Tonight I went to a Clippers-Suns game and a Grizz-Jazz game broke out. 

There are so many memes floating around pre-game studios, daily notes columns and blogs (present company included), that there's a subversive satisfaction when they're turned on their head.

Like -

  • In order for PHX to win the series, they must accelerate the pace of the game.

  • The Suns have to rack up a significant margin from beyond the arc.

  • The Clippers frontcourt will dominate the series - the extent to which will determine their success.

  • Fast break points will favor PHX - the extent to which will determine their success.

Pop Quiz:

  • The final score of the game was 94-91.  Who won?

  • Team A's two post scorers recorded 12 FG in the paint; Team B's scored 11.  Forgetting that the discrepancy of only 1 seems unkosher, which is Team A? 

  • Both teams sunk 7 three-point FGs.  Who won?

  • Team A racked up 7 fast break points to Team B's 3.  Two questions - Who is Team A and, given the combined total of 10, who won the game?

An official timeout was called at 5:19 in the 4th quarter with the Clippers leading 79-76.  Coming out of the timeout, the Suns ran off a 16-7 run.  Tomorrow, we'll dissect the collapse.  Tonight - a couple of observations:

  • When Mike Dunleavy puts a small lineup on the court - particularly in a game whose tempo favors the Clips, he's effectively conforming his game plan to the Suns' style.  The Brand, Cassell, Mobley, Livingston and Maggette lineup concedes that.  But when Dunleavy adjusted at the start of the 4th with size - Kaman, Brand, Vlad, Livingston and Maggette - the Clippers went on a mad run.  Now, you might say, "well...that was a product of Vlad's shooting rampage from beyond the arc."  But most of the uncontested shots were created by PHX's defensive focus in the paint. 
    We can talk about size vs. speed, but those attributes are only valuable if you're able to capitalize on them.  If you can't translate your size into any discernible advantage, then it's useless.  The Clippers succeeded on the defensive end - their length and speed, be it Ross, Maggette, Livingston and good decisions by and large by our bigs - once they realized that Thomas and Marion were going to challenge them in the post.
    But the Clippers were incompetent in using their size, not so much in their failure to obtain position for themselves on the block, but in not forcing Phoenix to work around screens.  Raja Bell is a terrific on-ball defender.  To neutralize him, make him fight through weak-side screens.  If Marion is overly active on the defensive end, try an on-ball screen that'll switch him out to the arc.  The Clippers offense was inert tonight largely because they couldn't get Elton the ball after the second quarter on the left side post.  The Suns were content to leave the Clippers' ball handler in that sequence with an open shot up top.  Sometimes they hit; sometimes the didn't.  D'Antoni took that chance, but at the very least it disrupted EB. 

  • While I don't have a definitive answer why PHX was able to win a game they weren't supposed to win, one of my pre-Tivo theories is this: D'Antoni realized that unless his team made some serious adjustments on the glass, they were going to get killed.  The problem with PHX sending everyone below the foul line, though, is that it neutralizes their break, because instead of getting out in transition, the entire Suns' team is roosting on the weak side glass - exactly where the Clippers set up shot on Wednesday night. 
    D'Antoni took that risk.  Only 3 fast break points -- you okay with that, Mike?

    What do you think?