Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Redemption or Replication?

When I was thinking about beating the Spurs, the next team I was thinking about was the Heat or Pistons. I guess I figured that after winning in the second round, the Western Conference Finals would be a sinch. Well, I figured wrong.

I watched the entire Lakers/Suns series, but I rarely watched the Clips/Suns series. I saw parts of Games 6 and 7. And I'll tell you, the Suns worry me. When they get hot, they are scorching. Not even the old Mavs could get open from 3 and nail them like the Suns of today do. It is borderline unfair, but the good thing is that it can be mitigated. And there is one guy on our team who can secure a sweep. Brace yourself. This one may shock you. The one Maverick who can finish the Suns off is...

Erick Dampier

And as I type these words, lightning strikes me. Feel free to close this window if you don't agree, but for fun, how about you listen to my absolutely non-sensical prediction.

The Suns have no inside presence. If Damp plays effective offense, then the Suns must put their player who plays the biggest (Marion) on Dampier or trot out Brian Grant. You're kidding yourself if you think Kurt Thomas is halfway effective at anything in this series or even the rest of his injury-riddled career (No, I'm not bitter about "I give the Mavs my word that I will sign with them in the offseason" saga). Anyway, back to my original point. If Marion guards Damp, that leaves Tim Thomas or Diaw to guard Dirk or Josh Howard. You gotta feel confident with that and with Nash guarding either Terry or Harris. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see Griffin replace Harris to get some perimeter defense out on the floor. If the Suns trot Brian Grant out there to guard and effective Dampier, then their offense is slowed greatly. The Mavs could guard the three point line easily if only four guys can shoot the 3 instead of five. For argument's sake, let's stick Kurt Thomas out there to guard Damp. The Suns offense is still slowed down, but not as much as it would if 68 year-old Brian Grant were out there. So here's to Kurt Thomas' foot, may it haunt you for the rest of your days. You bastard.

So that's why we need Damp. If he doesn't show up (which is a possibility), then we are going to need a couple of guys who have contributed in the past to give us some good stuff. I'm throwing these players out there assuming that Dirk, Howard, and Terry provide their usual.

DEVIN HARRIS

This is going to be a particularly hard series for him because his greatest asset is the one that Avery cannot let him use. Speed. Devin may be faster than everyone on the Suns, but the Mavs must set a slower pace. The Mavs need Harris to be an effective distributor and driver to the basket, not the speed demon that the Spurs series dictated.

KEITH VAN HORN

Or as I like to call him. KVH. KVH is one of the best spot up shooters in the league. That's something I would consider a backhanded compliment because by saying spot up shooter, I'm saying that KVH cannot shoot at all if his feet aren't set. That's worthy of 17 million dollars. If he camps out at the top of the 3 point line and waits for a drive and kick or even some good perimeter ball movement, KVH will shoot 70% from 3 point range. And to beat the Suns, you have to have some three point shooting. Long Live KVH.

STACK

It seems like he's always on this list. Well, he should be. He's the Mavs toughest player. The Mavs obviously need his offense, but his willingness to stand up and throw an elbow could really hurt the Suns. This is the same Jerry Stackhouse who a few weeks ago against the Suns was ready to throw down with Tim Thomas. Yes, Tim Thomas who has been working out with Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro. If a game starts getting out of hand, look for Stack to throw a hard foul. If a game gets chippy, look for Stack to sock Tim Thomas in the face. If a game is close, look for Stack to drive the lane and dunk over whoever is trying to play center and stare him down with that Stack "I just owned you and now I'm going to have sex with your significant other even if it's Boris Diaw's boyfriend" look.


Is that all there is to a Conference Finals series? Just Damp, Devin, KVH, and Stack? No way. We haven't even seen the Mavs greatest strength in the series.

COACHING

Avery Johnson, in my unbiased opinion, is a top 3 coach in the league. You can put him, Phil Jackson, and Popovich is any order as the top 3, and I'd agree. Despite two straight trips to the Conference Finals, I wouldn't put Mike D'Antoni in the top half of coaches. I will never doubt his offensive prowess, but that's all he has. He cannot draw up a defensive play in overtime, he's always complaining, and he's European. Most people forget that D'Antoni coached the Nuggets during some of their more abyssmal seasons.

Look for the Mavs to win any close game off of coaching alone. I'm guessing two.

You have to figure that the center position will win one game.

Dirk's going to catch fire one game and win it.

KVH and Terry will let it rain one night to win a game.

And Stack will get the Mavs fired up in a game.

The Suns will win a game based on hot shooting alone. I'm talking 60%.


While my prediction may be obvious by now, here is one thing to chew on. The Mavs are the best rebounding team in the playoffs, and the Suns are the worst. That will be a problem for the Suns.

Mavs in 5 (If Damp shows up, Mavs in 4)

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