The Denver Nuggets have another chance to close out a series in game five at home in the Pepsi Center. Following their game four loss I fully expect the Nuggets to come out with a strong desire to put Dallas away.
Denver better be ready to play because the Mavs have been slowly figuring out how to beat them. Dallas has done a better job attacking in transition (I cannot believe they have not used J.J. Barea more), swarming Nene in the lane and decreasing the Nuggets dominance in the paint and Dirk has been absolutely on fire. The Mavericks also have tried to ramp up their own physical play committing two flagrant fouls.
Hopefully the Nuggets will respond by locking down on defense, fighting for rebounds on both ends of the floor and playing aggressive and unselfish offense. If the Nuggets just think they will win tonight simply because they are at home, they will surely be booking another trip to Dallas for game six.
I hope that George Karl decides to make an adjustment on how they are going to defend Dirk. If I were in charge I would put a stop to the perimeter switching just as they did to close out game three and double Dirk in the post. Dirk has been destroying any smaller player who has switched onto him and he has broken out an impressive array of fakes and pivots to get to the rim in the post.
Those adjustments will make it more difficult for Dirk to score and it will prevent him from getting to the line so frequently. After averaging six free throws a game over the first six postseason games, Dirk has averaged 15 a game over the last three games against Denver. Part of that has been due to how the games have been officiated, all the complaining after game one seemed to have worked, but it is primarily a product of how Denver has chosen to defend him.
With all the X’s and O’s and change of venue the biggest adjustment from game four to game five will be having Chris Andersen in the lineup. Had Birdman been on the floor for game four I would be stuck watching Lost tonight instead of enjoying a Nuggets’ game.
It will also be interesting to see if George Karl continues to play Linas Kleiza and if so, for how long. When the only thing a guy can do to help the team is score and the tip of his thumb is fractured I would hesitate to play him. Sadly, any hope of seeing Renaldo Balkman hounding Josh Howard all over the place and finding the nooks and crannies in the interior of the Dallas defense is sure to go unrecognized.
I expect the Nuggets to close this series out just as they did against New Orleans and six hours from now we will be celebrating the Nuggets’ first appearance in the conference finals since 1985.
Take this with you: Apparently the key to winning in the playoffs is not to shoot 9-21 from the three point line, which is what the Nuggets did in game three in New Orleans and game four in Dallas.