Fri Apr 30 11:05am EDT
San Antonio 97, Dallas 87; San Antonio wins series, 4-2
I guess the best thing I can say about this series is that, until the final moments of Game 6, I had forgotten that this was a 2/7 matchup.
It was a great series. The Mavericks have some holes that we'll get into later today, but this was a third-round pairing that we got to see in April, and though things ended one game before what we'd hoped, it was still a series to remember.
Especially this game. I don't recall having as much fun as I did with a game this season as I did in the third period of this one. For the Mavericks to make it all the way back from a 22-point deficit (they scored just 16 points in the game's first 18 minutes) to take a one-point lead, and then have Manu Ginobili promptly knock that lead off the books with a 3-pointer just 21 seconds later? It was a fantastic back and forth.
The Spurs work, man. They execute incredibly well offensively, and they funnel people in the right direction defensively, enough to make up for the individual defensive decline of Tim Duncan. The thing is, Duncan still ends up making a litany of fantastic defensive plays over the course of a game, but things are different. These are floor-bound plays. Great covers, not blocks or moves that would force a team to re-think its entire game plan.
He wasn't alone. San Antonio's guards were on it, and Antonio McDyess did a fantastic job on Dirk Nowitzki down the stretch. Dirk wants some of those shots back, they were quite makeable, but McDyess stayed on the floor and forced Nowitzki into fadeaways that just didn't have enough on them down the stretch. It's a credit to Nowitzki that he still, probably, should have made those shots, tough as they were. He's done it before.
And George Hill? He was something Dallas couldn't counter. This is a seven-game series with Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu acting as expected. But for Hill to come through with 21 points on 12 shots, nailing jumper after jumper after every other Spurs option was exhausted? He was it, the guy that put San Antonio over the top. It was great to watch.
The whole series was. The rosters have turned over quite a bit, and the Spurs are clearly the better team, but these two are look-alikes. With the notable exceptions. Parker roared back from his layoff (10 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, zero turnovers), Jason Kidd did not. McDyess hit jumper after jumper down the stretch as Nowitzki roamed, Erick Dampier missed all eight of his postseason field goals. Jason Terry just didn't have it in Game 6, George Hill did.
Dirk had it. A few more made shots late in Game 4, or this one, and the Mavs take the series; but Dallas is only in this series because he was so brilliant save for those short stretches. Twenty-seven and eight, 55 percent shooting for Nowitzki in the postseason, but because he's playing the Spurs, his run literally came down to two shots toward the end of Game 4, and two short jumpers from Thursday night. Those things fall, Dallas takes the series. Basketball like this is that close. I'll miss basketball like this.
The Spurs are on it. They are no joke.
Phoenix 99, Portland 90; Phoenix wins series, 4-2
Steve Nash is hurting. That's the thing to worry us junkie-types, and it's a legit concern for the Suns.
But the Suns also just won a Game 6 on the road with Nash hurting, and with the former MVP not really acting as a factor until the second half of the fourth quarter. Before that, his teammates had to push Portland around on their own, something they seemed quite capable of in this series.
We'll have more on Portland in a couple of days, but it is worth pointing out that I have unending respect for this team. The Trail Blazers overcame so much in 2009-10, the list is long and you know it by heart at this point, but for them to get this far is borderline astonishing. Nate McMillan had his bumps and bruises, but he also won games for this team. I don't know where Portland goes from here, injuries are tricky things. But I do know that I respect these players and that coaching staff.
Respect the Phoenix D, NBA. LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller and Brandon Roy combined to shoot 11-43 in Game 6 (25.5 percent), and it's not like a slump was in effect. The Suns just got after it.
Grant Hill was the go-to man, defensively, but Amar'e Stoudemire was moving his feet, Jarron Collins was a factor -- a good factor -- and Channing Frye helped. Jason Richardson hung around and found guys in transition, and the Suns held a very good offensive team to just 101.1 points per 100 possessions on their home floor.
Others contributed, but it was Jason Richardson's 28 that pushed Phoenix over the top. He averaged 23.5 points and seven boards on the series, and in a sentence I can't believe I'm typing, those stats are even more impressive when you factor in the slow pace this series was played at. Phoenix and Richardson scored on quite a few fast breaks, but there were fewer chances to put up stats in this series than most teams -- and Phoenix, no less -- are used to.
The Suns look creaky enough to go out in five in the next series, and serious enough to take this all the way to the Finals. I mean that.
They play the Spurs on Monday, and it's a great time to be a fan. Ho-ly cow.