Thursday, May 18, 2006

Game 6 - Clippers 118, Suns 106

This game serves to re-inforce the impression that the Clippers are simply the better team, and yet it also shows that the Suns can certainly win this series.

For the third game out of six, the Suns did not have a lead after half time. They did a little better than games 2 and 4, where they did not lead after the end of the first quarter. This time they held the lead at 34-33, 2:30 into the second quarter.

However, look no further than the stretch where the Suns took that final lead to understand why they may well win this series. In a game where the Clippers bigs shot a combined 38-52 (73%), they lost an 8 point lead in the last 2 minutes of the first quarter on an 11-2 run by Barbosa, with a little help from Vlade Radmanovic. On 2 possessions one minute apart, Barbosa forced the switch on the high pick-and-roll (Vlade now on Barbosa, QRoss on Thomas.) On the subsequent Thomas post-up, Vlade went to double-team, not wanting anything to do with Barbosa out top, and each time Barbosa drained the three on the kick out. And the question really is, why? Why would you double down off of Barbosa, and leave a 44% 3 point shooter alone behind the arc? I will take may chances with QRoss on Tim Thomas any day. Since when are we afraid of Tim Thomas' post up game against ANYBODY, let alone Ross? Just for good measure, Vlade fouled Barbosa on a fast break with less than a second in the half for a conventional 3 point play. 11 points in 4 possessions, a 9 point swing, and the Clippers only had 2 empty trips. If you make mistakes against this team, they will kill you.

The Clippers started the 3rd Quarter with a 12 point lead. In the quarter, they shot 67%. And they lost 5 points off their lead. Actually, they had built the lead to 16 with less than 2 minutes to go in the quarter, and the Suns closed the quarter on an 11-2 run (spooky!) 3 straight 3's around 2 of the 8 (!) Clipper turnovers in the quarter, and it's a ball game going into 4th quarter.

It is a testament to the total domination of the Clippers outside of these two bad quarter-ending stretches that the Suns were not really able to make it a game. Take away those 3 plus minutes of play, where LA was outscored 22-4, and LA wins by 30, which is really more how this game felt. But that's the problem. It feels like the Clippers win by 30 when they win by 12, and it feels like they win by 10 when they lose in double OT.

So now we go back to the desert, where the high today was 103, and game 7 should be quite heated as well. Steve Nash gets 3 days off to rest his legs, and I get 3 days off to pull what's left of my hair out waiting. Why is there no NBA playoff game AT ALL on Saturday? Why? Does that make sense?

The Suns were flat today. It's been stated before, and it sounds cliche but it's true: the Suns need to give maximum effort to be able to rebound with the Clippers. They won't be flat for a game 7 - no way. I have confidence that the Clippers can dominate inside as they have the entire series. But with the Suns playing with energy, hitting the glass and probably making shots, LA can't afford the lapses that fuel 11-2 runs, 8 turnover quarters or 19 turnover games for that matter. They have to play well for 12 minutes each quarter, because it won't be good enough to play well for 10.

Go Clippers! See you Monday.