Things are shifting to Big D and I DO mean Dallas
I apologize to those fans who had to just suffer through a country music reference above. With this series shifting to Dallas and myself wanting to look over some stats ... I present the Stat Dump!
I wonder, as I did in the last series, if the Nuggets can keep up their level of play away from the Pepsi Center. Dallas will be a different team tomorrow and their crowd should provide them some much needed energy. Remember, Dallas has won 8 in a row at home and 17 of their last 18 ... the only loss coming on March 27th to these Denver Nuggets in a game Denver had to have and Nene was suspended.
Let's get into some numbers from the first two games.
-Denver won games one and two by an average of 13 points, scoring an average of 113 to Dallas' 100. The Nuggets have utilized scoring runs and capitalized with pressure defense on Dallas' turnovers.
-Both teams have cut down on their turnovers from the first contest. Denver going from 14 turnovers to nine and Dallas going from 20 turnovers to 11.
-Can the Nuggets maintain their high field goal shooting percentage on the road?
The Nuggets have capitalized on points in the paint and no player is enjoying success down-low more than Nene. In five games in round one, Nene was 18-35 against the Hornets for 51.4%. Against Dallas, Nene in just two games is 17-25 from the field for an astonishing 68%. Nene finished second in the NBA during the regular season in field goal percentage at 60.4%, so it's really no surprise that he's making a high percentage ... the surprise (if your a Nuggets fan) has been Nene's return to his aggressive play.
Nuggets Nation and Nuggets bloggers (including myself) wondered if Nene was fatigued because at this point in the season he has played the most games of his NBA career with 84 games under his belt and counting. He looked timid down the home stretch of the regular season and was having trouble dominating a gimpy Tyson Chandler and the scrub Sean Marks. Then all of the sudden he explodes against Dallas going for two consecutive playoff career highs with 24 and 25 points. Suddenly Nene is again beating guys down the floor in transition for easy buckets and thundering home dunks in traffic.
Anyone remember Nene's left hand being wrapped? Well, the wrap is nowhere to be found and Nene is again the player we saw during much of the regular season.
-One area Denver has been struggling with is three-point shooting. Dallas hasn't been much better.
In game one Denver went 4-12 from downtown and I didn't mind the 33.3% shooting because they only took 12 attempts. It was almost like they realized they were not making them, so why shoot them? But in game two Denver was a horrific 8-28 from deep. It seemed like Denver was either getting layups/dunks or shooting threes. And if you take out Melo's 1-8 performance (12.5%) from game two ... the Nuggets were 7-20 or 35% from downtown.
As I was discussing with a friend ... Denver has not needed to rely on the three-pointer, but they have hit big downtown bombs to stretch leads and protect some Dallas runs. Law of averages would suggest that both teams should return to their season averages (Denver 37.1% and Dallas 35%) so look out for some hot shooting from deep for the rest of this series.
Oh ... we're not done yet ...
-Keeping with below average categories ... we've seen some pretty crappy free throw shooting thus far from both sides. I get nervous on the first attempt every time! I wish I had the stat in front of me and perhaps I'll track it in Game 3, but it seems that if the first free throw goes in then the second usually follows. But if that first one clangs ... the whole foul line trip is ruined for me and if the second one also clangs out I want to punch my roommate Jeff in his stupid face.
Look at those crummy numbers above. During the regular season Dallas ranked #2 in the league shooting 81.9% from the charity stripe ... compared to Denver at #20 with 76% from the freebie spot. I'd like to send in my resume (yes, no experience) and become the Nuggets free throw coach. The first thing I'd tell the players is, "Watch how Billups is shooting!"
Billups has close to no movement at the line in his legs. Just a short lift as he shoots and perfect arm motion and follow through. Yao Ming shoots the same way and is 7'6'' tall shooting 92.9% in these playoffs.
I love to harp on J.R. Smith because he is shooting 40.5% from three-point land in the playoffs, yet just 55% (11-20) from the foul line. There is not one reason why J.R. Swish shouldn't be shooting well into the high 80 percentile range. You let me work with the kid for the summer and I guarantee he starts knocking down his freebies. It's simple ... stop bouncing as you are trying to shoot, you get no consistency and the extra movement will alter your shots just enough to miss as your are messing with your balance.
-I read in the comments from I believe Bob in Boulder about how he wants to see a bit more +/- breakdowns as they are leaned on a bit more in hockey and ESPN and Yahoo! have added them to their box scores.
I'm not totally sure what to make of these numbers other than to say Denver, winners of both games, has the obvious advantage here and these numbers would swing if Dallas pulls off a win. Another thing to look at is the bench numbers. It's clear to anyone watching this series that J.R. Smith and Birdman are difference makers coming off Denver's bench.
J.R. and Jason Terry play the exact same role for their teams. They are coming off the bench, but they play starter minutes and are expected to provide immediate scoring for their teams. J.R. is the superior player at this point in each respected guy's career. Smith can get to the basket against any defense and really that is his biggest advantage over Terry. Smith is also a much more capable defender and when he focuses can be a disrupter in the passing lanes.
Swish has turned in an astonishing +49 in his 57 minutes on the floor and is only remarkably second on the team to the Bird (+52.) Meanwhile, Terry has turned in a team low -41in his 71 minutes of action. It's just too bad there isn't a 6th Man of the Playoffs award.
-And with the Nuggets dominating the +/- category, it's no surprise they are also winning the majority of the quarters.
Tipoff tomorrow is at 3 p.m. and after this full three-day layoff ... I'M READY FOR SOME BASKETBALL!
It was not completely critical for the Mavs to split the first two games in Denver as they have great confidence on their home floor. It will be a major challenge for the Nuggets to win in Dallas. But Denver has won in Dallas both times this season.
The Mavs have had zero answers for Nene so far in the series and I suspect that nobody was really expecting him to play as well as he has, aside from reader Fat Lever who FanPosted all about it here.
Game 3 is roughly 27 hours away and I couldn't be more excited!