Iowa Energy 101, Utah Flash 91 (Box Score)
Well, this was not what anyone expected after the Flash dominated the Energy 107-76 in the first game of the series. In my pregame pep talk for the Energy, I told them to be scrappy, make shots and get Phoenix Suns assignee Taylor Griffin to do something. They apparently didn't trust me, though, as they really only did the scrappy thing, ignoring the shooting request (39% from the field) and got just a 3-for-11 performance out of Griffin.
Still, it worked, because Utah didn't do the one thing I told them to do - cut the head off the snake (i.e. limit the production of Curtis Stinson, the Energy's do-it-all point guard).
In keeping with the playoff theme, I've wrangled up three Monstars and three Nonstars for you to chew on. First, since they were better, the Monstars.
Curtis Stinson gets the first star of the game for being the, uh, first star of the game. I've been down on him all season, but it's definitely not due to on-court production. Tonight was no different, as he absolutely led the way for the Energy by scoring 23 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and adding a paltry 11 assists. How he's been able to keep it up this season, I'm not sure - he played all but the last eight seconds of this game and I'm sure he'll put in another 48 minutes Sunday afternoon in game three. I was particularly pleased to see that a lot of his production came within the flow of the game because, especially after Wednesday night's drubbing, I was fairly certain that he was going to come out and try to win this game himself. He did, essentially, but it was a good performance - enough for coach Nick Nurse to note postgame that he was scared to answer his phone tomorrow in fear of a call-up.
- Kevin Kruger, Stinson's opposing point guard (though they weren't always matched-up on eachother), was without a doubt Utah's best player. He's a white point guard and the son of a high-level coach (Lon Kruger) so he has all of the appropriate buzz words going for him: high basketball IQ, plays with a lot of heart, not athletic but his work ethic makes up for it, et cetera. He's also an unashamed shooter, as his 6-of-11 from beyond the arc on his way to a game high 28 points might lead you to believe. He finished wit just two assists, though, and didn't distribute the ball very well - at least to players that could score.
- Jeff Trepagnier will get my third star of the game, though it wasn't an easy choice. I mean, he missed 16 of his 25 attempts from the field and made just 3-of-13 from behind the three-point line. He still finished with 24 points though to go along with four steals in 42 minutes of action and was the biggest help of any when it came to shouldering a bit of the offensive load that Stinson couldn't handle.
And the award for least valuable Nonstar goes to:
- Orien Greene struggled this game, which definitely isn't what the doctor ordered. Greene is without a doubt Utah's most versatile starter on the offensive end as well as the only player that can slash in the starting lineup. In this game, though, he didn't really show it as he finished with seven points on six shots, five fouls and three turnovers in just over 26 minutes of action. His defense was solid, but the Flash are going to need a lot more out of him on the offensive side of the action if they're going to win Sunday.
- Am I allowed to give a backup player a Nonstar of the game? I'm going to, but only because Brian Hamilton deserves it. After stepping up big in the first game, he finished this with just nine points on eight shots and turned the ball over six times as the top option off the bench. Typically, if Greene is off, Hamilton can fill in admirably - or vice versa - but that definitely wasn't the case tonight.
- Taylor Griffin is the lone Energy representative on the Nonstar's list this game, even though Nurse said in the post game that "he looked a lot better tonight." While I guess that's true considering he was shut out in the first game, it's tough to find a lot of positives in his game - even though he scored 10 points and added 12 rebounds in 35 minutes of action. First, he shot just 3-of-11 from the field, and, aside from the putback slam you saw in the highlights, wasn't what anyone would call good (or even really active) on that side of the ball. He also had three turnovers, and while my notes aren't complete in this regard, I remember the announce team noting that all three had looked pretty bad. I guess I might judge him harder than others simply based on his being an NBA player, but isn't that how it should be?