Suns, Nash hope to revive offense vs. Mavs
PHOENIX -- Steve Nash took only one shot in the second half of the Suns' Game 2 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference finals.
But Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said he won't tell the NBA's two-time MVP to shoot more often in Game 3 on Sunday night.
Facing constant double-teams by the Mavericks, Nash looked for the open man. But the Suns shot 44.9 percent from the floor, and 43.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The result: a 105-98 loss that sent the series to Phoenix tied 1-1.
"When we lose and the other guys don't make the shot, you go, 'Oh man, [Nash has] got to take more shots,' " D'Antoni said after the Suns practiced Saturday. "But when he does what he does and has 20 assists and the other guys are knocking shots down, then he did the right thing. So it's hard to tell before [a game] what he has to be."
Dallas coach Avery Johnson, who ripped his team's defensive effort in Game 1, dismissed the suggestion that the Mavericks have figured out a way to stop Nash.
"We were fortunate enough for everybody to be on the same page and we just mixed in our coverages," Johnson said. "That's what you've got to do with him. You can't give him a steady diet."
After giving up home-court advantage in the opener, the Mavericks responded with a desperate effort Friday night. Johnson said he wants his team to play the same way Sunday.
"I hope we don't think we're in a decent position," Johnson said. "Everything with my team is mental. I hope we subconsciously feel we're 0-2. When we feel we're in a decent position or if we have a slight tad of overconfidence, we're not as good."
Dallas has been a rugged road squad this postseason. The Mavericks are 4-2, and the losses came by a combined three points at San Antonio.
But the Suns have proved resilient. In the first round, they stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers. In the second round, against the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix answered three losses with victories.
As the Suns regroup for Game 3, they don't expect forward Raja Bell to be available. Bell missed Game 2 with a strained left calf. D'Antoni said Bell underwent an MRI, and the team was waiting for the results.
Bell's absence creates defensive problems for the Suns, who have conceded a league-worst 109.8 points a game in the playoffs. Phoenix is also looking for a way to replace his offense.
Guard Leandro Barbosa, who started in Bell's spot Friday night, is 4-for-22 from the floor in the series, including 2-for-9 from 3-point range.
Barbosa emerged as an offensive weapon in his third season, shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range, best on the Suns and third in the NBA. But he's shooting only 34.5 percent from beyond the arc in 16 playoff games.
Nash said teammates support the 23-year-old Brazilian.
"We'll talk to him," Nash said. "We're not really worried about it. He's a terrific player and we all have a ton of confidence in him, and it's a matter of time before he starts feeling good again."
Barbosa had more open looks in Game 2 as the Mavericks cracked down on Nash after watching him spark a late rally in the Suns' 121-118 Game 1 victory. He scored 27 points and handed out 16 assists in Game 1. Two nights later, Nash scored 16 points, and his only shot of the second half came with 3 seconds remaining in the game. He also had 11 assists.
D'Antoni said he didn't know Nash had attempted one shot in the second half until after the game.
"If you would have told me that, I would have dropped over on the sideline," D'Antoni said. "He wants to take what the other team gives him, and they were giving us other stuff."
D'Antoni said the coaching staff would try to find ways to create more chances for Nash.
"There are a couple of things we'll do to get him a little bit more in a position where he can shoot the ball," D'Antoni said. "But if they want to play that way, he probably won't have 30-point games, because they adjusted. But expect Leandro to have a 25, 30-point game. He's the one who's got to do it."
With Amare Stoudemire out for much of the season, Nash averaged a career-high 18.8 points per game. But he's content to set up teammates if the defense won't let him shoot.
"Obviously, as a scorer, and having responsibility of our team's wins and losses, I want to find a way to be aggressive and score," Nash said. "But you've still got to find the right balance, and if our other guys are getting opportunities they're more than capable."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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