The Suns miss Raja Bell’s defense. They miss his scoring and his threat as a 3-point shooter. But if you ask Steve Nash, the Suns miss Bell’s personality and swagger more than anything. “I think we really miss his leadership, the way he plays, just by example,” Nash said after he and his team slugged through a 95-88 loss to Dallas and fell behind 2-1 in the Western Conference finals.
“How he fights, and how he never gives in. It would be easy to say his talent and the depth it would afford us, but more than anything I think it’s his toughness and attitude.”
The Suns won a huge game without Bell when he was suspended for Game 6 of the Lakers series, but Phoenix is now 0-5 in the other games they’ve played without him this season, including the last two games to Dallas.
“I just think we’re out there with our shoulders slumped,” Nash said. “We’re not smiling. We’re not fighting. We’re not playing with the necessary fire it takes to win.”
Dallas had six of its 19 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, and four of them came during a wild 1:14 inside the final two minutes when the Mavericks missed four shots but retained possession.
The real killer came when Dirk Nowitzki’s desperation, 30-foot 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down clearly missed the rim. But the shot clock reset as Jerry Stackhouse ran down the ball.
“Look at the replay. It looked like it came straight down,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said.
“If they missed it, that’s a big play.”
That appeared to be the case, since lead referee Steve Javie mouthed an apology to the Suns bench during a timeout a few minutes later.
NBA FINALS SCHEDULE
The NBA has set a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday configuration for the NBA Finals.
Here’s what that means. If either the Eastern Conference or Western Conference finals go longer than five games the NBA Finals will begin on June 8 with Game 2 on June 11. Games 3-5 would be June 13, 15 and 18 with games 6 and 7 on June 20 and 22.
If neither conference final goes longer than five games, the NBA Finals will begin on June 6 with Game 2 on June 8. Games 3-5 will be June 11, 13 and 15 with games 6 and 7 on June 18 and 20.
Suns forward Tim Thomas had an inscription on his shoe that read “Craig Ironhead Heyward #34” to honor the former NFL running back who died Saturday after a 7 1 /2-year fight with a recurring brain tumor. Thomas and Heyward grew up near each other in New Jersey. . . .
Boris Diaw led the Suns in scoring in Games 1 and 2, the first time that has happened all season. . . .
The Suns posted one assist in Sunday’s first quarter, the lowest assist total in any quarter this season. . . .
With 11 assists in Game 2, Nash became just the third player in NBA history (John Stockton, Magic Johnson) to post doublefigure assists in seven consecutive playoff games. Nash’s string ended Sunday with seven assists. . . .
The Suns have now lost their last four home games in the Western Conference finals. They were swept at home (Games 1, 2 and 5) by San Antonio last season before losing Game 3 Sunday. The last home game the Suns have won in this round was Game 7 of the 1993 conference finals when they beat Seattle 123-110 behind 44 points and 24 rebounds from Charles Barkley.
- Tribune writers Matt Paulson and Craig Morgan contributed
to this report.
READ MORE IN TOMORROW’S TRIBUNE.