2009 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Game 4: Denver Nuggets 117 – Dallas Mavericks 119

Box Score | Highlights

The Denver Nuggets still have not swept a postseason series and the Dallas Mavericks were able to break an eight game losing streak to the Nuggets.  Even so, I think I am starting to experience what teams like the Lakers and Pistons have felt over the years.  I fully expected Denver to win this game until the final few seconds and when the lost I was not so much upset as I was annoyed.  How dare the Mavericks waste our time and energy by pretending this game meant something?  They are only delaying the inevitable. 

The Nuggets may still be a virtual shoe in for the conference finals, but there are some reasons to be concerned about this team’s performance in games three and four.  The problems start with the “vaunted” and “legendary” Nuggets defense.  As loyal reader and commenter Beefy Swats pointed out in the game thread just as in the regular season the Nuggets defensive intensity has waned as games pass.

The Nuggets’ defense has slackened against Dallas.  After posting a defensive efficiency of 95.1 against New Orleans, Denver’s defensive efficiency has surged to 112.5 against the Mavericks.  As George Karl pointed out in the post game press conference, the Nuggets tried to win on offense instead of with defense and Dallas was able to run up the score.

What are the problems?  The primary issue I see is they are not playing with the cohesiveness they did against the Hornets.  When there is penetration the help is either late or non-existent.  After forcing the Hornets and Mavericks to score from the perimeter for the first six games of the postseason the Mavericks are starting to earn some easy buckets.  Tonight Dallas actually outscored Denver in the paint 42-36.  Conversely, the Nuggets’ points in the paint have been slowly shrinking after posting 58 in game one.  In game two Denver scored 50 points in the paint and they totaled 48 in game three.  The 42 in game four go to show how Denver’s offense was far too perimeter oriented, but we are supposed to be talking about defense.

If Dallas is going to shock the world and come back to win this series it will be on the back of Dirk Nowitzki.  No Nugget player has been able to deal with Dirk apart from Chris Andersen for one quarter in game one and Kenyon Martin for one quarter in game three.  The decision not to double Dirk would seem to have worked as Dallas has not gone crazy from behind the three point line and Denver is up 3-1 in the series.  I think you can make a good argument that not doubling Dirk is actually not working.  The Mavericks are not killing the Nuggets from behind the arc, but from the charity stripe. 

During the regular season Dallas averaged .274 free throws per shot attempt.  Against the Nuggets Dallas is shooting .430 free throws per shot attempt and that includes game one when Dallas had 13 free throws compared to 82 shot attempts.

With free throws comes foul trouble and Denver has struggled with foul trouble with their bigs in both games in Dallas.  Game four was especially difficult as Chris Andersen had to miss the game with a stomach illness.

When Dallas is not scoring from the free throw line they are hitting a high percentage of their shots.  For the series Dallas is shooting 46.8%, but Dallas shot 48.8% in game one, 47.4% in game two and 50.6% in game four.  Dallas is getting to the line and hitting their shots the hallmarks of efficient offense and poor defense.

I projected the Nuggets would have a more difficult time defending the Mavericks than they did against the Hornets, but I expected them to do better than this.

Another problem apart from the defense is the Nuggets have lost their physical edge.  Along with the points in the paint Dallas crushed the Nuggets on the boards.  I generally do not make a big deal about rebounds unless the Nuggets get or give up an avalanche of second chance points, but the Mavericks completely controlled their defensive glass giving up only six offensive rebounds to Denver while corralling 41 defensive boards.

Even with all of the Nuggets’ deficiencies in game four, they were never down by more than four and really should have pulled this game out.

Hopefully the Nuggets learn from this loss and bounce back to dominate the next game as they did after their singular loss against New Orleans.  Game five is back at the Pepsi Center where Dallas should not be able to get 40 plus free throws and the Nuggets will hopefully rediscover their running game. 

There is not much reason to fret about the Mavericks, but if Denver cannot tighten their focus they will be hard pressed to win the Western Conference Finals. 

Look for the additional nuggets later this morning.

  • jakester

    We were out-hustled. I loathed that call against Kenyon at the end but we never should have put them in a position to have the ball up by 2. Some questionable offensive posetions in the second half.

    Are we letting them get into our heads? Will Karl start having nightmares of 1994? Will the mavs be adjusted enough to the altitude that Kidd starts making stupid turnovers in the 4th? Can we solve Barea? Can Nene PLEASE play luke he did in Game 1 and 2?

    Let’s man up, fellows.

    And GK, add me to the chorus of fans who would love a Balkman sighting.

  • Frontrange

    I have no complaints about the refs (well, no baised complaints) as the Nugs got their fair share of calls, maybe even a more than epected for a road game. However, if the refs are going to call the game that tight, Dirk is unstoppable. 4th quarter – 11 FT, some of them questionable, but the the calls were going both ways. I don’t see how to stop a 7 footer who backs down, leans in, fades way, gets the whistle. Billups and ‘Melo also forced the issue so it went both ways, but for the Nugs it would be better to let them play.

  • Frontrange

    The last call wasn’t a bad one on Martin – he got the elbow on the shot and thus Dirk missed by 2 feet. Can’t argue that despite the call was a little late, doesn’t change the fact. The fifth on him was a pretty tough call as was the pivot on Klieza on the post . . .what is a defender supposed to do?

  • magster

    We win if we make free throws.

    Silver lining: we needed a “don’t get complacent on defense” wake up call.

  • BeefySwats

    Thanks once again for the mention, Jeremy.

    I thought Denver was going to make that late third or fourth quarter run to close the game out, but instead it never came. While we’re all doom and gloom right now, some positives to take away from this one:

    – Carmelo had his career playoff high and played stellar basketball (5 steals) on both ends of the floor.

    – Chauncey continues to drive with purpose and proves that nobody can stop him from getting into the paint.

    – Dahntay Jones, while still an offensive black hole, has shown us that he can play in the paint…when he has a five foot jumping head start.

    – Linas Kleiza has made a strong case for Balkman to get PT in game 5, and I applaud him for that!

    – JR Smith robbed two banks in Dallas last night with the shot clock winding down. Tellers were on the floor, money was being handed out in big bags with net symbols on them. If he’s hitting like that in a tight game 4, I expect him to burn the nets off in game 5 at home.

    – The extra day of crapping his brains out will hopefully allow Birdman to rest his knees and come out strong in Game 5.

    – There’s no way Kenyon can play worse than he did tonight. 2 points, 2 boards, 6 fouls, including a critical turnover late in the game when the ball slipped from his hands on a post drive.

    I fully intend on being at game 5 and I suggest you ALL go to support our Nuggets. Let’s blow the roof off the Can.

  • BeefySwats

    Also, Jeremy – when was the last time Denver gave up 3+ 30 point quarters and still won a game? I bet it was quite a while ago. I cannot remember a time when they played as bad defense as that and still won the game.

  • sleepydog

    Yeah, I think we needed a defensive wake up call. I’m not too worried, we’re going to go home and finish this off. We came close, but a sweep against a good team like Dallas is hard to pull off.

    Also, I agree, if the refs are gonna call the game this close Dirk will be about unstoppable. Does it seem to anyone else that the games in Dallas have been called much closer than in Denver? Not sure if they’re just clamping down as the series progresses, but I hope they let us play a bit in game 5.

    Bottom line, if we had birdman or made free throws, we win the game, despite terrible defense. Good news is, one of those three things should improve for game 5.

  • OneMoreSucka

    Very interesting how there have been no replays whatsoever of kmart’s sixth “foul”. I’m skeptical.

    At any rate, now this team is fired up and angry and game 5 will surely be a blowout. Can’t wait!!

  • Frontrange

    I replayed it on the DVR in slow-mo when it happened (110inch screen on HD projector) . . it looked pretty clear that K-Mart got his elbow before the ball left. Touch call in real time, but no doubt it was the right call.

  • Frontrange

    Meant tough, not touch, but was both.

  • runningdonut

    I’m with jeremy on this one, annoyed more than anything that we didn’t sweep, but not worried at all. Can’t be dissapointed with that effort, with Birdman out and the soap opera BS Mark Cuban has introduced to this series.

    It’s painful to watch this team shoot free throws. Chauncey and Melo understand how important they are and welcome the challenge. The rest are scared and shoot freebies like garbage. The physical D has turned into nonstop fouling the last 2 games, but I believe that will even out eventually. This series is turning into a Days of our Lives episode thanks to Cuban, but if you pay attention to the basketball, we all knew the Nuggets could beat themselves with mistakes. The good thing – we’ve never given up or lost by more than 2 in the playoffs. Looking forward to game five already

  • BeefySwats

    Hey Jeremy…thought you might find this interesting:

    http://www.nbcdfw.com/sports/basketball/Cuban-Apologizes-Foresees-Game-5-Win-in-Denver.html

    Look at the caption below Kenyon Martin’s picture. “Denver THUGGET [sic] Kenyon Martin offers Mark Cuban advice where he should go…and it wasn’t in his direction”

    I welcome this shit now. Good, I’m glad people think we’re thugs. I hope we administer a monstrous beatdown on the Mavs tomorrow night, Kenyon has gotta keep his cool though.