Like this game needs more hype ...
Series: Denver leads 3-1
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. MDT
Bad blood is brewing between both teams, as it should since they will face off the 9th time this season tonight.
Nuggets star Chauncey Billups had this to say,
"We don't plan on going back to Dallas (for Game 6.)"
Billups and the rest of the Nuggets have some much needed big man assistance tonight with Chris "Birdman" Andersen back in the lineup after missing Game 5 with food poisoning.
The Bird had this to say in the Denver Post late last night:
Asked if he would be ready for tonight, Andersen said, "I'm going to have a really large storage of energy."
Anyone who didn't believe that need look no further than the to-go order of potato salad he devoured just before he answered questions from the media. A couple of IVs on Monday and Tuesday helped as well.
So, with everyone's favorite cult figure back in action the Nuggets will be at full strength and looking to advance to the Western Conference Finals on their home floor for the third time in franchise history.
Denver advanced to the WCF in both the 1977-78 and 1984-85 seasons and they did so by beating their opposition (Milwaukee Game 7 & Utah Game 5) in Denver.
Birdzilla against Dallas has averaged 21.3 minutes a game to go along with 8 points, 7 rebounds (2.7 on the offensive glass), and 2.33 blocks in three games this post-season.
Bird's replacement in Game 4 Linas Kleiza scored 7 points, but only grabbed 3 defensive rebounds and everyone who watches the Nuggets can tell you he just isn't an adequate replacement for the 6'11'' fan favorite.
With the Bird again protecting the nest I expect the Mavs to be wary of attacking the rim tonight ... especially J.J. Barea. I think we can expect one Rudy Fernandez type block tonight.
For those of you that don't know ... Fernandez of the Portland Trail Blazers still may have a SPALDING tattoo across his forehead from when he tried to attack the rim against the Bird.
Slap on your Nuggets gear, break into your kid's or your own piggy bank and get yourself down to the Pepsi Center tonight for Game 5. There should be plenty of fireworks on the court as the Mavs will be fighting to stay alive and the Nuggets look to advance to the WCF for the first time since 1985.
7 things Denver must do tonight to win:
- Attack, attack, attack. Points in the paint will be crucial for the Nuggets. If Denver is scoring in the paint ... Nene is likely to be the beneficiary. Perhaps being back at home is just what The Predator needs to get back into form.
- Turn Dallas back into jump shooters. The Mavericks outscored Denver in the paint 42-36 in Game 4 and that has to stop. Again, having Andersen back should slow the Mavs interior attack. You'd have to think that Dallas can't live on the perimeter, but they've been doing it all season. Denver can't allow the Mavs to average 50.6% shooting from the field like they did in Game 4.
- "Pass R-O-C-K," as Kleiza would say. The Nuggets averaged just 16 assists in Games 3 and 4. Compare that to the 28 they put up in both games 1 and 2 ... now you know why the road games were so close. Sharing the ball will create the best possible buckets and Denver thrives when they play unselfish team offense.
- Run! Tough pressure defense will result in turnovers and easy fastbreak offense. Denver committed too many fouls in Dallas and it helped slow down the pace of the game and prevented Denver from getting out and getting easy buckets. The Nuggets must continue to play pressure defense without fouling. Easier said than done since this series hasn't been called as loosely as it was, but still Denver must adjust to the officials and get easy buckets off turnovers.
- Get hot J.R. We've all been waiting for J.R. Swish to break out and go big. Well young fella ... tonight is your chance. We've seen brilliant games this series from Nene and Melo, but it's time for somebody else to step into the spotlight. The Prodigy has been averaging 16.3 ppg this series, but his playoff high is only 21 points ... it's time Young Rich. Kid has a lot of nicknames.
- Attention KMart shoppers ... we have a Blue Light special on Game 5. It's time for Kenyon to put all the off court bullshit behind him and focus on this game. He's been tasked with defending one of the league's most difficult covers. Dirk is averaging 35 ppg and if Martin can dig in tonight and slow #41 down (notice I didn't say stop him) then Denver will win this game. I still do not think Dirk should be doubled because I don't want to see open three-point attempts and I think KMart will have himself a game tonight.
- Lead, they will follow, and Dallas will be out of Denver's way. It's Billups' show tonight. He'll be directing the offense and deciding in the half court chess match which weapons to choose. Denver has rallied around CB7 all season and he was brought in for his experience in games like these. Denver gets its second shot at eliminating Dallas tonight and I believe Billups will take advantage.
I'll be in attendance tonight in the Melo's Yellows section once again. I can't wait to see the atmosphere at the arena. I hope everyone will be at the game and ready to enjoy two great teams duke it out on the floor.
There is nothing like playoff basketball and I'm enjoying every minute of it.
Please be respectful of one another in the Game Thread tonight. It's been great hearing everyone's opinions and thoughts from Nuggets Nation and Mavericks Nation.