NBA Roundtable

Playoff Previews: Denver vs Dallas

In 2009 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Regular Season Standings

  • Denver Nuggets -–  54 wins and 28 losses
  • Dallas Mavericks — 50 wins and 32 losses

Regular Season Matchups

  • The Nuggets swept the season series 4-0
    • First Game — Denver win 108-105. They get hammered on the glass in the first half. Both teams struggled with their shooting.
    • Second Game — Denver wins 98-88. They open up a huge lead in the first quarter and maintain it until halftime. After the half Dallas roars back but doesn’t have enough in the tank to see through their comeback attempt, and Denver slowly regain control and win comfortably enough.
    • Third Game — Denver win 99-97 without Carmelo Anthony. Nobody on the Mavericks scored the ball outside of Dirk, who had almost 50% of Dallas’ points on the night.
    • Fourth Game — Denver won 103-101 with Nene sitting out for the Nuggets, and Kidd sitting out for the Mavs.
  • The Nuggets won the season series 3-1 last season, although that is fairly unimportant because of how drastically the squad has changed since then — Out with Iverson and Camby, In with Billups and Nene.
  • Josh Howard only played in the Mavericks first game against the Nuggets, and missed the final three matchups. He is Dallas’ third most talented player so that affects the results hugely.

Mavericks Outlook

Josh Howard

The key to Dallas’ playoff hopes rests with Josh Howard. Dallas will get reliable contributions from Dirk, Kidd, Terry, Dampier and Bass … but Josh Howard … Howard has been inconsistent all season. He is the X-Factor for this team, the guy who change the outcome of the series.

Josh Howard had a fairly good series against San Antonio, scoring 18.8ppg and pulling down 5.4rpg in 31.4 minutes. Hopefully he can continue his good form …. because Dallas don’t have a snow ball’s chance in hell of beating Denver without him.


The Mavericks figure to have a substantial rebounding advantage over the Nuggets. They’re a very good rebounding team, and the Nuggets are only barely above average.

Slowing Billups Down

Back in their Eastern Conference days, Jason Kidd would always do a good job on Chauncey Billups. He had the size, the defensive ability and the smarts to handle Chauncey and to take away Billups’ usual advantages. Kidd has seen more decline in his game in recent years, but that is normally felt against speedster point guards and not slow setup guards like Billups.

During the regular season matchups, Billups only averaged 14.5ppg and 6apg against the Mavericks. Kidd’s ability to slow Billups down will be a pivotal variable in the series.

Dirk’s Scoring Outbursts

A lot has been made of Kenyon Martin’s defensive prowess over the past few days and weeks … but Dirk actually does very well against Kenyon.

  • Regular season matchups — 30ppg and 11.3rpg
  • This isn’t a new phenomenon either, Dirk has always done well against Kenyon. Scoring a blistering 28ppg in their 20 head-to-head encounters, and doing so with outstounding efficiency.

If Kenyon gets in foul trouble, or is performing poorly, the Nuggets simply have nobody else who can do a solid job on Dirk. Nowitzki will make mince meat out of Chris Andersen (jumps at every pump fake) and will do well against Nene too (better post defender, than defending perimeter bigs). So Kenyon’s defense is very important for Denver …. I just don’t think it’ll cause as much trouble for Dirk as others seem to believe.

Nuggets Outlook

Carmelo’s Exploits

  • During their season series Carmelo dropped 31.3ppg and pulled down 9rpg. He scored those 30+ points on 50% shooting from the field, 67% shooting from downtown and 92% shooting from the FT line.
  • In the final two games of the first round, Melo dropped a combined 60 points on 22-42 shooting from the floor.
Dallas have nobody that can guard him. Their best bet is Josh Howard but that figures to take a lot out of him on the other end of the court.

Nene’s Series

Dallas have nobody that can guard him. He is too quick for Dampier, too strong for Bass, and too smart for Dirk’s defensive ability. His ability to score off the pick and roll, pick and pop, face up J’s, drive, and even post up … causes a huge amount of problems for Dallas.

During their regular season matchups, Nene dropped 17ppg on just under 60% shooting from the field.

I read a quote from George Karl recently, and he mentioned one of the interesting sub-plots to the series, and that’s — can Nene get Dampier into foul trouble? And how will that effect Dallas’ rebounding advantage? And their defense?

Pick and Roll Defense

Denver have the best pick and roll defense in the Western Conference. Their bigs are all mobile, show well on screens and can switch when necessary.

Dallas use a bevy of screen and rolls for their guards (1) especially super-sub JJ Barea (2) and also as their main closing play, with Kidd and Dirk running screen and rolls on the wing late in fourth quarters (3) and a few for Jason Terry, and even Howard sometimes.

Denver’s pick and roll defense should be able to cause the Mavericks’ offense some difficulties.

The Bench Battle

A few great matchups

  • The two most explosive and prolific scorers off the bench in the NBA (?) in Jason Terry and JR Smith.
  • Quality backup big men like Brandon Bass and Chris Andersen, albeit in completely different ways.
  • Solid backup point guards in JJ Barea and Anthony Carter, who are complete opposites of one another.
Oh, and that Kleiza fellow, who happens to be a damn good backup.
The Nuggets have more depth but Dallas is likely to go only 8 deep anyway, so that extra bit of quality near the end of their rotation shouldn’t count for too much.

Final Thoughts

These two teams should feel very happy with the playoff draw because they’re in the opposite half from the Los Angeles Lakers. In truth, either one of these teams — Dallas or Denver — have a legitimate chance at advancing to the Conference Finals. For that alone, they should be absolutely delighted.


I don’t know who should be considered the favourite in this one.

When I first saw the matchup I was leaning towards Denver winning in a long series, but the more I thought about it, the more I think Dallas should be slight favourites — mainly because they have untapped upside with Josh Howard, who has had an inconsistent season and can be a difference maker in series against Denver. Of course, should Josh Howard continue to be inconsistent or struggle, then Dallas has little to no hope of winning.

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