You've my heard my crackpot prediction — Nuggets in 6 — and KD throws in his two cents below, but we also called on some of the blogosphere's finest to help set up the Western Conference Semifinals. Up first: Nate Timmons from Pickaxe And Roll and Wes Cox from Mavs Moneyball breakdown the Denver-Dallas series.
Pickaxe and Roll: Greed. Greed is a simple word meaning a selfish and excessive desire for more.
Well, now that the Nuggets have tasted playoff success for the first time since 1994, it’s time to get greedy.
The Nuggets and the Mavericks are familiar with each other. The teams have squared off four times this season with Denver winning all four games. Key guys missed games for each team, but both teams come into this series with their rosters fully loaded.
The truth is that these teams haven’t played since March 27th and in the postseason you can pretty much throw out everything you thought you knew. The only thing both fan bases can agree on is that their respective teams are currently playing at their absolute best.
Denver disposed of the Hornets in just five games because they were able to rattle Chris Paul. Paul averaged 2.96 turnovers per game in the regular season, but Denver forced him into 4.8 turnovers per game in their series. Why is this important? Because like New Orleans, Dallas loves to run the pick-and-roll and the Nuggets defense feasted off that style already.
Like I stated in my first preview: the Nuggets’ offense feeds off their defense. Denver is allowing just 84.2 points per game, while scoring 108.4 a game. Have you ever played a pick-up game and had your defender just blanketed all over you and wondered to yourself, “Why is this guy trying so hard?” Well, say hello to the new Nuggets defense.
Denver’s suffocating style and refusal to allow uncontested shots (see Carter, Anthony on Rasual Butler’s breakaway dunk attempt in Game 5) is quickly leading to the misconception of “Thuggets basketball.” This newfound physical play by the Nuggets mixes well with Denver’s ability to put points on the board.
When you talk points you start with Carmelo Anthony, but you no longer have to end with him as J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups, and Nene will show. Melo, aka the Smilin’ Assassin, averaged 24 points a game in round one and got better in each contest; scoring 13, 22, 25, 26, and 34. I expect Dallas to game plan around Melo and try, like every team does, to turn him into a jump shooter by showing double-teams if Melo starts to drive.
Double Melo all you want. The kid has become un-greedy this post-season by averaging 5.2 assists on a team averaging 25 assists per game. The only greed these Nuggets have is for WINS.
Denver in 5.
Mavs Moneyball: 0-4. That was the Mavs record against Denver this season, and it's also the stat that keeps running through my mind when I think about this series. Apparently it bothers the players a little bit less. Talking about his teams upcoming series after the win over San Antonio, Erick Dampier said, "Denver has a good team, I think we were 1-3 against them." So he's apparently not even aware of the regular season sweep. Jason Terry knew, but found the sliver lining. "This team we are about to face, Denver if that's the team, we've played them tough all year long."
Still, after the Golden State nightmare, I became a firm believer in the "matchups, matchups, matchups" mantra. 0-4 is 0-4, right? Well, maybe and hopefully not. When you look closer it's hard to put too much weight in those results.
Josh Howard started just one of those four games, a three point loss in Denver which came during the Mavs 2-7 start where they were playing pretty terrible basketball. The Dallas box scores for the rest of the series are also pretty telling. Gerald Green (!) actually started their third meeting — a two-point loss in Denver. In game four, the only time the two teams met after Dallas swapped Diop as the backup center for Ryan Hollins, Dallas again lost by two points. Josh Howard and Jason Kidd both missed that game.
Speaking of Ryan Hollins, in Diop's three games against Denver this season he had 11 rebounds, 1 block, and 2 points in 39 minutes. Ryan Hollins had 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 9 points in his one game. Is Ryan Hollins going to be the guy who Dallas relies on that same way Josh Howard was against San Antonio? Of course not, but he'll play. And he'll contribute far more out of that spot in the rotation than Denver saw in their first three meetings.
I still can't get 0-4 or JR Smith's smug taunting of the Dallas bench in late March out of my head though. Dallas will get one on the road, but Denver likely will too — so forced to make a prediction ...
Denver in 7.
You shouldn't count Dallas out though, and neither should the Nuggets.
Kelly Dwyer: I just see advantages in all the right places for Denver. Dirk Nowitzki has given us a hell of a season, Jason Terry has provided something off the bench that most teams can’t counter, Jason Kidd settles things down, J.J. Barea messes things up in a good way, and Josh Howard fills in all the holes.
But, if healthy, Chauncey Billups is going to destroy the Mavs. And the "healthy' bit is a legitimate worry, because he’s faded from the second round on during his last few postseason runs. Still, the Nuggies boast a pair of big forwards who can move their feet and contest shots (and, based on who’s calling the game, get away with quite a bit), and a cat named Carmelo who appears to have drafted himself in postseason-only fantasy basketball league.
Love both teams. Here’s hoping it goes seven, but ...
Denver in six.