaw credit for handling the pressure on the road. However, I see the Mavericks stealing one in Phoenix, series tied 2-2, then we win at home in game 5, they win at home in 6, and Mavs go to the finals after game 7. Dirk Nowitzki.... how can people not see that he should have been MVP.
This is the Maverick's year to go to the finals. For the past few years, they have been knocking on the door, only to lose. They've finally gotten past the point of losing, and have the look of a team who's going to win. If the Mavs get some more players going, they shouldn't have much trouble winning. The Mavs will in in six.
Heres the thing. I have watched every Maverick game throughout the playoffs. And honestly, these past two have been the worst that the Mavs have played this entire post season. People seem to think that Dallas has a reason to worry. I say they have a reason to be encouraged. The Mavs played like garbage twice and should have won both games. The Suns count on teams to play poorly to win. They give you open shot after open shot. This series has nothing to do with the Suns. If the Mavs play well, they win the series. If the Mavs play poorly, they lose. The Suns just need them to play bad, they have no say in the outcome.
As a mavericks fan I am concerned about our defensive lapses late in the game, especially coming out of time outs. Two possesions in a row the suns got quick three point attempts from screens. If either of those go in, the psychology of the game changes. Avery and D'antoni are good adjustment makers and I expect to see something different in the next few games.
I am trying to figure out why everyone thinks Dallas is such a good defensive team. This series proves that Dallas defensive is non existence. Although the Mavs won, Phoenix controlled the entire game. Any shot they wanted was there and about 80% of the time they makes those shots. The shots just the open lay ups and jumpers didnt go in. You could see the same thing in the Spurs series. Spurs had alot of open shots that just didnt go down. I did think Dallas was going to beat the Suns, but now I dont think they will. Dallas is not a defensive team and this series will show that.
I seriously think that the Suns should have won the game if not for Nash and Diaw sitting out in the 4th quater. Besides I see the Mavs trying to play Suns style of Basketball which from experience gets you burnt out; just ask the clippers. The only way the Mavs have a chance is to stick to their style of play. Whilst switching back defensively quickly to counter the attacking Suns!!!!
I cant uderstand the excitement of Mav fans for the game 2 win. The Mavs get Howard back, the Suns lose Bell, and the game is not over until the final minute. If Barbosa makes a few more shots it would have been 2-0 Suns. No need to mention what happens when Bell returns or Thomas gets back in. But even without those two the Mavs should have blown out the Suns but instead had to hold their breath until the buzzer. Get real Mav fans. Suns in 6.
Your one through seven points on how the Mavs have to play against the Suns simply describe what is perfect defense - of course obtaining perfection is easy to articulate verbally but much more difficult to actually achieve physically. How about telling us what the most important aspect is to stop knowing that you would be giving up on some of these other aspects!
Get real Kelly. KVH needs to start? He doesn't give Dallas anything at either end of the court. If KVH doesn't foul out of last series game 7, we're watching SA slap the little midgets around. Diop and Dampier rotate at center, period. KVH spells Dirk for maybe 5-10 minutes a game, and that's a big maybe.
When are Avery and the other 50 Mavs coaches going to forget what Svengali Nellie is telling them and realize this is a gimmick team they're playing. Very talented but still a gimmick. Their front line would be undersized for most highschool teams.
Kelly! Please! Turn down the sound and just watch the game. Doug Collins constantly gushing over Mike Dan Tony and The Greatest Basketball Team Ever is starting to get to you.
I was hoping for this match-up back in November. Of course, I thought the Suns would have Stoudemire. I agree with Tim T, the Suns lost this one because D'Antoni had a bad game. Nash sat for too long, Barbosa had an off night. I can't see a game 7; Suns in 6.
I like both teams, and this series has me conflicted. But I have to say that the Suns have shown me some amazing stuff. Nobody, myself included, had them getting past the Clips. No Amare, no Kurt, and now no Raja, 12 games in 25 days ... yet here they are. For all their lack of D, game two was no blowout. Phoenix got three good looks from downtown in the last 40 seconds. The Mavs should be breathing a sigh of relief that their own lack of D in allowing the Suns to get such good open looks didn't result in the series being 0-2. That being said, the manpower shortage bothers me. How long can they run on fumes? Mavs will take the first game in Phoenix and the first back at home, but Phoenix will win the final two.
What is it going to take to realize how false this is? Will the Suns have to beat Detroit, Miami? Even then will anyone say they're the best team or will they say Dallas was the better team still? How about next year when the Suns will be fierce with Amare back having our startling lineup filled with potential allstars. Nash, Marion, Amare, Diaw, Bell and a deep bench without these injuries of Barbosa, Thomas, the other Thomas, Jones, House.
Game 2 would have looked different if instead of Barbosa in the fourth we could have had Bell who is consistent.
I think this series is a lot closer than people are giving credit for and I suspect that each game should be close (not necessarily 1 point, but never a blowout).
Remember that the Suns and Mavericks split their series 2 2 in the regular season.
This Suns team is much better than most people give them credit for. Unfortunately, the Suns will not get any respect until they win the title. The Mavs are the ones who got lucky in game two. The suns were winning for much of the game and only lost because they missed some open jumpers, which they ususally hit, late in the game. There are too many offensive threats on the Suns team. I believe Steve Nash made a decision not to take over in the final minutes in an effort to get his team involved. If Nash always takes the game winning shot at the end of the game, the Mavs only need to guard one person. He is setting up the Mavs to get burned later in the series!
cmon guys. dwyer completely disregarded the fact that josh howard was out for most of game 1 and thats why their defense struggled. is it just a coincidence that he comes back and their defense holds the suns under 100? howard is what makes the team go on defense, especially against a team like the suns, where diaw and howard are going at it on both ends. diaw is pretty much the suns first scoring option, so its important for the mavs to have howard to make him work on defense and to defend him on the other end. i think people are looking too much at game 1. the suns were missing bell and the mavs howard. the mavs have howard back but the suns dont have bell. dont see how you can give this series to the mavs. by the way, dirk is the new larry bird. hes got pretty much the same build as bird had (tall and thick), hes got a very similar game the way he can shoot and take advantage of smaller guys, he plays well with a lot of talent (bird had parish and mchale), and he is intense (second only to garnett). he just hasnt gotten any credit because his teams havent won big yet. just watch for the next 5 years, though. people think itll be about lebron, kobe, wade, and anthony, but itll really be about lebron and dirk in the finals.
The Mavs will win it all this year because they are the most equiped to make adjustments in playoffs where adjusting correctly is extremely crucial. Against Memphis, they played good defense + outstanding offense. Against SA, they sped the game up against a team that suddenly looked so helpless against speed. Against Phoenix, the Mavs showed that they can slow the pace of the game down. Everyone knows they won't beat the Suns if they try to out run them. But that's exactly the point, they WON'T out run them. You can see the Mavs (obviously trying REALLY hard) to not run and gun with the Suns. Sure, Phoenix beat Dallas in game 1. This is the Conference Finals. No real, deserving team is supposed to be swept. Phoenix may be more entertaining to watch than any other team in the league (which is why their fans like them so much), but Dallas has all the right weapons and capabilities to beat them AND either the Heat or Pistons in the Finals. Barring any serious setbacks such as injuries to Dirk/Jet/Howard or totally, ridiculously, horrendous game-altering calls (like Sam I Am's "6 second violation" that robbed LAC's shot at the West Finals) against the Mavs, I see this series ending in a 6 game Mavs victory.
"Uh, the call against Cassell wasn't horrendous. It was just a case of him falling asleep at the wheel, along with the rest of the team. "
If whoever wrote this comment can count, then he/she can obviously see that Cassell's "violation" was non-existent. Clock starts after the ball is inbounded. Watch the replay. Whistle blows after about 6 seconds, not eight.
The shot clock hits 16 after six seconds (and thus the 8-second violation) occurs because Livingston had wasted a few seconds aimlessly dribbling around before the Clippers called timeout. This has been discussed to death already...if the Clippers had really gotten jobbed on that call, don't you think they would have said something about it after the game?
Looks like whoever wrote the above comment wasn't paying attention during the game, or didn't even watch it.
The violation happened because timeout had been called with two seconds having been run off the 8 seconds in the backcourt. In short, Cassell only had six of the eight seconds left, and both he and the rest of the Clippers forgot that.
Never in d nba history produces a champ without a dominant or great center. Suns is a dounut-team (no center), and for sure they will never make it to the championship game. Let d suns prove me wrong & d nba history!
Never in nba history produces a champ without a dominant or great center. Suns is a dounut-team (without a center), and for sute they will never make it to the championship. Let the Suns prove me wrong and the nba history!
Dwyer is a pathetic writer. What he just said in the article, without sound reasoning or logic, was that Phoenix would be up 3-1 by the end of their 2 home-game stretch. Does this kid know what he's even talking about? Dallas is too deep and talented to lose to an one-dimensional team like the Suns. I recommend reading the Peter Vescey article on New York Post about the Suns being in a similar position as the 2001 Sixers in the Finals. By the way, that Sixers team would sweep these Suns.
Two contrasting styles with the finals 2 series that remain before we crown a Champion... underrated offense and TERRIFIC defense displayed in what is fast-becoming one of the better rivalries in sports in the Pistons and Heat. Which sports fan can't get up for that?
And then we have an offensive fan' delight in Dallas and Phoenix, with some underrated defense being played by both teams in certain instances, especially the Mavs.
Does it get better than this? (Rhetorical question).. Everybody wins, especially sports fans WORLDWIDE.. as the NBA is becoming the World's game globally.. as more and more people in other countries are seeing that soccer only means something once every 4 years and the NBA the way it's going now, especially is a far superior product.. hence the Euro, S.American, Asian influx recently to the Association. It's a good time to be a sports fan right now. Gotta Love This Game!