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Round 2: Mavericks vs. Nuggets PREVIEW



Admittedly, I stole this idea from At the Hive and I wanted to bring you, the reader, more insight on the Nuggets than perhaps you are use to.

So, I reached out to Mike the Nuggets Examiner, Jeremy of Roundball Mining Company, and Andrew of Denver Stiffs to get their thoughts on my SEVEN questions heading into Round 2 against the Dallas Mavericks.

(Head over to their sites for more detailed previews and other insights to Nuggets basketball!)

Here are their thoughts ... Q&A style to my Billups inspired 7 Questions:

1.) First, let’s keep this short-and-sweet (because we have more work to do against the Mavs), but what does it mean to you for the Nuggets to be in Round 2 for the first time since 1994? Heck, I was only 12 years-old at the time.

Mike - Nuggets Examiner: "Yeah, I was fifteen and I had never seen anything quite like NBA playoff basketball.  I remember going to a few of the Western Semifinals games against the Jazz and just being amazed at how crazy the atmosphere was.  It’s funny but the thing I remember most was all the dunking going on in warm-ups.  It got the crowd so fired up before the game had even started.  I think they need to bring that back.  Maybe Sonny Weems can have an impact on this series after all."

Jeremy - Roundball Mining Company: "To me it is somewhat bittersweet.  On one hand it is great to be able to watch how this team has grown and I am excited to see how far they can go.  On the other hand it is a reminder of how terrible this franchise has been for a long time.  Although I enjoyed the first round victory as much as anyone it is pathetic that this is such a milestone.  Advancing past the first round should be a regular occurrence."

Andrew - Denver Stiffs: "I was a senior in high school when the Nuggets beat the Sonics in 1994, and attended both home games.  Game 3 in particular was the best live sporting event I’ve ever been a part of in my entire life.  That being said, my memory goes back a bit further to 1988.  That was the last time the Nuggets won a playoff series on their home floor.  So I’ve now witnessed two Nuggets series victories in person: 1988 and 2009.  That gives you some perspective on how much this franchise has struggled between the end of the Doug Moe Era and the beginning of the George Karl Era."


2.) Does it mean anything that Denver was 4-0 vs. the Mavericks in the regular season?

Mike: "Only that the Nugs match up pretty well against them.  But Dallas is a completely different team now.  Something clicked with them on offense – they move the ball so well now and have no trouble finding open shots.  They stretch the defense very thin.  Also, Jason Kidd is knocking down threes with regularity.  And when things aren’t working it’s pretty easy to throw it to Dirk and let him go to work."
Jeremy: "If anyone is claiming Denver will win this series simply because they won the season series they are crazy.  Both teams are playing much better than they were at any point this season and both teams are fully healthy, which was not the case in three of the four games.  Perhaps the Nuggets hold a slight mental advantage, but you better believe Dallas knows they can win this series.  What is important though is both teams developed tactics that will be utilized in this series.  For example hopefully Denver established how they can deal with the high screen action the Mavs run with Dirk."
Andrew: "It means a little.  It means that the Nuggets know they can beat the Mavericks in their gym so confidence won’t be a problem in this series (as I’m afraid it will be should the Nuggets face off against the Lakers in the WCF).  Also, a lot is being made of the Mavericks not having Josh Howard for two of those four games, but the Nuggets were without Carmelo Anthony and Nene (each missed one game) for two of the four games, as well."


3.) What must Denver do on offense to be successful against Dallas? And what matchups are you looking forward to?

Mike: "It’s pretty clear-cut what the Nuggets need to do on offense: pass the ball.  They’re a great offensive team when everyone’s playing unselfishly.  But they’re mediocre when they get into one-on-one basketball.  I’ll be interested to see how well Dallas guards Carmelo Anthony.  I don’t think Josh Howard can hang with Melo physically.  Billups-Kidd will be interesting as well.
Jeremy: "Denver needs to do more of the same although I would like to see some more points in the paint.  The key to me is Carmelo Anthony.  If he plays the way he did against the Hornets, Denver will have no problem scoring points.  In round one Melo finally started making teams pay for doubling him by executing quick accurate passes or driving past the help defender into the middle of the lane to get to the rim.  Dallas will definitely double Melo, especially in the post, as Josh Howard cannot handle him one-on-one, and he will have to punish them for it.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing if Melo can continue his sterling play.

"Dallas has no one who can cover J.R. Smith (then again who does?).  If he can get matched up with JJ Barea just put points on the board and head to the other end of the floor.  Chauncey will post better numbers than Jason Kidd although Kidd does tend to hold Chauncey below his averages.  If Kenyon is aggressive he can make things difficult for Dirk and Nene has a big quickness advantage on Erick Dampier.
Andrew: "Dallas has no interior defense so Carmelo Anthony – and yes, Denver Stiffs has been beating this drum for two seasons now – MUST take the ball to the rack rather than settle for all those mid-range jumpers.  The same goes for J.R. Smith.  If Melo and J.R. could somehow combine for 12 free throw attempts per game, this series is over in five games.

"Beyond that, the two most intriguing matchups are K-Mart vs. Dirk and Chauncey vs. J-Kidd."


4.) What area would you like the Nuggets to focus on defensively? And again, what matchup are you looking forward to?

Mike: "The Dirk-Kenyon matchup will be key.  I see K-Mart getting into Dirk’s head a little bit, which doesn’t usually work in the Mavs’ favor.  The Nuggets usually defend pretty well when they don’t have to expend a lot of energy down low.  Dallas’ ball movement will be a tough test for the Nuggets D.  Communication will be everything.  It seemed like San Antonio just got dizzy trying to keep up with Dallas in that last series."

Jeremy: "Dallas has a lot of weapons and as I mentioned above the key play the Nuggets will have to stop is the high screen by Dirk.  The Mavs set great screens and Dirk will (try) to knock the defender off of Kidd, Terry or Barea.  If Denver traps, Dirk is open.  If they switch then Dirk is being covered by a guard.  Denver had some success trapping the ball handler and rotating the other big up to Dirk, but that causes problems too and I suspect the Mavs will be ready for that scheme.  If Dallas is just going to post Dirk up or put him on the wing, Kenyon can make life tough on him, but that high screen scares me.

"The other key will be if they can contain Barea.  So far no Nugget defender has proven they can keep him out of the lane and if his three point shot is falling he can be a terror.

"I will also be interested to see how well Dahntay Jones can cover Jason Terry.  Jones was great defending the pick and roll, but he will have to chase Terry through a hoard of screens and to me Anthony Carter is better suited for that role."
Andrew: "The Mavericks primary scorers – Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry – overly rely on their jumpers.  So as long as the Nuggets aren’t giving them easy layups and keep a hand in their faces on those perimeter jumpers, I’ll live with it.  As noted above, the K-Mart vs. Dirk matchup will be the most intriguing defensively."


Continue reading after the jump where we get into predictions ...

5.) Josh Howard and J.J. Barea were difference makers for the Mavs against the Spurs. Dahntay Jones and Kenyon Martin came up big for Denver. What role players must step up in this series?

Mike: J.R. played pretty well against New Orleans, but he’s even more important in this series.  He has to balance his ability to come in the game and knock down shots and still play tough defense on Jason Terry.  He’ll have his hands full in this round.

Jeremy: "I do not know if you can call him a role player, but I expect J.R. Smith to have a big series being checked by the Mavs’ smaller shooting guards.  Kenyon is going to have to frustrate Dirk and I think he will have some success in doing so.  And as I alluded to in my answer to question four, I think Anthony Carter may play a bigger role than Jones this series."

Andrew: "I wouldn’t call Josh Howard, a one-time All-Star, a role player.  But for Dallas, I believe J.J. Barea and Erick “the waste of space” Dampier must come up big, or they’re done.  For the Nuggets it’s the usual role players that we’ll be relying on: Chris Andersen, Dahntay Jones and Anthony Carter.  Carter could actually harass Barea into a bad series."


6.) Jason Terry (13.4 ppg in the playoffs) vs. J.R. Smith (16 ppg) … who is the more important 6th man going to be?

Mike: "Even with my statements above, I’d have to say Jason Terry.  I think we’ll see closer games as the series goes on, and Terry is such a great shooter in crunch-time."  
Jeremy: "Both players are major contributors to their team, but I would have to say if Terry does not have a big series Denver wins while Denver can survive a below average performance from J.R.  Terry did not post impressive per game stats against the Spurs, but that series was not very competitive."
Andrew: "Even though Terry’s shooting is off a bit in the playoffs, it’s still Terry.  J.R. can have a bad game for Denver, and the Nuggets can still win (i.e. J.R. can be the Nuggets third or fourth option offensively behind Melo, Chauncey and Nene).  Terry, on the other hand, is one of only three Mavericks who can score.  If he has a bad night, the Mavericks probably lose."


7.) Final thoughts and your ever important series prediction?

Mike: "It will be a very entertaining series filled with plenty of good offense and clutch shots galore.  If the Nuggets can approach the level of defense they were at against New Orleans, I think they’ll be fine.  Nuggets in 7."

Jeremy: "I think this will be a tremendous series.  Dallas is very talented and disciplined.  They are a patient offensive team who will put more pressure from sideline to sideline on the Nuggets defense than the Hornets did.  All Denver had to do in the Hornets series was defend the pick and roll and sick Kenyon on David West.  Dallas’ offense is much more diversified.  I also expect to see Dallas run when the opportunity presents itself to take advantage of the Nuggets’ vulnerable transition defense. 

"As a longtime Nuggets fan I have been programmed to be pessimistic, but I am done selling this team short.  Dallas is a very good team, but the Nuggets are better.  Denver in 6."

Andrew: "I’m saying Nuggets in 5.  Yes, the Mavericks are a hot team but they just don’t have the depth and firepower to contend with the Nuggets.  I see the Nuggets coming out sluggish in Game 1 but winning, they’ll be better in Game 2, lose Game 3 at Dallas, eek out a Game 4 victory at Dallas and then wrap up the series in Game 5 at Denver. 



There you have it Nuggets fans. Everybody is picking Denver and I don't want to be the odd man out ... I'll take Denver in 5 as well. I just don't see the Mavs stealing one early, but I can see Denver taking either game three or four and you must be crazy to think Denver wont win a Game 5 in front of the hometown fans.

We'll see you all Sunday!

Big Thank Yous to Mike, Jeremy, and Andrew for their insight and predictions!

I'll again have a "mini-preview" up on Yahoo! Sports' blog Ball Don't Lie opposite of Wes Cox of Mavs Moneyball ... be on the lookout for that tomorrow!