We're at 4:18 in the 3rd quarter and Steve Kerr just mentioned it a couple minutes ago - you can see Josh Howard missing from this game.
What does he mean exactly?
Dallas is a colossal mess on their weak side help and rotations. On the possession I'm watching with PHX up 71-70, Nash brings the ball up center guarded by Terry. James comes up from the left wing and sets up on the left elbow guarded by Stack. Nash dribbles away - toward a high screen from TT that leaves a Terry-KVH trap on Nash. Thomas rolls out to the top of the center and is monitored there by Stack, who has moved off James in the lane. James receives the ball from Nash in the lane where he's doubled by Dirk and Griffin...and as if that's not enough overkill on James friggin' Jones, Stack steps in the lane, too - leaving TT wide open at the top of the arc. The sad part for Dallas is that even with all that coverage on Jones, they don't bother plugging the passing lane between him and Thomas. Thomas sinks the three - and if he didn't have it, Marion shifted left corner and was wide open there, too. PHX 74-Mavs 70.
At this point, Dallas is a -10 since Howard left the floor - in under six minutes.
When you have five knuckleheads trying to manage team defense, I don't care how potent your offense is, you're going to put up a minus on the board. The truth is that Stack and Griffin aren't bad man-on-man/post defenders. But PHX doesn't allow you to defend that way; they force you into a cerebral brand of team defense. And if you don't have a Josh Howard or Bowen or Tayshaun or Battier on the floor, you're going to get shredded.
The good news for Dallas is that Howard comes back and you know the rest: they extend a 4 point lead to 24, primarily because PHX doesn't hit a field goal after 7:30 (save an contested Diaw three with :10 left) and because we haven't seen a German this angry since the Treaty of Versailles.
What does Howard do? Not only does he defend the ball, but once PHX rolls and/or drags, Howard bounces out weak side; he anticipates "the action" -- as Hubie says -- better than any player on the floor. Shit, on a broken play, he anticipates the offensive action better than PHX's offensive personnel.
Saturday, watch Dallas defensively with Howard on the floor...then without Howard. It's Bond with Connery v. Bond with Moore.
Right now, the Clips have one legitimate guy who fits that mold - Quinton Ross -- and two others who qualify to a lesser, more limited degree in Livingston and Mobley. Livingston will get better as he mature and Mobley will get worse as he ages. Singleton has potential but still lacks the experience to proficiently read pro defenses. Elton lacks the court vision, Cassell the mobility, Maggette and Vlad the instincts and Kaman the unkamaness.
Yes, more Q propaganda from Clipperblog. The farther the playoffs progress, the more you see games turn on defensive possessions - even in allegedly offensively-minded series.