Denver 109, Dallas 95 (Denver leads series, 1-0)
It's a quick read, really. I've seen the entire game twice at this point, and there isn't much to tell you that you likely don't already know.
Dirk Nowitzki was amazing in that first quarter, but not in a way that can be counted on. He hit tough, tough shots, and though none of those makes should pin your ears back (Dirk is, after all, a magic man. Full of whimsy and turnaround jumpers), it's not something that's going to last more than one quarter. Nothing against Dirk, that's how it's been for everyone who's ever played this game.
So that lockdown defense in Dirk's face actually resulted in what lockdown defense usually results in. And one of those lockdown defenders, this big guy named Nene, had something offensively that all sorts of different types of Dallas bigs couldn't counter. Nene had 18 points in the first half, Dirk fell off, and the better team won. By quite a few points.
The Nugget bench was brilliant, Carmelo Anthony got hot after a foul-plagued first half, and the Mavs weren't stopping anyone. Not because of lax effort, mind you, that's just the sort of athletes Dallas has acquired.
Skeets, in an email, mentioned being utterly smitten with this Nugget team, and I'm right there with him. I'm smitten with the Mavericks, while we're at it, but I'm also realistic. Concerning the Nuggies, though, I felt as if I should reply back with a massive tome either talking up how the bottom is about to fall out on Denver, or throwing out the idea that we've only just begun.
Either one fits, and I've no idea which to choose. And I don't think I should have to. I think I should enjoy this big basket of high altitude fun while it's here.
This is a significant thing. Because a big part of me wanted to put together some lame KD rock comp that 1.8 percent of my readers would have understood, comparing the Nuggets to something like "The Who Sell Out." The idea being that, while this is great, this is still an album that would have sounded entirely different had it been recorded six months later, as this group is still learning and growing and getting better and eventually moving toward "Sea and Sand."
Well, I'm the face if you want it, but the Nuggets aren't like that. And you can take this two ways, one involving a glass that you reckon is half-full, or the opposite take, featuring a way of describing a half-full glass of liquid that I refuse to name by, uh, name.
You see, the Nuggets are 2009. Carmelo Anthony is the future, J.R. Smith is quite young, and nobody seemed to hear about Dahntay Jones and Chris Andersen until this year, but this team is now. They are full of guys who are either in their prime, or possibly a bit removed from it, but still brilliant enough to take down giants. And while Melo and Smith are years away from the top of their pops, that's not enough to ably predict that the Nuggets of this season (and, possibly, next season) will be as good as this team (as currently constructed) will get.
Now, here's where that glass full of liquid comes in. You can get shouty or morose or angry about that, or you can appreciate this team -- this intriguing, hard-working, entertaining, talented team full of players we love that obviously adore playing basketball alongside one another -- as best you can during this spring run. Whether it lasts until June, or peters out during the second round.
Have fun with it, because the Nuggets certainly are. I don't know how long this is going to last, neither do you, so we should act accordingly.
By the way, J.R. Smith threw a pass in the fourth quarter that I've long called "a Hubie Brown pass," because at some point in my life I came across a clip of Hubie teaching youngsters how to throw a behind the back pass to someone on the left baseline from the paint ("that's not showboating! That's doing what you have to do!"), and never forgot it. And to see Smith perform it in front of Brown, putting the Nuggets up 15, was pretty sweet.
It's such an absolute treat to listen to Brown provide color commentary. He just gets it. We talk a lot about "execution" in this game, but given an eight-second window to tell you exactly what's going on, Brown nails it every time. He executes, like no other color man I've ever heard.
Atlanta 91, Miami 78 (Atlanta wins series, 4-3)
Your typical ranch stash. It was Atlanta's turn to tune into the blowout, destroying the Heat from behind the arc, watching as Miami coughed up the ball way too many times, and essentially playing up to par. Atlanta's a better team than Miami, they just didn't act like it far too often. And I consider the Heat to have underachieved this season. I probably shouldn't get started.
And it really was Joe Johnson, in this. He'll be the focus of most of the headlines, deservedly so, as he really was the difference. Josh Smith played well off the ball, while still turning in a bit of Josh Smith-yness, but it was all Johnson. And good for him, because expectations for him have long been way over the top, and he works hard whether the shots are falling, or not.
So, five steals, 27 points on 19 shots, and 6-8 on three-pointers. Pretty much ran it.
And Dwyane Wade did not. He didn't have an awful, or bad, or average game. He was fine. But the difference in his "pretty good" game and what constitutes a "freakin' awesome" game was a big part of why Miami lost. Nothing against Wade, he was all alone, but missing seven of nine three-pointers started a few breaks. And though he managed 31 points on 25 shots (very good), he did shoot 10-25 from the floor. And those long rebounds hurt.
Mario Chalmers and James Jones combined to hit 2-11 from the field, and that hurt. And those small things are the difference. Jones won't get any better (not this late in his, personal, game), but Mario can. On Sunday, though, too little production from players who got heaps and heaps of minutes. Those possessions add up.
Miami? I have no idea. We'll have to get to them this summer.