Following the NCAA tournament, my next favorite time of year immediately follows, the NBA playoffs. With only a week or so left in the regular season, the NBA playoffs are starting to take shape. The one game on the schedule tonight that really had the feel of a playoff game was the Mavs against the Suns in Phoenix.

I was ready to write off the Mavs after Dirk went down with that horrific looking knee injury last month, but Dirk showed a lot of grit to come back and play injured, beating the Warriors, a close loss to the Lakers and a real gutsy effort to beat the Suns today.

One of the great coaching adjustments that Coach Avery Johnson did today was to have Dirk run the PNR up top. It works better than J Kidd because Kidd isn't really a threat to score so you can play him soft. With Dirk running the PNR up top, the defense must respect his ability to shoot and put it on the floor, thus creating a bunch of problems. Here are a couple of sequences from that terrific comeback of the second half,

The PNR works especially well when the player running it up top is a versatile scorer. When the Suns tried to play it straight up, Dirk just took it hard to the rim (and I agree w/ Van Gundy that Shaq fouls Dirk here),

When the Suns decided to double Dirk off the PNR, Dirk finds a rolling Dampier. The Suns rotation comes late allowing Dampier to lay it in,


It would be great to see the Mavs get in and do well in the playoffs. Unfortunately, with a gimpy ankle, I just don't think Dirk can last 4 full rounds, especially in the loaded western conference. As for the Suns, I think they'll be fine. One thing that Mike D'Antoni should keep a note of is that Shaq has proven himself a liability in 4th quarters. There is no point to play Shaq late in close games because of his inability to shoot free-throws and because he gets tired. I'm surprised that Shaq was in the game so deep into the 4th quarter.

It was great to watch/listen to Jeff Van Gundy today doing the color commentary. He does such a great job on the broadcast, but I know that as a coach, he's just itching to get back to the grind. Anyways, if you're looking for some more details on running the pick and roll you should take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll. Van Gundy goes through all the different reads of the pick and roll. Discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.