You don’t have to be Phil Jackson to figure out which team needs to make the most adjustments for Game 2 of the Suns-Dallas Mavericks series.
Not by the way the Suns seemed like they could name the score in their 127-102 win Monday or by the way they breezed through a short, relaxed practice Tuesday.
The shell-shocked Mavericks, meanwhile, were left to explain what went wrong.
"Our best team didn’t show up last night," coach Avery Johnson said.
Perhaps the reason was the after-effects of the Mavs’ comefrom-behind seven-game series win over Houston, one that ended in a record-setting 40-point win Saturday night.
"We had an emotional high a couple of days ago with a Game 7 win in a tough series," superstar Dirk Nowitzki said. Monday. "We were flat in all areas.
"We were a step slow to everything on offense and defense . . . We weren’t ready to play."
No doubt that will change tonight. But how much difference will it make if the Suns’ Amaré Stoudemire can score at will?
The most obvious potential adjustment would be to doubleteam Stoudemire at times after the Suns’ rising star burned them for 40 points and hope the Suns’ outside shooters miss.
That’s the strategy the Memphis Grizzlies tried at times in Round 1; some of the Suns, in retrospect, praised the Grizzlies’ for their grittiness in trying to slow them down.
"They did a great job of throwing the whole kitchen sink at Amaré while leaving other people," Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said.
What makes it hard to double-cover Stoudemire is that the Suns play at such a fast pace, "It’s hard to load up on him," he said.
As for the Mavericks, changes in strategy mean less than energy and execution, the Suns’ coach said.
"I’m not sure what they can do," Stoudemire said.
"I assume they’ll try to double. If they do, then I’ll hit the open man."
Nash said, "I definitely don’t think they want him to score 40 again. But it’s a difficult task (to double-team).
"We have a lot of guys around him who can make them pay."
Johnson, who admitted, "I don’t think I implemented the right defenses," said that, "We’ll make some adjustments and try to give our team the best chance to win."
He pointed out that, down 2-0 in Round 1, "We had to adjust to play small," a move that helped them pull out the series.
But can they play small against a Suns’ team that rarely loses in this kind of game?
Johnson suggested that they’ll use Game 2 to evaluate what sort of lineup works, so that the Mavericks can attack "and not just be attacked."
At least at the game’s start, he said he had no plans to change (meaning no plans to dump the ineffective Erick Dampier at center).
The Mavericks also could throw up a zone defense as a change of pace. They also might try to slow up Steve Nash in the backcourt before he can get the Suns’ ultra-quick offense going.
On missed shots of their own, they no doubt will try to prevent quick, long outlet passes by harassing the Suns’ defensive rebounders.
In any case, Nowitzki acknowledged, "They (the Suns) were the best team in the regular season. We’ll have to bring a lot more energy if we want to win."