So, exactly how did the late one change so fast last night?
Looking back, all it took was Cuttino Mobley opening his yap.
Midway through the third period (check the play by play for the sequence), Phoenix's comfortable lead was down to seven points and Steve Nash, in the middle of a pretty good, under-control night, was suddenly throwing the ball away with three turnovers in a stretch of 2+ minutes.
It was the seesaw moment, the Clips with the ball in their hands. And they fell off. Spectacularly. A couple of shots went awry against Boris Diaw - a block, a disruption, and how soon is this guy an all-star? How much dumber can the Atlanta Hawks look for losing him? - Mobley gets T'd up and it's off to the races and a 20-point margin. Thanks for showing up, Elton Brand.
The Mavs, fresh off last night's epic conclusion in San Antonio, will be a far tougher order for Phoenix. Every Diop has his day, and the Mavs finally got their's, blowing out to a 20-point lead, giving it all back and then some, then winning in overtime.
Dirk Nowitzki took over in the fourth quarter: 12 of his 37 points, including eight of nine from the FT line. Nowitzki's game-tying, overtime-forcing and-one was a thing of playoff beauty, a player who's been knocking on the pantheon door for a while now and finally just deciding to kick it in by going straight at it, and against the reigning champions, yet.
|Joshing around in overtime.|
Just as much a coming-of-age moment, though, came with the Mavericks' opening three offensive possessions of OT:
First, Nowitzki passes out of the double to Howard for an easy one.
Second, Terry and Diop -- yeah, it's him! the guy once called the worst draft pick in history! -- running screen and roll, Diop finishing with a poster jam.
Third, Stackhouse hits a jumper, Mavs up by four, and all five guys on the floor have done something. Meantime, the Spurs are still trying to figure out Diop at the other end.
In OT, by my count, Duncan was blocked, missed a follow, turned it over, missed twice more against Diop and the help -- he did have one make, but that was it. Never did a career playoff high 41-point, 15 rebound night end in such a nightmare.
Now it's Suns-Mavs out west, while Heat-Pistons start tonight on this side of the grid. If it's all about the best players -- and it usually is -- Dirk Nowitzki is going better than anyone right now, so I give Dallas a big shot to win in a series that may only go five, the Suns and Nash facing a bigger version of themselves, and there won't be any extended rests now. In the east, I'm not nearly as sure, but it should be a long one and I'll go with the Pistons, slightly quicker and carrying an unshakable look, in 7 long game.
As for the sideline battle, I'll take Amare's suits over Cuban's sweatshirts.
Related: Check out Shawn Marion's second half at PopcornMachine's Game Flow.
Clipperblog breaks down that third quarter meltdown, blaming it on Clippers' lack of execution.
Diop's 10 minutes of fame and Nowitzki's fourth quarter explained graphically, again at the PopcornMachine.