Staring Down the Panic Button

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 4, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

Photo by Danny Bollinger.

In Game 1, two critical Mavs sprained an ankle, Jason Kidd had twice as many turnovers as assists, the bench saviors were all wearing home whites, Dirk couldn’t get a helping hand, and the opportunity to take a game under Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups’ feet was lost.

I’m sure there were positives in that 48 minutes somewhere, but the theme for Game 2 is improvement.  Looking over the lists of errors and miscues from Game 1, I can’t help but think that the Mavs are in charge of their own destinies.  It comes down to unveiling a more refined style of play on Tuesday, a display of an offense that doesn’t struggle to finish in transition or toss around careless passes on the perimeter.

Jason Kidd probably can’t play any worse, so at least that’s one minor victory in the bag.  But Jason Terry and J.J. Barea need to do their part as well to ensure that the offense doesn’t come to a grinding halt.  It’s difficult for both JET and J.J. to see over and around traps, but their ability to swing the ball around the perimeter and not get greedy with their playmaking will cut down the team’s turnovers and hopefully open up the shooters.  I was literally frightened whenever the Mavs passed the ball, as if each lazy hand-off or cross-court bounce pass was an open invitation for a Nuggets’ fast break.  That, more than anything, needs to be reconciled if the Mavs want to hang in this series.

Asking for precise execution on something as simple as passing the ball should go without saying, but these Mavs apparently need a reminder every once in awhile.  That reminder is even more crucial given Josh Howard’s injury status.  Josh said that having two wobbly ankles is “like walking on egg shells,” and that if Game 2 were a regular season contest, he’d be watching from the bench.  But it’s not and he won’t be.  Regardless, any time Josh does put in on the court will likely be limited, and the Mavs’ best defensive strategy for Carmelo Anthony (getting him in foul trouble) will be a bit more difficult.  If we’re expecting less scoring from Josh and more from Melo, that could mean serious problems even for a Dallas offense that executes perfectly.  Antoine Wright will have to really dig in, lest Melo explode for a nickel.

Offensively, Jason Terry will need to pick up the slack.  He was shadowed by Anthony Carter, J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups, and Dahntay Jones during Game 1, and the only reason his shot attempts and point totals don’t look unusually meager is because of some fourth quarter shot hunting.  In the game of basketball, I’m an advocate of doing what works, and ramming that consistent ingredient down your opponents’ throats.  If you have a speedy point guard, drive and kick until the defense changes to counter it.  If you have a reliable low-post threat, feed him the ball until the double-teams come.  And if you have two players who can absolutely ruin defenses with the two man game, give them the ball and spread out.  If the Nuggets continue to switch on screens, Jason Terry needs to realize that there are two options for exploiting the mismatch.  Terry can turn overaggressive shot-blockers against themselves, using the pump fake to lure Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin into foul trouble, which helps out the entire team.  And likewise, force a second defender to help on Dirk, which opens up shots from the perimeter and lanes for slashers.  Make the Nuggets prove that they can stop Dirk before you give them any benefit of the doubt, and make them prove that their defensive strategies are as sound as they claim.

I can foresee Nene being a big problem in this series, particularly with Erick Dampier running gingerly on that sprained ankle.  Around the basket, I trust in Dampier’s size to limit the easy looks.  But off the pick-and-roll, it’s up to Damp to play under the screen and it’s up to the guards to battle through.  Dirk has played way off of Kenyon Martin in similar situations and Chauncey Billups has yet to really exploit that.  Plus, any possession ending with a Nene or Martin jumpshot has to be considered a win for the Dallas defense.  Nene’s still going to be the beast that he is, but at least the defense might be in position to contest his attacks on the rim.

On Sunday, we saw reasons to worry, but nothing to really freak about.  The Mavs are fully capable of stealing Game 2 in Denver and coming home with the series all square.  A lot depends on two gimps, a revival of the league’s Sixth Man, and a healthy bump in basketball IQ, but the playoff Mavs have shown that they’re a bounce-back team.  Kidd, Terry, and Dirk need to take Game 1 personally, and the Mavs on the whole need to realize their offensive potential.  “Must-win” games are a myth, but an 0-2 deficit against Denver would put both teams on tilt.  For the Mavs, that would likely end in more risky plays and more turnovers.  For the Nuggets, an emotional ride would push them towards even more aggressive defense and a parade to the free throw line.  If the Mavs are going to win this series, they’re going to need a statement win, and I see no better place for that than Game 2.

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under xOther | 6 Comments to Read

  • Nene, via Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post: “We don’t a send message to Dallas,” Nene said…”We send a message to us. If we play like that — simple, humble, hard, share the ball, play defense — this is going to be the result.”
  • Bethlehem Shoals of The Sporting Blog: “‘X-factor’ may be one of the emptiest cliches in all of sports, but somehow it’s not only appropriate for Josh Howard—it practically has become his nickname. Like if your friend earned the sobriquet “Wingman.” In Howard’s case, though, the concept is taken to an entirely different level. The Mavs swingman can either be the team’s best player or fade into the background; light up the scoreboard in the first quarter and then barely assert himself; hustle like crazy or get accused of being a lousy malcontent. He has been troubled by ankle issues all season, and it has become painfully clear that, while Howard may be mercurial, he also is the difference between the Mavs being solid and potentially very good. For Dallas to make a series of this after today’s steamrolling, Howard needs to stay healthy and for once play the same way for several days in a row.”
  • Could Denver actually be the best team in the West?
  • Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “Carlisle insisted he didn’t want to turn this into a whine party about the referees. Never mind that the last 16 times Dan Crawford has refereed one of their playoff games, the Mavericks have one win. At least he’s out of the way early this series. Nowitzki didn’t want to get dragged into any discussion about the referees. ‘It is what it is,’ Nowitzki said. ‘I’m not going to sit here and complain about it. We knew they were going to play tough.’”
  • Joey from FreeDarko: “There was a moment against the Mavericks yesterday when Denver broke its huddle by Karl imploring them to “keep on playing the right way.” This “right way,” one which had stolen the early lead and momentum from Dallas, consisted of leak outs and aggressive defensive rebounding; of Nene, not always so nimble, swooping to the basket as Dallas looked slow and confused; of Kenyon Martin elbowing anything that got in his way anywhere on the floor; of defensive breakdowns against Dirk rapidly fading amidst retaliatory secondary breaks; of Linas Kleiza taking threes early in the shot clock; of J.R. popping over guys with hands in his face; of Chris Andersen swatting a shot into the fifth row and egging on the crowd in a knowing frenzy. Erick Dampier spent most of the first half falling over himself, and it might have owed to the sort of dimentia which the Nuggets can cause when the unconventional parts are orchestrated in a common direction. Honestly, this moment was sublime. With its brooding and surly and muscular and wild elements in explosive harmony, Denver was so far afield of anything Larry Brown has ever moaned at any of the players he loves to hate that George Karl, unintentionally, made a mockery of what we attach to the concept of “playing the right way.” And yet, it was less farce and more cooptation, because Denver was, in fact, playing the right way. It was playing its right way. Its shit worked.”
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News: “It’s not that Terry was awful in the Nuggets’ 109-95 win in this Western Conference semifinal; it’s that he was a nonfactor. That won’t get it done. The Mavs need more from their emotional linchpin. When Jet is draining jumpers and running down the court with his arms extended as though they were airplane wings, these Mavs defend better. And rebound better. And shoot better. When he’s not, the Mavs often receive a butt-kicking like the one Denver delivered in Game 1, because these Mavs feed off the enthusiasm that comes with Terry’s shot-making.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “You see, the Nuggets are 2009. Carmelo Anthony is the future, J.R. Smith is quite young, and nobody seemed to hear about Dahntay Jones and Chris Andersen until this year, but this team is now. They are full of guys who are either in their prime, or possibly a bit removed from it, but still brilliant enough to take down giants. And while Melo and Smith are years away from the top of their pops, that’s not enough to ably predict that the Nuggets of this season (and, possibly, next season) will be as good as this team (as currently constructed) will get.”
  • Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop: “Last week, we characterized many of Dwyane Wade’s defensive blocks as “horror flick” plays — just when you think Wade is out of the play, he comes in for the kill. Andersen is a horror show, too — only he’s not a furtive killer that we never see on screen. He’s Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, walking in broad daylight with a pneumatic air gun.”
  • Jeremy of Roundball Mining Company: “Things changed when Kenyon Martin leveled Dirk with a forearm along the baseline. I think that play triggered a response from both the Nuggets and Dirk. For Denver, they started playing Dirk much more physically and the open space he was enjoying early on disappeared. For Dirk he was no longer as aggressive going to the rim. Over his final 17 shots he only took four at the rim. Was it a result of the hard foul or the Nuggets’ increased pressure? My guess is it was a little of both.”
  • Woody Paige of the Denver Post: “Andersen played 28 minutes, 17 seconds against Dallas in Game 1 of the Western Conference semi- finals. The Nuggets outscored the Mavericks by 24 points during the time he was on the floor. ‘Now that’s a fun fact,’ Andersen said afterward. Andersen tied his postseason high with 11 points. He also had six rebounds. But he finished with a playoff personal-best six blocks, the most for a Nugget since a guy named Dikembe Mutombo rejected seven in 1994. To the Mavs, Andersen was a road rash. Dirk Nowitzki felt like he had fallen into a briar patch, and then attacked by killer red ants. ‘If Dirk squares up at the basket, he’ll make the shot every time. You’ve got to frustrate him, get up against him, get in his face, disrupt the shot, force him to drive,’ Ander- sen said.”
  • David Moore of the Dallas Morning News: “In the words of philosopher/coach George Karl, these Nuggets are aggressive physically and conceptually. They will put two defenders on Kidd. They will chase the ball all over the court and force the other Mavericks to make quick decisions. Those decisions were frequently wrong in Game 1. Denver’s 15 steals set a postseason record against the Mavericks.”
  • George Karl on what kind of coverage the Nuggets should use on Dirk, via Anthony Cotton of the Denver Post: “I don’t know exactly what our concepts are except to say that I don’t think staying too much with one thing is the right formula. I think the best thing is to mix it up with jumps and switches and double teams.”

Denver Nuggets 109, Dallas Mavericks 95

Posted by Rob Mahoney on under Recaps | 5 Comments to Read

Photo by Louis DeLuca / DMN Photo Staff.

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Beginnings are always messy.
-John Galsworthy

Remember the good old days?  Those times when the offense took care of itself, and the Mavs’ supporting cast was never to be outdone?  Those wonderful days of yore, those wonderful days of last week?  They’ve never seemed more distant.  37 minutes of building, rallying, and battling was undone in just 5, as the normally poised, proficient Maverick offense imploded before our very eyes.

In that woeful five minutes, the Mavs were outscored 15-2.  They shot five jumpers and made just one.  They had no free throw attempts.  And, perhaps most importantly, a completely manageable two-point deficit was suddenly a fifteen point one.  Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, the Mavs’ two most effective offensive players in the game, combined for just two attempts (both Dirk’s) during the game-deciding stretch.  Team basketball is cute and all, but at some point your best players need to be there to make plays, and the offense as a whole needs to put those players in a position to succeed.  The Mavs clearly failed in that regard, and my eyes are fixed squarely on Jason Kidd.

Kidd has done plenty to validate his acquisition, but the heady floor general was actin’ the fool during the most critical stretches of Game 1.  I can confidently say that I’ve never seen so many poorly timed and poorly executed bounce passes from such a talented point guard, and Kidd made it easy for Denver’s defense by bouncing the ball right into their laps.  Obviously the Dallas brass didn’t dream of Kidd double-dribbling away fast break opportunities or hurling passes out of bounds when they traded for him a year ago, but that’s exactly what he was doing with the Mavs’ most critical possessions.  I can accept Kidd’s weaknesses.  I know he won’t be an impact scorer, and I know that his defensive abilities are impacted by his age.  But I’m not prepared for Kidd’s strengths to suddenly disappear before our very eyes.

It’s a shame that the Mavs weren’t able to hang around in the fourth quarter, because the Nuggets’ offensive leaders, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, had been quiet until that point.  Entering the final frame, Billups and Anthony had totaled a combined 15 points (4-13 FG) and 5 turnovers.  But when Melo finally showed up and the Mavs were unable to answer, the game was essentially over.  I can’t give enough credit to Nene (24 points, 9-13 FG) and the Denver bench for keeping the Nuggets afloat and then some during the meat of the game.  Chris Andersen was every bit as nutty and active as you’d expect, and with fantastic results.  J.R. Smith used his dynamic scoring style to the team’s benefit, which is one of the factors that takes the Nuggets from “good” status to “great.”  And Anthony Carter brought a completely unexpected scoring punch off the bench by killing the Mavericks in transition.  Those three in particular accomplished everything that the Mavericks reserves could not, completely dwarfing the Mavs’ bench in scoring output, defensive impact, and influence on the pace and momentum of the game.

It’s worth noting that Erick Dampier and Josh Howard each faced a small injury crisis.  Both turned an ankle (left for Damp, right for Josh), and both returned to action.  Howard never quite returned to his first quarter form (injury or normalcy?), but his defensive effort was certainly adequate despite Carmelo’s explosion.  Dampier’s injury was even more difficult to gauge, considering Nene’s speed off of the pick-and-roll would likely kill Damp, sprain or no sprain.  Regardless of their individual performances, the Mavs on the whole seemed to fold under the convenient circumstance of the injuries.  Their assertiveness went out the window, and the defense that had held Denver to 16 first quarter points went into turnstyle mode.  Nene, Smith, and Andersen killed the Mavs’ reserves, and though the game wasn’t out of reach until that fatal fourth quarter stretch, the Mavs surendered the lead and their drive along with their clean bill of health.

Chris Andersen had some very limited success guarding Dirk, but it’s clear that if the Nuggs continue to try to guard Dirk with just one defender and/or continue to switch on screens that Nowitzki will burn them every time.  Kenyon Martin was touted as an ideal Dirk defender, but Dirk’s 4 of 5 shooting with Martin D-ing him up should put that speculation to rest.  Martin and the rest of the Nuggets were clearly ready to be physical with Dirk, but even an extra shove or two didn’t force him off his game.  The key will be getting Terry, whose shot attempts in the flow of the offense were clearly limited, involved, and rallying the bench back into action.  Oh, and hoping that Kidd doesn’t decide to channel his inner Rafer Alston.

Closing thoughts:

  • The Mavs turned to doubling Carmelo and Chauncey on the catch, and we learned two things: coming off of Dahntay Jones is okay, coming off of the Birdman is not.  KA-KAW!
  • We need to start worrying about Nene…now.  And, Dampier has no business chasing him around on the perimeter.  If Nene wants to start popping jumpers, I’ll live with that.
  • There were referees at this game, and they were truly odd souls.

GOLD STAR OF THE NIGHT: The Gold Star of the Night goes, hands-down, to Dirk, who finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists.  Dirk started off a white-hot 6 for 6, and though he had undoubtedly one of the worst misses of his career on an errant jumper, it’s hard to ask more of Dirk offensively.

The Official Two Man Game Official Dallas Mavericks Versus Denver Nuggets Official Playoff Preview for the Official 2008-2009 Official Post-Season

Posted by Rob Mahoney on May 2, 2009 under Previews | 3 Comments to Read

This series is going to be a treat.  The Spurs series was an unexpected letdown in terms of competitive value, but Mavs-Nuggets will surely do more than wet your playoff palate.

Photo by Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images.

The Mavs’ 0-4 record against the Nuggets in the regular season is well-documented, but those games couldn’t possibly mean less.  Josh Howard returning from injury (and his renaissance) are akin to a major trade: it significantly changed the way that the Mavs approach the game, the way they execute on both ends, and the way Carlisle manages the rotations.  The five games’ worth of Playoff Mavs has been shocking not only in quality of play, but also just how this team has evolved since their regular season dog days.  The regular season irrelevancy goes double for the Nuggets.  Denver was a good regular season team, good enough to secure the number 2 seed in the West.  But the way that the Nuggets completely erased Chris Paul and the Hornets at large was a remarkable feat that the regular season Nuggets just weren’t capable of.  At this point, no one can accuse either the Nuggets or the Mavs of not approaching the playoffs with the appropriate level of focus.

These teams match up exquisitely, and provide a bit of yin and yang at every matchup.  Chauncey Billups’ function is to set up his teammates as a function of his scoring, while Jason Kidd’s function is to score as a function of getting his teammates going.  Dirk Nowitzki and Kenyon Martin will face off at power forward, but couldn’t have more contrasting styles.  Josh Howard, a player who broke into the league with his defense and developed more consistent offensive skills, will do his best to stick with Carmelo Anthony, a phenom with a wide offensive range who has only recently begun to groom his defense.  And yet, despite these very glaring differences, each of these players provides functionally similar contributions (Billups’ and Kidd’s leadership, Dirk’s offensive impact and Kenyon’s defensive one, and Josh and Carmelo’s versatility).  The defensive pieces seem physically able to counter the other team’s offensive weapons, but offensive talent will undoubtedly prevail.  Essentially, you’ve got two teams doing very different things and producing the exact same results.

However, both teams have found great success by breaking down iso-heavy play into a team-oriented approach.  Finding consistency with the role players is again going to decide a series for the Mavs.  J.J. Barea, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Hollins appear to be up to the challenge, but success against the decidedly mortal Spurs may not be indicative of future success.  Unfortunately, Denver has a huge leg up with the way their reserves have been executing on defense.  The Nuggets won’t be able to enact the same strategies that worked against Chris Paul and the Hornets, but the fact that as a team the Nuggs were able to execute to near-perfection on the defensive end is a bit concerning.  Chris Andersen and Anthony Carter are natural defenders off the bench, but even those considered suspect on that end (J.R. Smith, Linas Kleiza) have stepped up their game and helped the Nuggets to thrive on D.  If the Nuggets are able to repeat their defensive performance, the impact of players like Barea and Bass could be rendered irrelevant.

But with players like Smith and Kleiza, if you can break their concentration by denying them the instant dividends of stops, you can potentially turn them into defensive liabilities.  Dallas will need to work the mismatch game and continue to move the ball if they’re going to have that kind of early success, because despite what skill set and physique will tell you about the Kenyon Martin, he can’t guard Dirk one-on-one.  This season, Dirk has averaged 30 points (44% shooting), 11.3 rebounds, and just 1.5 turnovers against Denver.  Over their entire careers, Kenyon has been able to “hold” Dirk to 27.8 PPG (48.5% FG) and 10.1 RPG.  Martin has become a talented, physical defender that can give a lot of players trouble.  I just don’t believe Dirk to be one of them.  Dirk has the range to pull him to uncomfortable spots on the perimeter, he has the pet moves to put Martin in foul trouble, and even if Dirk doesn’t have position or an angle, he has the height to shoot over him.  Even the league’s best defenders aren’t ideal for guarding just anybody, and Martin is no exception.

The later George Karl realizes that, the better.  But the Mavs need to be prepared for the impending defensive pressure.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some of the same double-teaming strategies employed by San Antonio, with the Nuggets betting they can outlast the Mavs’ supporting cast.  Dirk’s passing ability will definitely come into play once again, as his ability to find open perimeter shooters and slashers down the lane will greatly affect the flow of the Dallas’ offense.  That means that the other players on the floor need to create and work in space and be ready to answer the call.  In the last series, that was Josh Howard, J.J. Barea, Erick Dampier, and Brandon Bass.  But with Antoine Wright poised for a more prominent role this time around, things could get a little trickier.  Wright is indispensible in his ability to spell Josh Howard as a defender for Carmelo Anthony, but his shooting is a bit suspect.  His ability to either finish his looks, swing the ball after drawing the rotated defender, or use that space to drive to the basket will be crucial.

Brandon Wade/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT

“Guarding Carmelo Anthony” has been a prominent theme here, and figures to be one throughout the series.  He looked completely unstoppable in the regular season, and Carlisle will have his hands full coming up with ways to slow him down.  James Singleton is a rugged, physical rebounder and defender, but he lacks the technique and speed to keep up with a player of Anthony’s caliber.  Antoine Wright will certainly have a go, but Anthony’s versatility will give him trouble, as well as Wright’s offensive limitations.  Enter Josh Howard, the Mavs’ most promising defender at small forward.  Howard didn’t have to guard an elite wing last series, but still played very impressive defense with a variety of on and off the ball tactics.  And, most importantly, he was very focused and very active, a welcome to contrast to the sometimes lackadaisical Josh we’ve seen in the past.  But everything won’t come up roses for Howard.  He’s still a little wobbly on that bad ankle, and trying to protect against the drive while predicting Melo’s pull-up jumper won’t help in the least bit.  Anthony’s got a killer first step and a vast repertoire, two factors that go heavily in his favor.  It’s up to Josh to show that he’s ready for the challenge, and that whether he’s guarding Ime Udoka or Carmelo Anthony, he’s a top-notch defender in this league.

Personally, I wouldn’t take any chances.  The more Josh is able to rest the better, because Anthony can be tired out just like Tony Parker was.  If you give Carmelo a variety of looks and coverages to keep him on his toes, he may be worn down enough to be visibly impacted.  Equally important is Josh’s offense, which can assist greatly in wearing down Anthony.  Provided he’s making Carmelo work around screens and stay in front of him on the way to the basket, Josh can play a huge role in limiting Anthony’s minutes/effectiveness due to foul trouble and fatigue.  Of course that’s only the beginning.  Antoine Wright and James Singleton need to turn into the Mavs’ own version of the Nuggets’ Dahntay Jones, bullying and pushing on Carmelo every step of the way.  That kind of beating can both wear down and test the patience of any player.

Speaking of Dahntay Jones, the Mavs defenders need to be fully aware of what he can (not a lot) and can’t do (quite a bit) offensively.  I’m of the opinion that Jones’ defender should bring a strong double on either Chauncey Billups or Carmelo Anthony, forcing Jones to either make a play or make a shot.  He doesn’t have much of a midrange touch and is reluctant to camp on the perimeter, which means that the Mavs’ frontline has to simply rotate to protect the basket should Jones opt to drive.  Jones isn’t on the floor for his offense, so it’s up to the Mavs to take advantage of that by bothering Denver’s two best offensive options instead of Jones.  Even that solution isn’t a cure-all, but the Mavs have to make the best of what they have defensively.  It’s going to come down to so much more than K-Mart vs. Dirk or Chauncey vs. Kidd, because those are both going to be group efforts.  Team defense is what it takes to stop teams as balanced as the Mavs and the Nuggets, and so the ability of Antoine Wright to stop J.R. Smith, while completely relevant, is really only the beginning of the discussion.

Photo from friends.mavs.com

It’s not that I don’t have great respect for Denver’s defense, but for the Mavs it really is as simple as “Do how we do, baby.”  Jason Terry will face some tough defenders in Jones and Anthony Carter, but hopefully it’s nothing he won’t be able to overcome in transition and playing the two man game with Dirk.  Essentially, Terry is the one spot where Denver can really take something significant away from a major Maverick producer.  If Chauncey “takes away” Kidd’s offensive production, at best he’s taking away a spot-up shooter and bothering Kidd’s dribble.  I have too much faith in Kidd’s court vision and ball-handling abilities to fret about that.  If the Nuggets play Dirk one-on-one he’ll get his, and if not you’d hope that the role players are able to make up for the scoring with their suddenly easier looks.  Howard has off-games, but he also provides a very different kind of player than anything the Nuggets had to face with the Hornets.  Though Denver is a very different team than San Antonio, the series comes down to the same basic premise: rely on offensive efficiency while limiting the Nuggets enough to win.  The Mavs simply don’t have the personnel to rely on defensive prowess to win, so their ability to execute against Denver’s D will determine their fate.

This series is a very winnable one for the Mavs.  They have enough offensive firepower to overcome even the staunch Nuggets’ defense, and they have just enough to limit the Nuggets’ production offensively.  Both of those rely on a million other factors, but the Mavs have have the players and the fight in them to advance.  That said, I’m picking the Nuggets to win in seven.  It’s going to take incredible strategic prowess to eliminate Dirk’s impact, but it would take a damn near miracle to eliminate Carmelo Anthony’s.  Historically, he’s had his way with the Mavs, and though Carlisle has been nothing short of excellent thus far, I’m just not sure that the team can totally withstand an attack that centers around Anthony, but is by no means reliant on him.  If Anthony (or Billups, or a combination of the two) can exploit the Mavs like Tony Parker was able to, Denver’s role players will finisht the job in a way the Spurs’ never could.

Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

What, Is There a Game Tonight or Something?

Posted by Rob Mahoney on April 15, 2009 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

You know the story by now: based on the outcomes of the Dallas-Houston, San Antonio-New Orleans, and Denver-Portland games tonight, the Mavs could be seeded anywhere from 6 to Z and will be playing either the Rockets, the Spurs, or the Nuggets.

Who do you guys want to see in the first round?  Against any of those three opponents the Mavs would almost certainly be underdogs, but at least they’re not the Lakers.

I’m not afraid of Denver necessarily, if for no other reason than a twisted psychological justification of this paper tiger vibe I’ve gotten from the Nugs all season.  Maybe somewhere, in my heart of hearts, I think Carmelo may be cursed.  Or maybe I just don’t like Kenyon Martin.  The Nuggets are drawing plenty of attention as a dark horse, but inexplicably, my gut says otherwise.  Chauncey Billups has turned the team around, Carmelo Anthony is a phenomenal scorer, and Nene has ben incredible this season, but something about that team doesn’t sit right with me.

Houston, on the other hand, is a bit frightening.  I’m not sure that anyone on the planet wants to play against Ron Artest for a playoff series, much less Artest with the likes of Shane Battier by his side and Yao Ming on his back.  They have all the pieces to dominate almost every Mav defensively, even if it does mean matching the merely average defender Luis Scola on Dirk.  It’s not that the Mavs can’t beat the Rockets, because they can.  I’m just not too sure they would.  Yao’s too tough of a cover for Damp, Jason Terry and Josh Howard could be smothered on the wings, and essentially the Mavs would be hinged on Dirk going hogwild.  He’s fully capable, but could he do it four times out of seven?

San Antonio, for me, is where the intrigue lies.  They’re a good team, but a wounded one.  On top of that, as I’ve said time and time again, the Mavs were built to beat the Spurs.  Dirk, Josh, and JET pose a lot of problems for the Spurs’ defense, and if Tony Parker’s penetration is halted in the slightest, the Mavs have a good shot.

Regardless, the Mavs have a shot at a series, which is more than we could have said if they were locked in 8th.  I’d prefer to steer clear of the Rox, but come what may.  Personally, I’m hoping for a Mavs win and a Spurs win tonight, setting up another Mavs-Spurs classic.

So, LET’S GO MAVS.  And, for once and once only, LET’S GO SPURS.