I promised you these the day after the game. Well, I have not gone to bed yet so no matter what the calendar says, I delivered!
- How far gone is Jason Kidd? Exactly a minute and a half into the game he stole the ball from Kenyon Martin, drove the length of the floor was in the lane with no Nugget player in position to do anything other than foul him or let him score and he pulled the ball out right before he made it to the charge circle. There was a lot of talk about Chauncey and Kidd shutting each other down in game one. At this point I have no idea how Kidd ever scores other than on three pointers. He cannot drive and he is almost afraid to go in the lane if he could. Melo is even taking him out of the game when he is assigned to guard him and Carmelo is making it look easy.
- In game one the Nuggets doubled Dirk a couple of times in the post and he burned them by making a skip pass or kick out pass for an open three. In game two there were a couple of possessions where after Kenyon switched off with a guard he stayed close and showed what I call a soft double where he stayed within a step of Dirk and was ready to help, but was also in position to recover and challenge the three if Kirk chose to kick it out. When Kenyon played that soft double style Dirk chose to pivot away from Kenyon and shoot a turn around jumper, despite the fact he was covered by a smaller guard. At the 8:50 mark of the first quarter Dirk actually shot an air ball over the rim even though he was being covered by Chauncey. I would be interested to see if Denver can use that tactic in the future to try to slow Dirk while still giving themselves a chance to recover and cover the three.
- The biggest surprise of the Nuggets’ season is not the fact that they won the Northwest Division or that George Karl was a deserving candidate for coach of the year or that they have been nominated the team playing the best in the west in the month of May. The biggest surprise was that Dahntay Jones shot 64.7% from the three point line. He only attempted 17 shots and they were all from the corner, but still I did not think he could make 11 of 17 threes in practice let alone in game situations. Well, things have reverted back to normal. Jones made his first three of the playoffs, but has proceeded to miss six of his next seven. These have not been good misses either. For some reason Dahntay has been taking perimeter shots early against Dallas. In Game one he missed a short jumper with 9:23 left in the first and then missed a three 2:40 later. Last night he missed a 19 footer off the dribble at the 9:03 mark of the first and then missed his three from the corner exactly two minutes later. Someone please tell Dahntay to stop shooting jumpers.
- Sticking with Jones I think I am ready to remove him from the rotation. Right now I would start J.R. Smith and then bring Anthony Carter in when the Mavericks bring Jason Terry in. Then J.R. can come back at the start of the second quarter when Chauncey takes his first rest.
- Between round one and round two the Nuggets have added a nice wrinkle to their offense. The basic premise is rolling Nene to the basket at unexpected times. In game one Denver ran a set where Nene set a screen for Billups on the left wing and instead of driving Chauncey passed to Melo at the top of the circle and Nene rolled to the basket. Carmelo hit Nene with an easy pass over the middle for a dunk. When Chauncey did not drive Dallas decided that Nene was no longer a threat and shifted their focus to Melo. In game two they new twist once again involved Chauncey, Melo and Nene. Chauncey passed to Melo at the left elbow who was covered by Antoine Wright. Chauncey immediately cut and ran left past Melo introducing the possibility of a pick and roll or a handoff. After Chauncey cleared Melo pivoted 90 degrees towards Nene who was moving towards Carmelo from the right block. Melo’s pivot communicated to Erick Dampier that he was about to drive right around a screen from Nene so he reacted by hedging on Nene’s outside shoulder. Wright was frozen like a deer in the headlights knowing he had no chance of stopping Melo from doing whatever he wanted and that left the middle open for Nene to slip the screen. Once again Melo delivered an easy pass and Nene was fouled at the rim. These plays are not earth shattering, but they are new and effective sets that teams are not prepared for.
- I mentioned this in the game thread and I usually try not to double dip, but I have to post it here to make sure everyone gets a chance to read it:
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.
- When Nene switches off onto Jason Terry he has to realize that if Terry has five options running through his head options one through three and option five are to shoot a three. Instead of laying off he needs to step out a force Terry to drive. I see this all over the league. When big men are stuck on the perimeter against a guard they lay back knowing the guard can drive past them essentially giving up whatever jumper the guard wants to get. There is no help at the three point line, but there is help in the lane. Bigs must force players like Terry who desperately wants to launch a three (83% of his shots are jumpers) instead of risk driving and having something bad happen to put the ball on the floor. Most power forwards and centers look very uncomfortable because they feel alone so why are they so hesitant to coerce the guard to take the ball where they can get help from their teammates? There, I think I beat that point into the ground.
- The Nuggets 16-2 run to start the fourth quarter, but the question is did Denver play great defense or did Dallas fold? Let’s find out.
The Mavs are supposed to have one of the best benches in the NBA and after the game Ernie Johnson practically had a conniption fit when Charles Barkley asserted that the Nuggets’ bench was killing them. Dallas started the fourth quarter with four or five bench players depending on how you look at it. Jason Terry was out there with James Singleton, Brandon Bass and sometimes starters J.J. Barea and Antoine Wright.
At this point I originally copied down the next few possessions step by step before realizing that not even I would read it so here are the key points.
On the first possession of the quarter Dallas tried to get Terry open flashing out to the left wing, but they could not because Anthony Carter was so close to him on the cut that their breath was combining into one aromatic sent. That ruined the set and Dallas did not get a good shot.
Carlisle saw that group was going to struggle to score so after that singular possession I am sure he put Kidd and Dirk in right? Nope. He put Kidd into the game for…Jason Terry? Wow. Now the only Mav capable of getting his own shot on the court was Barea.
With Terry out Barea is the only player capable of getting his own shot and he is checked by Carter, which is the best option for Denver against the diminutive speedster. Carter and Birdman trap Barea off a screen and forces the ball to go to Singleton who, the offensive force that he is, cannot decide what to do with a wide open lane in front of him so he starts to shoot and then realizes he should probably take advantage of the open space in front of him to drive. The result is a travel. It is probably for the best as Birdman was quickly recovering into the lane and any attempt at the rim would have been difficult at best and embarrassing at worst.
After two empty possessions Carlisle gets Dirk in the game. The ball goes to Dirk on the right wing. He drives left into the lane and jump stops at the charge circle. A pump fake gets Bird in the air (of course), but Dirk misses the short fade away off the back rim.
On the ensuing Denver possession Melo gets mugged at the rim with no call (hey, we have a right to complain about the refs after the 36-13 free throw advantage from game one that was rightfully ours was slashed to a 40-30 advantage, just horrible) Dallas outlets to Barea who flies up the court, draws AC and J.R. into the lane and kicks out to Kidd who misses a toe-barely-over-the-line two pointer. The miss triggers a break the other way for Denver that results in Nene being fouled at the rim.
Now down ten, 93-83, Carlisle reinserts Terry. Carter stays right with Terry on a four day, three night trek from one side of the court to the other that visited some beautiful locations along the baseline and spent some time at a screen set by NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki. Birdman and Carter trap Terry again leaving Dirk open in the middle of the floor about 30 feet from the hoop. Terry passes to Dirk who drops it like the phone number of a female power lifter from the former East Germany which sets the Nuggets running again. That makes for a 9-0 run and puts the Nuggets up 12, 95-83.
After a timeout Dallas sets up with Terry in the left corner and after a misdemeanor assault two handed shove to free himself from AC’s tremendous defense Terry flashes to the high right wing. Carter was left so far behind due to the push off that Nene has to step out to cover Terry. Terry gets the ball and then passes to Nowitzki after which JET cuts to the right corner. He gets a return pass from Dirk and rises to shoot, but Nene, perhaps having jumped into the future and read my comments about big men guarding little ones on the perimeter, forces him to abort the jumper and desperately pass back out to Dirk who has the chase it down. Terry gets the ball again with Nene blanketing him. Bass, who AC should be guarding after being physically forced to stop guarding Terry at the beginning of the play, clashes to the lane and having been left for dead by Carter makes a little ten footer for Dallas’ shot that put the two in 16-2.
On Dallas’ next possession the Nuggets trap Terry off a high screen by Bass who slips down the lane. Terry delivers the ball and it appears Bass is about to score when J.R., Melo and Nene collapse on him and force a loose ball. Bass collects and passes out to Kidd who misses a semi-contested jumper as Melo recovers from helping in the lane to at least get a hand up on the shot.
As the run grows Denver’s defense gets more and more active. Barea has the ball on the left wing with Dirk setting a screen to his right and Bass doing the same to his left. Barea chooses left for some reason. With the sideline right there and Nene hedging to bottle him up J.J. leaps and throws a wild pass into the middle of the court. Birdman gets a talon on it, but it bounces to Terry. Dirk and Terry run a pick and pop. Bird and AC trap Terry who passes back to an open Dirk. Melo leaves Kidd in the corner to run at Nowitzki. Dirk passes to Kidd as Nene rotates out to the corner and Andersen rotates perfectly onto Bass on the right block who Nene left to cover Kidd. Kidd drives left into the lane and fumbles the ball as if it was a phone with his ex wife demanding this month’s alimony payment resulting in another Denver fast break.
Hang in there we are almost done. Kidd and Hollins run a pick and roll and Melo is forced to switch onto Hollins. Hollins receives the pass from Kidd and Melo fouls him to prevent a dunk. Melo was in foul trouble in game one, but he only had two at this point late in game two which allowed him to make the smart play and prevent the basket. It sure pays to have some fouls available late in games. Dallas then ran Terry off a double screen and he was able to lose AC who lost his balance on the first pick. Nene switched onto Terry and apparently forgot how good of a job he did earlier as he laid back and allowed Terry to take a three from the right wing. Fortunately Terry missed, Nene ran out, Melo caught the rebound and hit Nene in stride with a perfect pass and the Brazilian Gazelle threw down a dunk to wrap up the 16-2 burst that gave the Nuggets the win.
OK, now imagine that only twice as long. Oh, who am I kidding? No one is still reading this.
Anyway, Denver still had a couple of breakdowns and the Mavs missed two or three open jumpers, but the key was the only open shots they could get were perimeter shots. Denver was much more sound on screens and I liked how Birdman and AC have their own little trapping scheme down pat. While Denver played some lethargic defense for much of the game they did crank it up in the fourth quarter and while I prefer the 48 minutes of nasty defense they had been playing I guess I will take it.
I was going to get into the Mavericks’ zone defense, but we are well over 2,000 words so you can all go back to the days when you were in school and the teacher was about to give out an assignment only to have the bell ring and free you from the obligation. Heck, I am not going to even try to proof read this thing until tomorrow.
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 90.7 – Slow for a home game.
Defensive Efficiency: 115.8 – Denver’s worst rating of the season topping 108.7 in the game three loss against New Orleans. The numbers between games one and two are all very similar except for Dallas’ nine fewer turnovers and 17 more free throws.
Offensive Efficiency: 129.0 – Second best output of the playoffs trailing only the 138.7 they posted in the game four blowout in New Orleans.
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