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NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 5: Phoenix may have lost, but Steve Nash was absolutely bananas

May 28, 2010, 2:33 AM EDT

nash_game6.pngThe Suns were right there. They were within striking distance, with plenty left in the tank, and thanks to a miracle three by Jason Richardson, had a real shot at forcing overtime and taking the decisive Game 5. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Ron Artest’s put-back crushed those hopes with a few bounces on the rim, but that doesn’t change where the Suns were and how they got there.

Or rather, who got them there. Steve Nash was absolutely magnificent in the fourth quarter, and he had a performance worthy of his MVP standing. Nash was responsible for 11 straight points prior to Richardson’s three-pointer, all products of his own creative efforts. These weren’t catch-and-shoot looks, but contested drives to the basket and pull-up opportunities that found nothing but net. Nash is just that good of a scorer when he wants to be, or in this case, when Phil Jackson wanted him to be.

Nash clearly didn’t shrink from the spotlight, and it was Steve’s efforts that put the Suns in a position to win Game 5. That said, the Laker defense switched on screens to better cover Amar’e Stoudemire on the roll, and stayed home on the Suns’ three-point shooters to avoid getting burned by the long-range game.

“They changed their defense tonight,” Nash said. “They switched more pick-and-rolls,
so [there were] more opportunities to isolate. So that’s really, again, we stick to
what we do and just try to read the defense and make the right play.
And tonight, since they changed, I tried to change.”

It worked…to an extent, as Stoudemire only had 19 points on 12 shots and the Suns were a merely average 33.3% (9-of-27) from three-point range. Nash, meanwhile, put up 20 field goal attempts, which was by far the high among the Suns and understandably so considering the game had relatively few possessions (90). 

Had Ron Artest not leaped out of the shadows to grab the game-winning bucket, the Lakers’ defensive strategy on Nash would undoubtedly be considered part of their downfall. Steve was that good down the stretch.

There are a lot of distributors in this league that opposing coaches should seek to “make into a scorer,” as a means of halting ball and player movement. Nash doesn’t seem like he’d be such a player; Steve is one of the best shooters in the league (if not the very best), and he scores so efficiently that he can carry an offense if need be.

The only trouble is that history is Phil Jackson’s ally in this case. Nash’s game seems like it would be triumph over such a strategy (and in Game 5 it was, as Nash finished with 29 points on 60% shooting while still getting his 11 assists), but in playoff games where Steve has taken 20 or more attempts (including this one), the Suns are 3-8. Take away overtime games, and the Suns are 2-6 in such games. Stats like that aren’t necessarily fair after a game like this one, but it’s an interesting trend if nothing else.

Don’t misunderstand my meaning; this game’s result is not justification for the method. Nash very nearly won the game for the Suns, and with a few more free throw makes (Phoenix shot an unseemly 20-of-29 from the line), defensive stops, or rebounds, he probably would have. This one just went the other way, despite an awfully strong performance from one of the best point guards in the game.

  1. AmitK84 - May 28, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    Nash probably would have had a harder time playing as well as he did..despite him being a phenomenal player and a pure shooter…if his bench’s superior play compared to that of the Lakers hadn’t granted him the luxury of playing only 5-6 minutes in the last quarter..all due credit to the Phoenix bench…

  2. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 28, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    I would say the same thing with your fellow muchachos — who sprouted out of a gremlin’s body after getting wet — the moment the Suns won Game 4.
    Lamers? Hardly. With 15 rings as opposed to what? Two Finals appearance? LMAO! Talk about attempts in futility.
    Nash has my respect. Gutsy. Tough. Never-say-die attitude. Team player. You don’t need to be a Suns fans not to appreciate that.

  3. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 28, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    Mea culpa for my double negatives: You don’t need to be a Suns fan to be able to appreciate a tough, hard-working team player like Nash. Props to him. I should thanks him for giving our Lakers a real tough series. Just sad that he will end up chewing Lakers dust and watching the NBA at home in June.

  4. Meg - May 30, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    Amazing game. The best game ever. I just wonder the photographer that was accidentaly hurted is all right.

  5. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    To all the Suns fans who trashed talk the Lakers: So what now, muchachos? Los gatos bit your tongue? Lamers what? Fakers who?
    Next time, check your dictionaries. You need to re-learn your vocabulary.

  6. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 30, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    To all the Suns fans who trashed talk the Lakers: So what now, muchachos? Los gatos bit your tongue? Lamers what? Fakers who?
    Next time, check your dictionaries. You need to re-learn your vocabulary.

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