April 29, 2002

Nash's feats leave teammates, foes amazed

April 27, 2002

By Jodie Valade
The Dallas Morning News

If it were only luck, it wouldn't happen consistently for (former Santa Clara men's basketball star) Steve Nash.

Luck is reserved for finding occasional four-leaf clovers and intermittent wishes on shooting stars. Luck can't be assigned to Nash's shooting ability or his accuracy, no matter how far away the shots are or what direction they're launched from.

Was it luck when Nash flung a running 44-foot jumper - with a shooter's form, no less - in Game 1 against Minnesota, and the 3-pointer swished in to give the Mavericks a tie and momentum heading into the final quarter?

Was it luck when Nash struck again in the second quarter of Wednesday's Game 2, flinging a left-handed scoop shot over his shoulder as he fell forward after being fouled, and that basket rattled through, too?

"I used to think it was luck," Michael Finley said, grinning at the thought. "But if you keep doing that, it can't be luck."

Nash's playoff prayers that have helped the Mavericks to a 2-0 best-of-5 series lead over Minnesota are only a couple of examples of his crazy-shot effectiveness.

He also has a vast array of arm-extended layups, floating jumpers that rise above the trees of centers, and shots that are launched as he crashes to the floor.

He is the Mavericks' undisputed king of the circus shots.

"It's been happening all year," Dirk Nowitzki said, shaking his head in amazement. "I don't know how; when he's not looking, he somehow makes it. Even when he's fouled, he stays with it, which is important to give yourself a chance to get free throws."

In the playoffs, Nash's circus shots actually have been difference-makers. His midcourt shot in Game 1 tied the score at 73, and the Mavericks carried that momentum to a 9-0 streak to start the fourth quarter.

His over-the-head toss in Game 2 gave the Mavericks a 56-55 lead at the end of the second quarter - and they didn't relinquish it in a 122-110 win.

As with so many things, Nash downplays his low-percentage shot-making abilities. "I don't really plan for it to happen," he said. "Some of it is luck. Some of them I feel very comfortable making."

The shots he is most comfortable with are the floating jumpers, when the ball hangs high in the air over an outstretched arm, as he drives toward the basket. He actually practiced those attempts for an entire summer two years ago until he became consistently accurate with them.

"A lot of those ones are a little easier to make," Nash said. "I feel like I can make those on a regular basis."

Shots such as the one he made Wednesday - when he didn't even see the basket - even Nash admits are unteachable and can't be practiced.

"Some guys have the ability to get a soft ball up there," Mavericks coach Don Nelson said. "What you really try to do is make sure the referee gives you the free throws. [But] he has the ability in a HORSE game to make those once in a while."

No matter how it happens, they're the kind of shots that have been game-turners and excite the crowd.

"Those shots are very uplifting," Nick Van Exel said. "They really get the crowd into the game, and it's a big motivation when guys hit those shots at the buzzer."

Van Exel paused and grinned.

"Those are the shots I like," he said, "so I'm going to try to get one next game."