Bell out, Howard day-to-day for Game 2

Updated: May 25, 2006, 8:16 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- The Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have overcome injuries all season. So it's no surprise they're both scrambling to change their lineups after losing starters in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

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Howard

Raja Bell
Bell

Phoenix guard Raja Bell will miss at least Game 2 on Friday night because of a calf injury that could be severe. Dallas forward Josh Howard has a bone bruise on his left ankle and coach Avery Johnson said it would be a game-time decision on whether the versatile scorer and defender will be available.

'There's some soreness there," Johnson said following a workout Howard missed. "We'll see if he can be much improved tomorrow."

Phoenix's Shawn Marion said his twisted left ankle was sore Thursday, but that he'll definitely play Game 2 Friday night.

"It's hurting, but I'm going to be good," said Marion, who hurt the same ankle in the second round. "It's better than I expected."

The Suns lead the series 1-0 after a 121-118 victory Wednesday night.

"Hopefully it's something that's just really tight today and it'll start loosening up for me in the next day or so."
Raja Bell

Bell said he felt something pop in his leg, dropping him to the court with 5:27 left in the fourth quarter. He was helped off the court and later felt it stiffen. While teammates practiced Thursday, Bell was on his stomach having his calf treated by a trainer.

"It was pretty scary," he said. "I'm optimistic. Hopefully it's something that's just really tight today and it'll start loosening up for me in the next day or so."

Bell said he was told he could miss a week, but doesn't expect it. However, the extent of the injury isn't known.

The team opted not to take an MRI because it wouldn't change how he was treated, coach Mike D'Antoni said.

"There's no way he can [play] tomorrow," D'Antoni said. "After that, it's day-to-day and we'll have to see."

D'Antoni said Leandro Barbosa will start in Bell's place, with Eddie House and possibly James Jones getting added minutes, too. Phoenix already has won once this postseason with Barbosa replacing Bell -- Game 6 of the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers when Bell was suspended for a hard foul on Kobe Bryant.

"I think we'll be fine," said Bell, who left the arena on crutches. "We've had to do it so many times this year that nothing needs to be said. Plus, I don't see myself as a guy the team can't live without."

Howard was hurt six minutes into the game and didn't return. His injury initially was ruled a sprain, but changed to a bruise following an MRI early Thursday.

He scored six points in six minutes and was expected to guard Marion and possibly Nash. He's averaged 15.5 points and six rebounds per game in the playoffs, only slightly below his regular-season totals.

Dallas won all 21 games this season when he scores at least 20 points. The Mavs also were 16-7 in games that he missed.

Johnson was coy about how he'd replace Howard in the lineup. Adrian Griffin and Keith Van Horn both saw extended action in Game 1, both filling in for Howard and taking over at center in a small lineup.

"We'll figure out who we start and how we want to attack," Johnson said.

While Johnson dismissed questions about Bell's absence, D'Antoni kind of liked the idea of Howard being hurt.

"That helps," he said. "If [Dirk] Nowitzki would get sick, that'd be even better."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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