A few thoughts in the wake of the Phoenix Suns' remarkable 161-157 double overtime win -- the most points in the baggy-shorts era -- over the New Jersey Nets . . .
One game worthy of fame
The Nets-Suns game was basketball nirvana. Agree?
It was about as close to perfect basketball as you can get. The night's worst shooting team hits for 52 percent and wins. The turnovers were low (29) relative to possessions. And the showdown between Steve Nash (42 points, 13 assists) and Jason Kidd (38 points, 14 assists, 14 rebounds) was like a movie. It wasn't a matter of a team playing that poorly, or a complete lack of defense.
Hard to quantify these things, but this feels like one of the great ones.
A great game is relative to the circumstances. But this is one of those amazing regular-season games. Most people will not have seen it. In terms of pure basketball, I don't know if you're going to see a better game than what we saw -- we're talking about a combined 318 points.
Why can't all games be like this?
It's much more difficult to play that well offensively as it is to play equally as well defensively. The reason defense has been so successful through the history of sport is because it has proved to be something you can be more consistent with. Some nights, the ball just doesn't go in.
But what if it did?
If they were able to play at this level consistently, you might as well cancel the season and anoint the Suns NBA champs.
That brings us to Detroit. On the very same night as the Suns-Nets gem, a team that you believe has been the best physically the last four years won with a contrasting, slow-the-tempo approach, winning in Dallas, 92-82. Looked like the anti-Suns in a way.
When you look at Detroit, it's often the mental part of the game -- and not the physical -- where problems come in. You're going to play 82 games a season -- and you're going to have five or six games (like the Suns had) that are perfect. But there's going to be 75 or 76 that don't go well at some point. How you deal with adversity is vital. Look at how well-versed Miami was in it last year -- and it helped them play their best when it counted most. Perseverance is a great quality. That's the challenge for Detroit.
Notice how Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki eschewed his often effective 3-pointer for almost the entire game, looking to get to the line more.
Great winners who score the ball are the ones who go to the line. Larry Bird, MJ, Kobe Bryant The one thing they have in common is getting to the line -- that's an area Dirk has continued to improve in.
This is an X factor; it helps offset those nights when you don't shoot it well. It also helps when you are making it. That's when an offensive player is most effecive -- creating the contact and getting those free-throw points --- that's why they call them free.
What a night. Put Dirk's buddy Nash (42 points, 13 assists) into some perspective.
Nash has played the point guard position the last three years as well as it can be played.
Seems like people will remember this Nets-Suns game for a while.
I'm sure both sides felt like they won -- there's no question the fans won.
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Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Steve Nash applies some defense to Jason Kidd in the double OT victory for the Suns, their eighth-straight win as they began a five-game road trip.
TWO GREAT: As I watched what became the game of the season thus far in New Jersey, and saw Steve Nash and Jason Kidd combine for 80 points, 27 assists, and 20 boards, all I could think of was: someone needs to create a hip-hop version of "Anything you can do I can do better" so it can be paired with video cuts of those two and uploaded to YouTube. They were amazing. Plus, when's the last time a player got 20 assists in a game then scored over 40 in the next one?
TALK SHOW: Rasheed Wallace looked like an All-Star in his matchup with Dirk Nowitzki. Then talked afterwards about wanting to remind people of his talent. But we don't need reminders, we need nightly exhibits. More importantly, the Pistons do, if they want to be contenders.
MUCH RESPECT: Charles Barkley, in observance of Larry Bird's 50th birthday, said that every time he sees Bird, Magic, and Jordan together he says "thank you, you've made me what I am today." He means that he is a celebrity because Bird and Magic saved the league and then Jordan grew it to another level. I wonder how many of today's players appreciate those three beyond their dunks, passes and shots that thrilled us all.
SPRINT WIND: Coaches always ask their players to "run." And that often is good enough. But the players in Phoenix "sprint." And there is a big difference. It's one reason they can be so effective after made baskets.
FINAL (NO) CALL: There was a huge no-call at 1:30 a.m. ET that cost Sacramento a chance at forcing a second OT against Miami. I know we all like the players to decide outcomes late, and not a refs' whistle, but DWade swung his arm wildly and slapped Mike Bibby's arm on a layup attempt with a second left in the game. Violent arm swings are not plays that should be ignored, and in fact give the refs an easy excuse for making a late-game call.
-- David Thorpe
• Detroit and Denver played the highest-scoring game in NBA history in February 1983, with the Pistons beating the Nuggets 186-184 in three overtimes.
• Nets G Eddie House had 18 points in his third game of the season. He missed the first 15 games because of knee surgery.
• Nets are 0-6 at home when they trail entering the fourth quarter.
• Denver had the previous high this season with 140 points against Golden State on Nov. 24.
-- The Associated Press
Suns and Nets roll past 300
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Dirk Nowitzki's shot is stuffed here by Chauncey Billups. The Pistons put the clamps on the West's champs, taking a 92-82 win.
Quotes of the Day
-- Andrew Ayres
Chauncey Billups was getting some work done on the right leg he tweaked in the fourth quarter of an authoritative 92-82 victory over the previously scorching Mavs, but the rest of the Detroit faces you know best were transfixed on the little screen hanging from the ceiling of the visitor's locker room at American Airlines Center.
"Lawrence Frank is not going to be happy scoring 157 points and losing," Rasheed Wallace bellowed, referring to the Nets' coach.
After watching what seemed to be an endless flurry of uncontested shots for Nash, inside and outside, 'Sheed loudly wondered: "Is anybody going to play any [bleepin'] D in this game?"
Jason Kidd recorded the 78th triple-double of his career, tying Wilt Chamberlain for third most in NBA history, behind Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. And Kidd did it with a flourish, scoring 38 points with 14 rebounds and 14 assists. It was the third time Kidd reached 14 in all three categories.
Incidentally, Wilt was the last player with totals as high as Kidd's in all three categories. He scored 53 points with 32 rebounds and 14 assists for the 76ers in a 158-128 win over the Lakers in 1968. The only other players ever to do so were Elgin Baylor (1961) and Oscar Robertson (five times).
Charles (San Jose): Boy, Vin Baker sure worked out for the Wolves, huh?
Paul Shirley: Yeah, I'm really happy they could keep him around. The 14 days of non-playing allowed him to collect another $60,000. I'm sure $60,000 really means a lot to a man who once signed a contract worth upwards of $40 million.
Richard (Knoxville): Are you basically just sitting and waiting for a reserve player to blow his ACL so you can take his job now that rosters have been set?
Paul Shirley: No. I would never secretly hope for an injury to a player, safe in the knowledge that the guaranteed nature of his contract would ensure that he would be paid regardless of his inability to perform, and aware that that injury might in some way allow me to have a basketball-playing job.