Denver Versus Dallas PreviewWestern Conference Second Round
#2 Denver (54-28) vs. #6 Dallas (50-32)
Season series: Denver, 4-0
Dallas can win if…Jason Kidd cuts off the head of the snake by containing Chauncey Billups, Josh Howard harasses Carmelo Anthony into shooting a poor percentage and Dirk Nowitzki understands that he is taller and more skilled than Kenyon Martin, so he can get whatever shot he wants to get if he is patient. The Mavericks did a good job defensively versus the Spurs in the first round but right now the Nuggets are a much deeper and healthier team than the Spurs; it is imperative for the Mavericks to play good defense, because the Nuggets still have a tendency to take bad shots when they are forced to set up in the half court, particularly J.R. Smith. I still find it hard to believe that all of Denver's knuckleheads (Anthony, Smith, Martin in particular) have simultaneously and permanently matured, so it will be very interesting to see what happens if Dallas can win game one in Denver but that will be a tall task for a Mavericks team that does not play well on the road and lost all four regular season games versus Denver.
Denver will win because…the Nuggets are finally playing defense. Their frontcourt, anchored by Nene and Kenyon Martin plus Chris Andersen coming off of the bench, does a good job of controlling the paint. Chauncey Billups played almost flawless basketball in the first round (22.6 ppg, 7.4 apg, 1.2 tpg, .655 3FG%). Carmelo Anthony got off to a slow start but finished with good averages (24.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.2 apg, .469 FG%); I almost fell out of my chair when I saw him actually trying to play defense and diving for loose balls. The Mavericks have all hands on deck now that Josh Howard is playing and they are peaking at the right time, so this looks like it will be a competitive series but the Nuggets have the trump card of home court advantage
Other things to consider: It is interesting to try to predict the outcome of a series when you did not expect either team to make it this far; I thought that the Spurs would have enough firepower to beat the Mavs and that the Hornets would find the form that they showed in last year's playoffs but neither of those things happened. The Mavericks showed versus San Antonio that they have a lot of offensive weapons, so they will put Denver's new found defensive mentality to the test. Denver and Dallas enjoyed a lot of success behind the three point arc in the first round, so containing the long range shooters without breaking down defensively in the paint will be important for both teams. Neither Kidd nor Billups served as the primary defender versus the opposing point guard in round one but I would assume that they will guard each other in this series, renewing a rivalry from when Kidd's Nets and Billups' Pistons met in the 2004 and 2005 playoffs.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:12 AM