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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.
2:22 AM ET, 5/23/06

Suns' offense lulls Clippers to sleep

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
I don't know how anyone can fault Los Angeles' poor defensive effort in Game 7, not because the Suns are such talented scorers, but mainly because you can't blame the Clippers for falling prey to Phoenix's siren song. Phoenix tempts you into matching them. The Suns want you to play just as they do, and because nobody can touch the Suns' offensive efficiency (a ridiculous 138.9 points per hundred possessions tonight), nobody stands a chance.

Defenders can keep up for a while -- getting out on shooters, zoning up to deny fast-break points, controlling the boards, denying penetration. But after a while, in the face of an unrelenting Suns assault, your mind tends to wander toward easier things, like letting the Suns score, and trying to outscore them on the other end. Then you stop defending. You lose focus. You try to block jump shots. You give half-hearted double-teams. You bring that improvisational instinct, the one that allowed you to glide to a layup on the other end, to the defensive end -- and it results in a wide-open three for the same guy who let you have a layup just a few seconds before. It really isn't fair, and not everyone's cut out to stand up to this team. The team that beat Phoenix last year is already out, and though Dallas has improved mightily on the defensive end since its loss to the Suns last season, it still has a lot to prove.

It was a fantastic run for Los Angeles. The Clippers should be proud of their accomplishments this season; they should battle the Suns for the Pacific Division title for the next few years, while Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston should grow into a pairing for the ages. Brand was transcendent in the seven-game loss, averaging 31 points on 59 percent shooting, with about 10 boards, three blocks, and four assists. It was his first postseason, if you can grok, and as I mentioned before, he was seen offering swift and continual kicks to the nether-regions of the types who swiftly and continually offered that he couldn't ply his impressive statistical trade on a winning team. Outside of Tim Duncan, he's the second-best low post scorer in the game. Tyson Chandler is 403rd.

And yet, the Clippers have to be careful. Surprisingly, Sam Cassell has gone on record to ask for a two-year contract with the club, and that's about all they should give him. He won a lot of games for the Clippers this year, and while he may be the most underrated player of his generation, he won't be winning many playoff games for the Clippers in May of 2007. It's painful to write, but even with his savvy, he can't do it forever. Corey Maggette? It's called a re-entry pass. Once Elton Brand passes out of the double-team, you're allowed to pass it back in. We know you've only been playing with the cat since you were 18, but it's something to work on over the summer. Vlade Radmanovic? Be careful with him. He's a free agent, the (supposedly) untapped potential is tantalizing, but he's an average player. He'll get hot from the outside once every few games but he'll never get hot on defense, or on the boards, or on the dance floor. Anything over the mid-level exemption for him is a stretch.

And Cuttino Mobley? Plays smart, plays hard, but see if you can dump him with Maggette over the summer. A fine defender who probably wasn't used in the post enough during the playoffs, all he could offer was around 13 points a game in 40 minutes. For someone who is on the court for that long, you need more production. Elgin Baylor, you don't want to be paying this guy close to $10 million (as you're on the books for) in 2009-10. That's a long, long way away. Sam Cassell should be commissioner by then.

Phoenix? You know you're hot stuff. Sly and lovely, nearly winning the rebounding battle tonight, shooting 27 treys and making 15 (56 percent) of them. We saw that. Shooting 60 percent overall, tempting the eighth-best defensive team in the NBA into giving up what they're best at and trying to run. We know you'll try it with Dallas, and while you may not bait them into another six-game loss, we know you'll make things entertaining. Thanks for that, and see you on Wednesday ...

Comments:

I just wanted to say I greatly enjoyed this summary, and many others written by Mr. Dwyer this postseason. As much as the games have been entertaining to follow, the writing by SI has been just as compelling. Cheers to the efforts in making post-game analysis more than just a box score and a generic prediction.
Posted: 9:17 AM   by Case
Can someone please explain to me why the Suns and Clippers can play game 6 Thursday night and then wait until Monday to play game 7.

While Detroit and Cleveland can play game six Friday night and then go at it again
Sunday afternoon???

If LeBron got twice as much rest between
games 6 and 7 could he have willed the Cavs to victory or at least kept it close?

Will some one please call defensive 3 seconds on Steve Nash.
Posted: 11:29 AM   by Anonymous
Suns vs. Pistons for the finals.
Posted: 7:40 PM   by Anonymous
Dwyer good points - I concur about Mobley. Where was the scoring? and Radmanovic. What a horrendous showing in a game 7. I really felt for Mr. Brand (far more than King James) who was valiant in defeat with little support. What a series.

I'd also like to offer this preemptive strike to you scribes as the finals loom. Please refrain from using the ultra annoying phrase "this is not the sexiest finals matchup but..." I don't know when this started but I blame ESPN. Think Sean Salisbury. Sporting events are not sexy - besides NCAA women's volleyball - they should not be described as having any sex appeal. You can call them interesting or lackluster - just please keep sex and sports separate. Thanks.
Posted: 7:58 PM   by Anonymous
Game 7 was pushed back to Monday because of other events already scheduled in the arena for Saturday and Sunday.
Posted: 11:59 PM   by smo
Mavs-Heat Finals. Just like Lamar Odom outplayed Marion so will Nowitzki. He will make him work so hard on D that will affect his offensive output and Jason Terry will more than hold his own with Steve Nash. Mavs in 6. Heat have a healthy Shaq and a veteran supporting cast which will take them over the top against the Pistons. Heat in 6. Heat in 7 over Mavs in the Finals.
Posted: 1:16 AM   by Anonymous
your point about Dirk dominating Marion leading to a Mavericks victory is a weak one. You use Lamar Odom as an example, where is he right now? Oh, that's right, Gone Fishin'. Marion's been dominated before in the postseason as far as his scoring totals go, but he is still valuable by his defensive energy (deflections, steals, etc.) With that said, he has had 4 consecutive 30 point games against much larger defenders than himself.
Posted: 11:34 AM   by michael
Chuck Barkley's commentary on TNT is mostly just Charles enjoying the sound of his own voice (how many rings you got, Chuck?), but he is right about one thing:

Small-ball gets you to the conference finals and no farther.

Until the Suns actually win a title with small-ball, they will continue to not get enough respect.
Posted: 3:16 PM   by Anonymous
Keep not respecting the Suns. Do you think we care? lol. Keep dis'ing them and watch them keep winning. You whiners cried about how much Kobe deserved the MVP over Nash. Where is Kobe now? lol. Then the same whiners cried on how much better the Clippers were than the Suns. Where are they now? lol. Now the whiners were saying the Mavs would clobber the Suns. lol. You whiners never learn do you.
Posted: 3:17 PM   by BBALLGURU
Keep not respecting the Suns. Do you think we care? lol. Keep dis'ing them and watch them keep winning. You whiners cried about how much Kobe deserved the MVP over Nash. Where is Kobe now? lol. Then the same whiners cried on how much better the Clippers were than the Suns. Where are they now? lol. Now the whiners were saying the Mavs would clobber the Suns. lol. You whiners never learn do you.
Posted: 3:17 PM   by BBALLGURU
I would say "case" is the biggest whiner. lol
Posted: 5:15 PM   by Anonymous
what im trying to figure out is why lebron is getting all the love for posting 30 and 8 in his first postseason when brand put up more points, 31, more boards, 10, and added 3 blocks and 4 assists... ridiculous numbers. plus the fact that he doesnt have the ball in his hands the whole possession like lebron does.
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