Updated: March 10, 2006, 10:24 AM ET

Absent-minded case for MVP

If we didn't get it by now, Thursday night's Spurs-Suns game drove home the obvious point of just how important Steve Nash is to Phoenix.

Many ESPN hoop experts have weighed the MVP merits of a player by considering the subtraction of that player from his team's lineup and considering how bad that team would be without him.

So, with the reigning MVP sidelined with an injured ankle, we got a chance to gauge just how valuable the stellar Suns point guard is to his team. The answer?

Very. His team was toasted at home by a Spurs team, 117-93, that seems to be hitting its stride.

Take away Kobe from the Lakers, and they're pretty terrible. Remove Elton from the Clips, and they're below. 500. Subtract Dirk away from the Mavs, and they're not in serious contender consideration. Same for Duncan and the Spurs. Take Marbury and Francis away from the Knicks and . . . well, enough piling on Team Isiah.

Take away Nash, and the party's over. Still hobbled by an ankle injury, Nash donned a sportcoat on the sideline. And the Suns also missed his Brazilian backup, Leandro Barbosa.

This was an MVP night for France, though. Boris Diaw had 16 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the Suns, just missing his third career triple double. And Tony Parker was on top of his game, scoring 29 points in the first three quarters. For a night, we could all forget the Gaul-ing glory that was Frederic Weis (sorry again, Knicks fans).

And for all those Sean Marks enthusiasts out there, and we know you are out there, this was your game. The big Kiwi dropped in four points on the Suns in Dumpster time.

Enough of the sideshows. For those who handicap such things, this matchup will likely be the West finals. The Mavs, Nuggets and Clips will have their say, for sure. But these are the two to keep an eye on.

Nash or no Nash, the Spurs are looking sharp. And Nash doesn't seem too worried that his ankle will trouble him for long. The Amare Stoudemire comeback will come later, the wildcard in the whole playoff deal.

We don't have long to wait for a rematch. The two teams meet in their regular season finale next Friday in San Antonio. It will be a better game if the MVP repeat candidate is running the show.

That, we know.

Andrew Ayres is an NBA editor for ESPN.com

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Super Ruben
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AP Photo/George Widman
Watch out, Kyle Korver. Ruben Patterson is flying into the picture for the Nuggets.


New, Nastier Nuggets
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After losing 7-of-10 prior to the All-Star break, Nuggets coach George Karl was ripped. He fumed about his team's lack of passion and its poor attitude. His guys weren't giving their full commitment and something had to be done.

Less than a week later, just before the trade deadline, Denver went out and got Ruben Patterson and Reggie Evans. These two guys have changed the overall personality of the team. Patterson and Evans play with an attitude. They're agitators. Their toughness has helped the Nuggets turn things around.

Patterson has logged 30 minutes a game since coming over from Portland. He'll guard the other team's best player and chip in 15 or more points and four rebounds a game. Evans is one of the best rebounds-per-minutes guys in the NBA. He's pulled in 48 boards in 136 minutes for the Nuggets since arriving from Seattle.

Denver has now won 4-of-5 after the 97-93 come-from-behind win over the Sixers in Philly on Thursday night. Evans hauled in nine boards and scored a modest four points. Patterson had 20 points and grabbed Chris Webber around the head and dragged him to the floor protecting the basket in the third quarter. Webber scored only one more basket after that takedown.

The Nuggets have a brutal schedule ahead. Six more road games in eight nights will surely test their newly acquired toughness. But that can only help them next month when a tougher test, the Western Conference playoffs begin.

-- Will Perdue



Gomes Finds The Range
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Chaz (Hartford, CT): Chad, you've got to give Danny A. and the C's some credit, they are really gelling as a team and look to have a bright future?

Chad Ford: Sure do. I've questioned in the past what Ainge is up to, but I watched them recently and thought the same thing. There is a lot to like here. Ryan Gomes looks amazing. Remember, the Celtics had him pegged as a first rounder, but passed on him when Gerald Green was available. We said on draft night getting him in the second round was one of the great draft steals. I think he's proving that. And if Paul Pierce can keep playing at this MVP type level, the Celtics could be a playoff contender next year.

Ben (Oakland): Please give a Warriors fan some hope. These are dark times.

Chad Ford: I've killed the Warriors for years, got on the bandwagon this fall after seeing them in training camp and I'm just as confused as you are. The team has the talent. I think it's time to look for a new coach.

Judd (SLC, UT): What's up with the Jazz? At times they are great (beat Detroit twice!) and then lose at home to Charlotte!!! Help, please.

Chad Ford: They're a mess. They don't have a go to low post scorer nor do they have an athletic wing who can really create his own shot. They win because Jerry Sloan has them overacheiving. The Jazz have talent, but they need a little different mix. Hopefully they can package Carlos Boozer in a trade this summer to get one of those pieces and the draft will provide the other.

Read the full Chad Ford blog Insider




Motion: Nuggets Win
Carmelo got the go-ahead hoop and late swats by DerMarr Johnson and Marcus Camby sealed the win in Philadelphia.

Nuggets Swat Sixers



Winning Spurs Scene

AP Photo/Paul Conners
Tony Parker set the tone for the Spurs in Phoenix, driving his way to 29 points en route to a blowout win, 117-93.


Extreme Behavior
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Thursday's Best
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets forward: Sank the Sixers with 29 points and 10 rebounds. With 18.9 seconds left, he dribbled down the baseline and came around from under the right side for a one-handed layup that put Denver ahead for good. Denver wins, 97-93

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Thursday's Worst
The Suns Without Stevie: Well, that blowout loss to the Spurs wasn't encouraging. Steve Nash was in the house, but his sprained ankle did not permit him to play. And the Suns were not close in a game with the defending champs.

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Quote of the Day
"I've never gone through anything like this before. I'm not a loser. You can never get used to losing. It changes your whole lifestyle."
-- Sixers forward Chris Webber, after his team fell below .500 (30-31) with a third straight meltdown

-- Andrew Ayres

See how all 57 who played stacked up
The current NBA Playoff matchups



Every Team Needs Glue Guy
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Ric Bucher on helping a Habitat For Humanity project in New Orleans:
I volunteered, which meant laying down a stripe from my gun on each joist before a section of plywood was put in place for everyone else to nail down. It also meant having Rick Barry eyeball my every move, hearing Clyde Drexler ask how many joists the average glue canister could cover and explaining to Hornets guard Chris Paul that I didn't put a dab of glue on the back of his warm-up pants as much as he backed into the point of my gun.

(Barry, by the way, brought his own work gloves with him, a sweet tan-leather pair that looked as if they came straight out of Brookstone or the Sharper Image catalogue. Isn't that just somehow perfectly Rick Barry-esque?)

Read the full Ric Bucher blog Insider



Elias Says
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Chris Webber had 20 rebounds for the 76ers on Thursday. That's the most rebounds by an opponent of Marcus Camby in 175 games, since Jermaine O'Neal grabbed 20 boards in a game in which Camby played only 24 minutes on Nov. 4, 2003. No player had 20 rebounds against Camby when he played more than 30 minutes in 214 games and nearly eight years, since Clarence Weatherspoon had 20 rebounds for the Warriors against Camby's Raptors on March 15, 1998.

• Elias Sports Bureau | More Elias Insider



NBA Intelligence Report
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Francis' Sixth Sense
The Knicks aren't going from Team Titanic to Team Tranquility with two consecutive wins. But guard Steve Francis, tagged "The Franchise" when he arrived in Houston in 1999, said yesterday he's willing to adopt another role. Francis isn't starting for the first time in his NBA career, but he's not looking for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Rather "Sixth Man of the last two months." -- New York Post

Read the entire Intelligence Report Insider

 

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