2009 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Game 2: Denver Nuggets vs Dallas Mavericks Game Thread

The Denver Nuggets have a chance to grab their second round series with the Dallas Mavericks by the throat.  If they can win game two tonight at home it will put the Mavs in a big hole. 

There is only one major adjustment I can think of that will determine the outcome of this game and that is whether or not the Mavericks are capable of matching the Nuggets intensity and, you guessed it, physicality. 

Until the Mavericks prove to me I am wrong I will consider them the mentally fragile squad who blew the 2006 NBA finals, were spiritually demolished in the 2007 playoffs by the Golden State Warriors and were run off the floor by the Hornets last season. 

I have written all season about how the style of defense the Nuggets play can determine their mindset for the game.  A passive defensive strategy led to a passive effort.  In game one the Mavericks play a reactive style on both sides of the floor and that perpetuates a collectively passive team atmosphere.  That type of team mindset is not conducive to winning in the playoffs. 

For Dallas to change their team mindset now would be nearly impossible and that is the greatest obstacle for them right now. 

At a more tactical level I wrote yesterday that Dallas needs to utilize the high screen with Dirk more often.  That is the set he rode to his 6-6 start, but they got away from it as the game wore on.  When they returned to it in the fourth quarter Jason Terry chose to keep the ball rather than give it back to Dirk.  I remember reading that some people thought the Mavs were better because Terry took over more often in crunch time to make up for Dirk’s well documented late game shortcomings.  In game one Terry forced it and the Mavs suffered.

Another adjustment I am tempted to recommend is to play Terry for 40 plus minutes or to start Antoine Wright and leave J.J. Barea on the sidelines.  That might be an example of overreacting to the limited returns from only one game.  While I understand the temptation to get Terry out there more frequently or to play Wright I think it might be a mistake.  Barea can still be a thorn in the Nuggets’ side if Carlisle releases him to attack in transition.  There is not a Nuggets player who can stay in front of him and just as much as the Mavs need Jason Kidd to throw the ball to teammates and not the upper crust of Denver society seated at midcourt they almost equally as badly need Barea to play well.

I am also a little worried about how well Chris Andersen can do against Dirk.  The Birdman was amazing when pressed into duty on the big German in game one, but I think Dirk can drive on him.  If Dirk throws a little pump fake at Birdman to get him to at least raise up on his toes will free Nowitzki to drive past him and get to the rim.  I still believe Kenyon is the best option to defend Dirk.

Apart from their slow start the Nuggets played a very strong game.  I have very few recommendations for the Nuggets.  They should keep pounding the middle with pick and rolls by Nene.  J.R. Smith needs to be relentless going to the rim.  Melo needs to be aggressive as well both in the post and driving from the wing. 

Defensively I believe they can do a better job of fighting over the high screen from Dirk.  There were instances where they just switched without forcing Nowitzki to set a strong screen.  Dirk typically sets very strong screens, but do not let him off the hook by anticipating that he will do so.  Force him to set a strong screen and absorb the contact. 

From a rotation standpoint the only way Kleiza should be in the game is if Josh Howard is not.  Of course, it will help if Melo can avoid foul trouble.  I would also cut Dahntay Jones’ playing time from 18 down to the 10 or 12 minute range to get J.R. Smith and Anthony Carter more floor time.

However, everything comes back to which team is going to play tough playoff basketball.  So far the Nuggets have raised their game to the perfect level of aggressive physical play while their opponents have not been willing or able to do the same. 

I have never felt so confident about the Denver Nuggets in my life.  They are nearly unbeatable at home where they are playing with supreme confidence and being pushed to new heights by great crowds.  I do not need to hope Denver will win, I know they will and I can get used to it.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Featured Blogs:  The Two Man Game | Mavs Moneyball

Take this with you:  I am going to pass on a couple of links here.  First George Karl is not a big fan of the NBA’s decision to fine Kenyon Martin.  Secondly, celebrate Cinco de Mayo with LaPhonso Ellis.  It has been exactly 15 years since Ellis’ 27 point 17 rebound game in the first round series against the Sonics in 1994.  Oh Yea and one more.  Footage from the lockerroom right after the Nuggets won game five to beat the Hornets. 

Thanks to Brandon from BallerBlogger for the link.

  • Kay

    I’m pumped for this game and its actually on TV

  • BeefySwats

    LETS GO DENVER!!

  • OneMoreSucka

    I’m interested to see how Dirk starts out tonight…

  • BeefySwats

    What incredibly smart play from the Nuggets so far. Hard defense and great assists from JR.

  • magster

    Denver would have scored 38 points if they didn’t miss so many lay-ups. At least we’re making free throws.

    Howard out, Kleiza in.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    One of the adjustments I meant to mention was Dallas should play more zone. They have switched to zone and really it is working. J.R. has made a couple of threes, but the Nuggets are becoming much more perimeter oriented.

    Denver is switching on screens where they can easily fight through. They cannot be so quick to switch into a mismatch.

    Even though he is not having to guard Howard I am still not excited to see Kleiza on the court.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Also, with Kidd completely ineffective, Barea is playing and getting in the lane.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I cannot believe Dirk is resting again. He must play at least 44 minutes.

  • BeefySwats

    Sweet play by Kenyon!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The Nuggets passing, apart from a few possessions against the zone has been exceptional.

  • magster

    The early foul trouble is a problem. Although it seems like the Mavs are getting to the line more, it does not seem like the refs are calling the game much different than last game.

  • magster

    Have we missed a free throw yet?

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Please stop shooting Chauncey. Keep setting your teammates up.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    The Nuggets defense is not looking very stout.

  • magster

    A tech on Martin? Give me a break!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Can anyone tell me Why have the Nuggets have attempted 14 threes already?

  • BeefySwats

    Awful from 3 tonight.

  • Kay

    Because if they don’t The Lord will be angry.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Denver’s pick and roll D is non existent.

  • magster

    No! No! No! Oh, nice shot JR!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Kidd should have taken his open three instead of passing it to the brick laying Wright.

  • magster

    This game has a bad feel to it.

  • BeefySwats

    lol jr what a horrible decision

  • runningdonut

    The team who shoots more threes in the second half will lose

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    That may have been the worst three in J.R.’s career and that is saying something.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Halftime Stats:

    Pace Factor: 96.4

    Defensive Efficiency: 114.0

    Offensive Efficiency: 120.2

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Let’s see how the Nuggets come out of the half. Should be angry.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Dahntay cannot guard Terry.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    If we have to start a defensive oriented shooting guard, it should be AC.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    If someone is inbounding the ball with one second left on the shot clock, do not bother covering the guy inbounding the ball.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Well, the Nuggets are definitely not playing angry to start the quarter.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Melo had thee guys within five feet of him and shot a jumper. That is the old playoff Melo. He has to pass it.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Can someone please tell the Nuggets this game is important.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Why did Melo hesitate to run at Terry? He just gave him an open three.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    That is the first time all season Chauncey did not get the reach in foul on the jumper. I have no idea why the refs did not call it.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I do not know why I thought checking the stats for my fantasy baseball team would put me in a better mood. I haven’t seen so many 0-4′s in my life. Now I am even more grumpy.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Dahntay Jones and Nene just switched for fricking reason at all and they gave up a three. Unbelievable.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Denver needs an infusion of Birdman.

  • magster

    We cannot make a free throw this half.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Great hustle by Chauncey to get to that loose ball.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I wonder if Carlisle springs the zone on Denver out of this timeout.

  • magster

    The best Denver has played tonight was when Birdman was in. Coach has been saving him for the fourth quarter.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Terrible possession by Melo. Keep passing out of the double team Melo.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    By the way, no zone by Carlisle. He is saving it for the fourth. Good strategy.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Chauncey heating up? I hope so.

  • magster

    Boy, Carlisle is quick to call TO’s. It’s only a 5-0 run.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    This pointless switching is going to drive me insane.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Someone tell the TNT producer there is still 2.2 left in the quarter. Dang, Melo should have taken a couple of dribbles to get a better shot.

  • magster

    Well the Mavs were within 2 at one point in the 4th qtr. last game, so I guess we’re in no worse shape. This game feels different, though.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    You are right magster, this game is much different, but that does not mean Denver cannot get their crap together and go on a run. Of course, they are about to face a good five or six minutes of zone here at some point.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Stan Kronke has a little Captain in him.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Good to see Melo attack the rim first possession in the fourth.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    What on earth does Carlisle have to be upset about? That Melo did not get the and one on the shot?

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I like seeing Singleton and Wright on the floor together.

  • magster

    I like this chaos. That’s more like it.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I have no idea why Dallas has such a difficult time connecting on passes. Dirk and Terry and Kidd have been together for more than a year and Dirk and Terry much longer than that.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Dallas is very, very small right now. I am not sure if that is a very good idea the way Denver has been pounding the paint.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Melo did a great job shielding off Barea before he even caught the pass.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Where is the Dallas zone?

  • magster

    Wow! All of a sudden, the game’s out of hand. I love this team.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    No kidding magster. Like you said, this game had a completely different feel, but it has still turned into a laugher. How fun is it to cheer for this team (most of the time)?

  • king_couttsy

    All over baby….

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Dirk has been getting calls this game. That last one on Nene was really weak.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Wright has thrown in the luckiest crap these two games. Two shot clock buzzer beater threes and that miracle lay in.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Come on Nuggets lock it up.

  • magster

    Sweet!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Well, I guess Melo knows if he shoots enough threes he will make one eventually.

  • magster

    I prefer the homer announcers, but it’s kind of nice to not have the Mattress King rejection, Lexus drie of the game, etc.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I had to rewind it to make sure I saw what I saw, but after Hollins’ dunk to bring the Mavs to within SEVENTEEN he ran down the floor pounding his chest. People get on the Nuggets for showboating, but at least they do not do it when they are getting blown out. What a tool.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Yea, but nobody beats the King…nobody!

  • DHinNYC

    Yea, whatta jackass. Just shows how embarrassed he is.

  • magster

    So, should the Nugs wear the powder blues or the alternate road jersey in Dallas? I vote 58 pt win producing powder blues.

  • DHinNYC

    it was good to see billips find his shot, if a bit late. i was getting worried …

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    I am down with the powder blues.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    First of all, welcome DHinNYC. Yea, I agree it is really important that he found his shot. I wanted him to stop shooting in the first half and try again in the second, but I guess with a guy like Chauncey every miss just leads to the next hot streak.

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com jeremy

    Thanks to everyone who commented. We have plenty of time to mull things over before game three on Saturday. Thanks for that NBA.

  • magster

    Thanks!

  • DHinNYC

    Thanks, Jeremy! I’m actually from Aurora originally, but have been exiled to NY for several years. Go Nuggs! We got this in 5!

  • jakester

    Great running commentary Jeremy! I wonder if the altitude is getting to the Mavs’ heads?

    Sucks that Howard is struggling so much with his health.

    TNT commentators are stunned by how good the nuggets are. Best team in the West they say…

  • runningdonut

    I like the Navys even though we lost the last game 3 wearing them.

    I don’t think we need luck to beat them on the road, but I’ll go powder blues… just for fun