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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. Anonymous - May 28, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    Nice to see the Nash love. But, Nash wasn’t the best player on the court. And his team lost the game. I’ll expect one of these in depth game profiles/love fests for the best player on the court next: Kobe Bryant. Well, I don’t actually expect it – the media love affair with Nash is stronger than The Force.

  2. Whodat - May 28, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    Kobe always gets the praise. Don’t be ridiculous.

  3. R2Three - May 28, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    All we keep hearing about is Steve Nash’s great game. You’d swear the Suns won the game. It’s like one team winning the finals but the finals MVP being given to a player on the other team. He averaged 14 pts. a game in the first 4. Enough with the Steve Nash love already. He and his team lost and now face elmination on Saturday.
    Steve Nash can’t beat the Lakers all by himself AND let’s talk about the great job that Derek Fisher has done on him all series.

  4. SUNSLADY - May 28, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    R2Three get over it. There are other players who are good but there is only one Nash. A class act, willing to be brutally beaten while playing and still going back in after the bleeding is stopped. I like to see any Laker take that kind beating without being the drama queens that they are. I guess since they are from Hollywood, they think they can act. GO SUNS, LIGHT UP THE WORLD!

  5. linux44 - May 28, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    The officials kept Phx in the game. This ending will now only cement the lakers into an even more cohesive unit.Can U say Champions!

  6. Omnius - May 28, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    Geez get over little Stevie Nash, or for that matter the King of Choke LeBoring James. Nash is overrated and overhyped by the clueless sports media pundits who are quick to give perennial losers into big stars. If Nash were truly an MVP like Kobe the Lost Suns would be up 3-2 or already would have won the series. Sorry until Nash wins an NBA championship he’s just another overhyped loser who can’t make the big shots when needed, like Ron Artest. Kobe and the Lakers will close out the Setting Suns in Phoenix Saturday night and Nash will be LeGone Fishing!

  7. You'reanidiot! - May 28, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Are you serious about Fisher? He’s the slowest point guard in the league!

  8. Michael - May 28, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    There is no reason the excellent play of both guys can’t be praised simultaneously. Both guys played agreat game. They would both still have had great games if LA had lost. I’m still worried about the LA defense though, espescially in the 4th quarter. They can’t beat Suns at home with that defense, meanwhile the Suns have shown in game 5 that they can win in LA.

  9. nresq - May 28, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    Absolutely wrong. Give credit where it’s due: Nash is a great player, leader, and, when necessary, scorer (but not best in league Mahoney, Jeez). B2B MVP awards; nuff said. No rings is more a reflection of the teams he’s been on, not his talent. That said, Jackson’s strategy was clearly correct: Slow the game down, limit the possessions, and make Nash a scorer and thereby take the rest of the Suns out of the game. As always with Jackson, he respects history and history showed this was the winning strategy. Mahoney’s point is correct: It was testament to Nash’s talent that the Suns “were right there” with an opportunity to win a game the Lakers should have put away in the 3rd quarter.
    Lakers over Boston in 5.

  10. david saint - May 28, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    lol, are you serious, the refs kept LA in the game!! Cheese and phantom fouls in the second qtr, one right after the other, that kept the 2nd unit for PHX from getting in rythm, while letting the lakers bang, elbow, and knock down anyone in their path at the same time!!
    But ill be the better man and say my team just lost because
    A: PHX missed free throws during the game
    B: No one blocked out on the last play
    If you think this team is going to just fade away saturday lakers fans, you are in for a HUGE surprise…and if this goes 7, just remember now the Suns KNOW they CAN beat LA in LA.

  11. TD - May 28, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    What Mahoney said was that Nash might be the best shooter, not scorer, in the league. A great scorer can get their points in a variety of ways ( size, speed, rebounds, ability to create their own shots) The best (Kobe, Jordan, etc.) have these qualities plus the shooting touch. And Nash still is my favorite player to watch because of his approach to the game.

  12. Jeff - May 28, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    LOVE NASH! He’s such a stud!
    Follow my life at porkchopfactory. com
    Tell your friends!

  13. rj - May 28, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    Attention Lakers fans:
    It is not necessary to put down every non-Laker who receives praise.
    Kobe Bryant is a great basketball player, but it isn’t necessary to compare every great young player to Kobe.
    Oh, and Lebron deserved the MVP. Deal with it.
    Thanks and Regards.

  14. michael - May 28, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    Steve Nash a loser because he doesn’t have a title…..yet? So John Stockton and Karl Malone were losers? Patrick Ewing?
    Like in an earlier post – Just because you admire one player doesn’t mean you’re ignoring another. Nash deserves the praise and the respect, just like Kobe deserves the admiration he gets for his amazing play.

  15. elephantintheroom - May 28, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    Suns will spank the Lakers in game 6, just like games 3&4.
    Kobe’s FG% in 4th qtr this series is 44.4, compared to 1st 3 qtrs @ 55.1. 3 for 9 last nite. 43-45 minutes a game for the last four has him tired in the 4th.
    Laker’s only hope is to play him about 30 minutes in game 6 and save him for 7. Otherwise, the Lakers will go down in game 7 and the Suns will have home court against the Celtics!
    Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/suns/articles/2010/05/28/20100528phoenix-suns-hope-los-angeles-lakers.html#comments#ixzz0pFN6Ovpi

  16. tony - May 28, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    PRAISE THE SUNS, PRAISE NASH, JUST GIVE THE LAKERS THE WIN, THAT’S ALL I CARE ABOUT.

  17. Tony - May 28, 2010 at 2:02 PM

    The Suns now know they can beat Lakers in LA?……..
    Are you serious? and they wish to do that, when, next season? its a 7 game series, not a life time achievements award. sic.

  18. R2three - May 28, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    What series have you been watching? What’s Steve Nash’s average before last nights game? Watch some basketball and then get back to me.

  19. R2three - May 28, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    They showed they can beat the Lakers in game 5 by……loosing game 5 and never really having a significant lead that even threatened the Lakers?
    No, they showed they can come back and make it a game after having their hats handed to them for 3.5 quarters…that’s all.

  20. Anonymous - May 28, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    What game were you watching first half we couldn’t
    get a call to save our lives.

  21. Mark - May 28, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    im a lakers fan. i have a love and hate relationship with Nash the Flash. I like him because he is very good and very classy guy. i hate him because he can burn the lakers.

  22. Aznative1234 - May 28, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    Wow, look at all the Lamer fans coming out of the sewer I didn’t see any posts at all prior to yesterdays game.Barely win by a lucky shot and the sewer spews it’s roaches out to play.We’ll see what happens don’t plan for Boston just yet Lamers.

  23. Anonymous - May 28, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    I need to watch basketball?! He’s averaging 16 points & 12 assists per game in this series. Who guarded Nash on Phoenix’s last possession? Was it Fisher? Just tell Derek to quit flopping every time he gets screened, or even runs into somebody. I think I saw him flop after running into a ref last night. Sad thing is, he almost got the call.

  24. ouch! - May 28, 2010 at 3:32 PM

    come on. Bryant should be in jail doing what normal people would be doing: 7 to 10 for rape. but hes a LA Laker! oh yeah! steve Nash is a stand up guy and has showed the Lakers can be beat. so all you Kobe fans, wheres the brooms dude? no sweep here. Lakers are just another fair team. by the way, ever really listen to the words to “i love LA”. kinda weird don’t ya think?

  25. Anonymous - May 28, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    Who guarded Nash on Phoenix’s last possession? Was it Fisher? B/c if he’s been stopping Nash all series, then surely Jackson would stick D Flop on Nash for their most important possession of the night, right?

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