Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst Steve Kerr makes his points on the postseason in his playoff notebook.
Indiana 79, Detroit 74
Rick Carlisle got emotional after the Indiana Pacers' Game 3 victory over the Detroit Pistons. A reporter asked him to comment on Larry Brown's complaint that Reggie Miller got away with an offensive foul on a shot late in the game that sealed Indiana's victory. "Come on, are you kidding me? We're going to talk about that? After all we've been through this season?" Carlisle rhetorically asked. It looked to me like he was trembling as he spoke.
Carlisle has every right to be emotional about his Pacers. They have defied the odds all season, and they continued in taking a 2-1 series lead.
In another ugly contest, Indiana shut down the Pistons in the first half and withstood a furious rally in the fourth quarter to hang on. Detroit now has lost two straight playoff games and for the first time in the postseason the Pistons are looking shaky.
Brown used just seven players – an indication of what little confidence he has in his bench, and with Richard Hamilton bothered by a sore calf, the Pistons struggled to score. They managed just 45 points through three quarters before Chauncey Billups caught fire in the fourth.
The Pacers' good half-court defense kept Detroit out of the paint and Rasheed Wallace settled for long jumpers for much of the night. With Jeff Foster and Dale Davis once again controlling the lane for Indiana, the Pistons couldn't score enough points to win.
Last season, Detroit would go through similar scoring droughts, but a deep, quick bench would come in and cause havoc, creating steals that would be converted into points. But this year's Pistons lack depth, and as a result the starters can't extend their defense and play with abandon. When Detroit gets bogged down in a game like Friday's – where there is no offensive flow – the world champions look very average.
For the Pistons to win Game 4, Wallace has to play better. He has already guaranteed victory, but for that to happen, he must plant himself on the block and use his 6-foot-11 frame to score in the paint. That will put pressure on the Pacers' defense, and it will help Detroit develop the inside-out game Brown wants.
The Pistons also have to do a better job on Jamaal Tinsley, who penetrated and threatened the Detroit defense with relative ease and now has just two turnovers the past two games after committing six in Game 1. The Pistons would like to pressure Tinsley and force some mistakes, but he is very crafty with the ball and keeps the tempo where Indiana likes it.
The pressure now is on the Pistons. We'll see how they handle it. But with little depth and a Pacers team that is gaining confidence, Detroit is looking mortal. Indiana, meanwhile, is not about to be fazed by the pressure. After all, the Pacers have been through a lot this season, as Carlisle pointed out in his press conference.
In a stunning display that included 27 points, 17 assists and a left-handed sky hook late in the game to seal the deal, Nash led the Phoenix Suns to a gutsy victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday to put his team up 2-1 in the series.
Nash had plenty of help from Amare Stoudemire, who might have an MVP in his future too. Stoudemire (37 points, 14 rebounds) dominated the lane with one vicious dunk after another, as a host of Mavericks defenders tried in vain to stop him.
Nash and Stoudemire hooked up on a number of pick-and-roll plays, with Stoudemire showing his tremendous hands and stunning leaping ability time and again. When the Mavericks clogged the lane to try to give help defensively on Stoudemire, Nash found his shooters – the Suns made 11 of 22 three-pointers.
Phoenix overcame the loss of Joe Johnson by getting great play from Jim Jackson (17 points), who had two huge tip-ins and a three-pointer in Phoenix's game-clinching run. With Jackson in the starting lineup, the Suns had almost no bench help and their reserves were outscored 37-5 by Dallas' subs. But Phoenix's starters played big minutes and came up huge.
With the Mavericks having great success inside, Avery Johnson implored his team to attack the paint. Dallas penetrated and got into the lane with great regularity but missed on plenty of good looks, partly because of Phoenix's length and athleticism. The Suns make up for their lack of defensive soundness with speed, and they acted quickly again Friday with nine blocked shots. They also were helped by the Mavs' 1-for-18 night on three-pointers. Dallas couldn't get much going from the perimeter, particularly Dirk Nowitzki, who shot just 8-for-24.
In Game 4 on Sunday, Dallas must continue to attack the rim and get in the paint. This will put pressure on the Suns and possibly get them in foul trouble. It will also help the Mavericks control the tempo, assuming they shoot better than the 39 percent they shot in Game 3. Dallas grabbed 24 offensive rebounds in Game 3, and if it does a better job of converting them into baskets, it will have a great chance of winning.
Of course, the Mavericks still have to contain Nash, who goes seemingly wherever he wants. The Suns are difficult to scout, because they run very few plays. Nash simply improvises, probing and then finding an open teammate when the defensive help comes; when there's no double team, he just scores himself.
Brace yourselves for a long series. If you're a basketball fan, that's good news. This series is wildly entertaining.