Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tuesday Night Wrap-Up

What to say, what to say ...

Two teams played game fives on the road tonight, looking to close out a series. Both fell behind by huge totals, came all the way back, and then fell just short. But the Nets still feel like sure winners, while the Warriors-Mavs series is totally up in the air.

Warriors Can't Finish Mavs

The dreaded close out game did in Golden State tonight. It is just so hard to knock a team out of the playoffs and the Warriors found that out the hard way, finally letting their guard down just long enough to let a 112-103 lead slip away. The Warriors didn't guard the three point line hard enough down the stretch and they paid for not having an end of game offense beyond "go, Baron!" Dallas got some huge threes from Dirk, some big stops due to double-teaming Baron, and a big dose of (overlooked) luck when Nowitzki wasn't called for a foul when he hacked Jason Richardson's shooting arm on a three with 21 seconds to go.

Of course, to put it in such simple terms tends to ignore so much. Like the fact that the Mavs started the game 10 of 12, had a 21-point lead at home, and needed a near miracle finish to stave off elimination. Or that Dallas is still hopeless at stopping dribble penetration (a problem dating back to last year's Finals). Or that the Warriors made up a 21-point deficit in about 10 minutes of game time. Or that Golden State made 16 threes and got 19-for-32 shooting from Baron and Richardson ... and still lost. And on and on.

I honestly have no idea what to make of all this. Does Golden State feel more confident now, knowing that no lead is insurmountable and that they are going home? Does this galvanize Dallas? Is the pressure on Golden State to win at home, or do they feel just fine knowing they've still got another opportunity in the Big D? Normally, I would like the Mavs' chances after a win like this, but I honestly have no idea.

The game Thursday should be a pretty amazing event, that is for sure.

A few random thoughts:

- Stephen Jackson killed the Warriors today. G-State had a chance to race right past Dallas midway through the third quarter and he squandered about four possessions in a row. Then, late in the game, he failed to get the ball back to Baron Davis (after the double team dissipated) on the offensive end and lost track of Dirk on the defensive end. Just not a good game, but hey, that is part of being on board the Stephen Jackson Train. Sometimes he hits crazy threes, sometimes he's just crazy.

- I put Dallas' hopes on Devin Harris' shoulders in a previous post and for the most part, he delivered. He still fouls way too much (and most could be avoided if he'd just stop trying to flop his way to charging calls), but he single-handedly prevented the Mavs from losing with his play in the fourth quarter. Can he do it again on the road?

- Jerry Stackhouse just about shot Dallas out of this game. He is good at drawing fouls, but otherwise seems to be a liability. Of course, now that I wrote that, he will probably drop 30 in the next game.

- No doubt some will say that Dirk is back after his big finish, but I'm not so sure. I doubt he will get 15 free throws in Oakland, for starters. But more to the point, I don't think his late threes indicate a trend one way or the other. He may well shoot the lights out on Thursday, but I thought he would go nuts tonight after hitting two threes late in Game Four. But there wasn't really a carryover at all. It seems like Dirk is only making "lone option" shots right now. Meaning: when he lets it fly with a clean conscience, knowing that there is no other option, he's draining. Check out all his shots at the end of the shot clock and late in games when his team is down big. Nothing but the bottom. The rest of the time? Shank city. I've noticed that with a lot of players - especially in college - they shoot much better in these situations, because they aren't overthinking it, or wondering if they are making a bad decision. The only option is to shoot, so they do so with no remorse or second-guessing. I think that may be going on here.

- I remain convinced that Josh Howard can't be stopped by anyone in a Golden State uniform. He was 10-for-16 today and went 23-8-5-3. When he got his fifth foul, I thought that would do the Mavs in, and it almost did. The lesson for Golden State? Attack Howard early and often and try to get him in foul trouble.

- It might be time to sit Monta Ellis down. I love the guy, if for no other reason that in a time of constant whining in the NBA, he never changes his facial expression or otherwise reacts in any way whatsoever. That said, he's not getting it done right now. The Warriors can't afford another slow start on Thursday and might need to think about going with Barnes or Pietrus right out of the gates.

- Good to see the Mavs going with Howard in the mid post and using the high screen and roll (and with Diop even!). They only ran the offense through Dirk for brief (and largely unsuccessful) periods of time and were much better off.

- Last thought: if Golden State wants to win on Thursday, I think they need to be Davis/Richardson heavy on the shot chart. I don't expect those guys to shoot 59% from the field and 53% from three as a duo again, but the Warriors need their 50 points and more. Which means that Baron and J-Rich need to get up 40 shots between them. Less Barnes/Pietrus/Jackson (39 FGA as a trio tonight) and more of the two stars. Baron is the best player on the floor and Richardson might want the W more than any guy on either roster, so if I'm Golden State I ride those two guys to the bitter end.

Raptors Get One More Game

Hard to believe Toronto almost lost that game tonight. New Jersey seemed to be basically conceding Game Five, yet still wound up with a wide open three to win at the buzzer. Not a good sign for the Raptors. Vince Carter has found his game, Kidd is the best player on the floor, Bosh is completely frustrated, and even Richard Jefferson seems reborn. I just can't see Toronto winning on the road to extend this series. Cleveland is happy though, because the thin Nets team and J-Kidd's shaky knee will still be playing round one basketball until at least Friday.


Branden Higa said...

Yeah, yeah, Dirk scored 30 and hit a couple clutch 3s. But in the late 3rd and most of th 4th the Mavs were running the pick and roll with Devin Harris AND AUSTIN CROSHERE!!!. This should have been a Scottie Pippen "I'm not returning to the floor" type moment for Dirk. What an insult.

Matt Barnes had another all out, crazy energy, mad hustle night. This guy is playing way above his head. As much as the Warriors need Baron and JRich to dominate, they need their supporting cast (Barnes and Pietrus) to continue you play better than they should. It would alos be nice if some generous supporter could give Monta Ellis a ride to the game. Mr. Most Improved has been absent from this entire series. Maybe he's just bummed that his stats don't count in his fantasy league anymore.

Branden Higa said...

And one more thing... The NBA either needs to ban the mouth guard or the TV close up shot.

I'm sick of seeing these guys stick that slimy thing outta their greeeeeeel every time the camera zooms in on a playa.

What's even worse, I can't wait to roll down to the park and see every hack there chewing on mouth pieces.