Nene, Nuggets get offensive in Game 1
It took the Nuggets just over two minutes (9:52 mark) to score their first points of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Carmelo Anthony appropriately sank the first two free throws for the Nuggets in front of an announced crowd of 19,631 crazed Denver fans.
I'm here to tell you ... nothing is better than being around the arena before these games and enjoying pre-game festivities with other fans. Strangers chanting together, high-fiving, booing the opposing teams fans, and everyone doing so in pretty good fun.
Nuggets fever is starting to really spread ... sort of like Swine Flu I'm told. The Melo's Yellows (a good portion of them) met up at Braun's before the game (right next to the Pepsi Center) and just about everyone there was in Nuggets gear and some Dallas gear was also visible, but definitely the minority.
We didn't get to our seats until just before tipoff ... but the arena was already rocking. I can't imagine being a player down on the floor and seeing 19k+ there to watch you play some ball.
Perhaps it was nerves or just poor selection, but the Nuggets didn't attempt a shot inside of 17-feet until Melo got to the foul line at the aforementioned 9:52 mark. Opening things up 0-3 from the perimeter was not a good sign and after one Denver was down 24-16.
I wasn't down after a slow start and knew that once the Nuggets started attacking that they'd be right back in the game. And attack Denver did ... starting with the man in the middle. Nene had a spectacular 2nd Quarter. The Big Brazilian scored 14 of his 24 points in the second and did so in powerful fashion.
Nene sparked the crowd with his transition buckets and power jams. The team fed off the big man and the lid came off the hoop. Denver scored 35 in the quarter and outscored Dallas after the 1st Quarter 93-71.
Nene: Wow. After seeing a timid Nene for much of the New Orleans series it was fantastic to see him play his finest game to date. Erick Dampier, Ryan Hollins, and Brandon Bass are no match for Big Brazil. Nene's final numbers: 36 minutes, 9-13 shooting (6-7 from the foul line) for 24 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and a block. Nene was also able to stay out of foul trouble and was only whistled twice. Nene got some great transition buckets and as we all know ... the guy can run the floor and I don't know who would want to try to take a charge from that beast. #31 can dominate this entire series if he chooses to play as aggressive as he did yesterday.
Carmelo Anthony: Kid was crazy efficient last night. In his 29 minutes of work Melo was 7-10 from the floor (2-3 from deep / 7-7 from the charity stripe) for 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Melo would have taken more than 10 shots had he not been in foul trouble. Again, like Nene he can be as dominant in this series as he chooses to be. Josh Howard cannot defend Melo when the Smilin' Assassin is attacking the rim.
J.R. Swish: 32 minutes off the bench ... 7-13 from the field and only 2 three-point attempts (he was 0-2). J.R. is great when he uses more of his game than just his long bomb ability. Smith recorded 6 assists and looked to set up his teammates more than he has in a long time. His best play? Let's say that sweet behind the back no look pass to Melo for the easy jam. Smith was only 1-5 from the foul line and that has got to improve. Kid should be a 90% guy from the line ... I still say he bounces too much while shooting free throws. Learn from Billups ... less movement is best from the stripe. But I'll take 15 points from Smith to go along with his unselfish play all series long.
Anthony Carter: As most of us probably knew ... AC will get more playing time in this series as he matches up well with little Jose Juan Barea. Carter gave us one of his best performances to date as well. After scoring just 3 points off 1-9 shooting against the Hornets ... AC delivered a fine offensive performance going 6-8 from the floor scoring 12 points along with 4 assists in 22 minutes. Carter is an effective floor general coming off the bench, and will have an active role in this series. If he can remain in control on the floor and defend Barea I like Denver's chances.
Chris Andersen: If you'll notice I'm listing guys in order of points scored. That's three bench guys coming after two starters ... yes, Denver's bench played great! The Birdman got plenty of love from the hometown fans and brought Denver much needed energy right away off the pine. Bird logged 28 minutes, 3-5 shooting (5-8 from the foul line) for 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Dallas' lack of interior attackers will be evident by Bird's blocks. If you can't take it strong to the rim ... Birdman will feast like he did yesterday. Is there a better energy guy in the playoffs aside from the Bird? It'd be difficult to say yes.
Dahntay Jones: He's going to see his P.T. cut this series as he doesn't have that great defensive assignment against the Mavs. In 18 minutes Jones scored 9 points on 3-6 shooting (3-3 from the foul line).
Kenyon Martin: He's being asked to defend Dirk one-on-one. Nowitzki is almost impossible to stop when he's sitting back taking jumpers. But if that is all Dirk is going to do ... Dallas will lose this series. Martin, just like he did to Chris Paul, delivered a hard foul to Dirk and got T'ed up for it. Replay in the stadium showed a bit of a flop from the German, but I love KMart sending a message. Dirk is known for being a bit soft and you can tell right away that Dallas doesn't want any part of a physical series. Kenyon loves playing the role of the bad guy and wont shy away from his physical play ... I love it. Martin played 28 minutes and went 3-8 from the field (2-4 from the foul line) scoring 8 points and recording 5 rebounds. Not stellar numbers there, but his defensive effort is far more crucial (2 steals, 1 block, 3 fouls.)
Chauncey Billups: The floor general. Billups along with Melo led the team with 4 turnovers and Billups took a few questionable shots yesterday as well. Sometimes he'll try to do a little too much, but he used to be a score first guard (with CU at least ... he's all they had) and that mentality of Mr. Big Shot will always be there. Billups probably played his least effective offensive game scoring wise of the playoffs going 2-8 from the floor (2-4 from deep / and 0 free throw attempts) for 6 points. But Billups recorded 6 assists and helped Jason Kidd into his playoff high 8 turnovers. Billups will bounce back and he'll do so by getting himself to the foul line in Game 2.
Adjustments for Game 2:
- Denver must get better on the boards. Dallas outrebounded the Nuggets 37-30 and snagged 10 offensive rebounds of the possible 35.
- Free throw shooting. Denver was 25-36 from the line ... good for just 69.4%. I hate to say it, but this poor shooting from the foul line could cost Denver a game or two if it doesn't improve.
- Contesting shots. Too many times Dallas had open looks. While the Mavs basically decided to be a primarily jump shooting team (that's who they are) Denver must close out on the shooters. The Mavs shot nearly 50% yesterday and while they were making some incredibly difficult shots, Denver gave up too many good looks. The Nuggets got a bit fortunate against the Hornets as they were pretty cold from the floor ... but Denver did a better job in that series contesting jump shots than I saw yesterday.
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets attempted 36 free throws to Dallas' 13. Many fans will point to this fact and say the Mavs got screwed by the refs, but I'm going to tell you the refs will not reward non-aggressive play. We know this first hand.
- Denver's bench outscored the Mavs 39-30 in Game 1.
- The Mavs grabbed 10 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets 5.
- The Mavs had nine more field goal attempts than Denver in Game 1 ... going 40-82 (48.8%) while Denver was 40-73 (54.8%). Those free throw attempts came in handy.
- Neither team shot the long ball well ... both teams shot 33.3%. Dallas was 6-18 while Denver was just 4-12.
Mav's take: Mavs Moneyball