By Sam Rubenstein

Yes. That was not just a regular season game, and I’m glad I wrote about it earlier in the day calling it the “Biggest thing ever”, because it was. First let’s run through the undercard, which was every other NBA game last night.

Gilbert had the grill on for 35 and 8 and against the collapsing Pacers. LeBron led the Cavs to their seventh win in a row, beating up on lowly Memphis. Kirk Hinrich hit the winning jumper in a tight game between Chicago and Philly, that the Sixers could have won with an Andre Miller breakaway but they called timeout. Dwight Howard had a dominant 31 and 15 against Utah, hitting 13 of 16 shots in a win. T.J. Ford went off for the Raptors with 18 and 18 against the Knicks, who were led by Stars on Stars’ 31 and 9 in the loss. Atlanta’s four game winning streak came crashing back to reality against that powerhouse the Boston Celtics and Al Jefferson’s 23 and 9. The Bobcats beat the Kings on a three by Sean May, meaning the Lakers could still hang on to their playoff spot because nobody else wants it, including the Clippers who got 37 and 10 from Elton Brand but lost to Houston when Luther Head hit a big three. Detroit beat Portland behind 21 from Rip in a game with a final score of 87-75, making it the exact opposite of the one we all watched last night.

Glad that’s out of the way. On to the main event.

Thanks to Mutoni for live blogging it, and Lang for posting his notes after the game ended. I was happy to just sit back on my couch and be a fan.

Steve Nash is more than just the MVP. He is a legend and a Hall of Famer, and I honestly do not care about what people say about his lack of defense anymore. The Phoenix Suns have to get to the Finals this season as validation for the greatness of his career. Watching him is just like seeing Larry Bird highlights, and I’ll compare white to white, I don’t care. If you watch Bird in his prime, you probably think to yourself how can a guy that slow, that goofy looking, who can’t jump, take over games to the point that opposing players are in awe of him? Nash isn’t as goofy looking as Bird now that he’s got short hair, but the rest all holds true. Defenders almost seem hypnotized as he wanders around with the ball.

More white boy comparisons: he shoots like Mark Price, passes like Stockton, and hits impossible clutch shots like Larry Bird. In hindsight, I think Nash deserved the first MVP, did not deserve it last season, and this year he should win it again. If that makes him a threepeating MVP, putting him in the elite of the elite in the game’s history, I am cool with that. His detractors might say look at the system he plays in and the teammates he has. Do you hold it against Bird that he played with McHale and Parrish? Were Scottie and Rodman just going along for the ride? Even on a night when Amare Stoudemire was so far beyond the level of beast that we might have to create genetically enhanced monsters in a lab somehwere just so there is a comparison worthy of him, Nash was the one that grabbed the game by the throat and wouldn’t let his team give up. Phoenix was dead in the proverbial water at the end of regulation, and Nash scored 10 points in 55 seconds. Not bad for a guy whose specialty is supposed to be passing. I really want Phoenix to get to the Finals, not only because they are the most fun team to watch by a mile, but because Nash’s career needs the extra validation of a championship.

This was not a playoff game by definition, but it felt like World War III. In a good way. When Nash missed the three at the end of regulation, it all made sense. Dallas was going to get back to destroying everything in its path, end of story. Shawn Marion fought for the extra chance, got it to Steve, and you knew he wouldn’t miss twice.

Then Jason Terry pulled a Steve Nash in OT. Just an awesome game that makes everything else in the NBA suck by comparison. Spurs fans, we can have seven games of this if your team would just lie down. Who’s looking forward to that Utah-Houston first rounder?
Now that I’ve praised Nash to the highest degree, it’s time to look at the other guy. The one who just kissed his MVP trophy good-bye.

When a sportswriter goes out on somewhat of a limb to make a point, they typically like to relish the joy of being right. Everytime A-Rod chokes in a big spot, the entire media loves to point to themselves and cackle “I told you so.” But do other athletes feel this way? More specifically and in a roundabout way, what does Dwyane Wade think right now? Could he have been more right about Dirk? Does Dwyane have a blog where he makes NBA predictions? That was a sad display from the MVP frontrunner. Nash is now the MVP, case closed.

Coming off one meltdown against Golden State, Dirk folded again. Down the stretch he was happy to let Jason Terry or Jerry Stackhouse keep the team in the game. He peaked with his dunk that looked like the validation of his NBA season. They kept giving Dirk the ball with a chance to win it, and he kept failing. I guess he was out of gas, but so was everybody else. The free throw gag, the technical, and his eruption at a ref when he nearly lost a rebound out of bounds, are the classic signs of a person letting pressure get to them. He has hit game winners in his career before, but he came up laaaaaame when it mattered in the biggest game of the year.

The NBA is a long season of taking care of business in games where guys don’t go hard. Then you have nights like this, where the big stars can get excited and show us that they want to be the best in the world at something. Dirk took over as the Mavs got back into the game and built a big lead. Then, when they needed him most, he wasn’t up to the challenge. Dirk Nowitzki is just not built for the biggest games. It’s weird, because he has had big games in the playoffs in the past. A 50 point outburst against these Suns in the playoffs last year. The three point play to keep the Mavs season alive against San Antonio. But he just doesn’t have “it.” Shawn Marion’s defense had him so flustered, you could see the fluid building up in his neck as he began to choke. Dirk’s biggest play was when Marion stripped him and Dirk threw up a prayer without thinking too much and letting the gag reflex settle in. At the double OT buzzer, he had Marion in the air for some cheap NBA initiating contact free throws, like what Nash got from Josh Howard. He did not want to take those free throws, conciously or deep in his sub concious, (not to overanalyze or anything!) which is very sad. Phoenix would have had to live with the seed of doubt planted that they can’t beat Dallas. Now they know they can beat them in Dallas, where the Mavs had won 23 in a row.

To summarize: Dirk is the new Chris Webber.

Fortunately for Dallas, they have other players that aren’t afraid of the big shot. Jason Terry is one of the best big shot makers in the league. Jerry Stackhouse had one of his best games as a Maverick. Maybe the Mavs can still win without going through their best player down the stretch. The Lakers did that when Shaq couldn’t be counted on at the end of games, while Kobe could.

The most important development from the game other than Dirk’s shrinkage was the play of Amare. Beasting can be used to describe the best big men in the NBA. Amare is above that level again. Not only is he a force of brutal power the legaue is still not ready for, he also has a great touch on his jump shot. You could say that Amare’s performance takes away from the brilliance of Nash, because any PG would look good pasing to Amare. And you could say the exact same thing about Stockton with Malone. It was the Mailman who won MVPs, not Stockton, but this is different. Without Nash, Amare Stoudemire has the talent to be the most unstoppable force in the game today. With Nash, he is unlike anything we have ever seen before.

A great game, worthy of all the hype. Yesterday I said that the outcome of this game would have a profound impact on NBA history. I believe the Suns will now catch the Mavs in the standings and have homecourt in a 7 game playoff series. It will send the Suns to the Finals where they will destroy whatever the East has to offer. Nash will be a champion, as will Amare, Marion, and D’Antoni, and in a few years it will all fall apart because of jealousies.

Alright! That was fun. It is now officially college basketball season. Good luck with your brackets.