Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Rumble in the Rockies

The following are several emails exchanged between B-Dubs and AJ cordially and respectfully discussing (with the occasional rant) the upcoming series between AJ's Denver Nuggets and B-Dubs' Dallas Mavericks. These are actual emails....

Now, your Mavericks looked impressive in Round 1, yeah, they looked pretty good. Of course, you, me, our dads and Eva Longoria-Parker could take on San Antonio sans Ginobili, sans Timmy Duncan's knees and put 'em to shame too. Let me throw some numerals at you: the Nuggets outscored New Orleans by over 30 points per game in that series, including the one loss in which CP3 went off and the Nuggets decided not to show up in the final three quarters. Denver is now 16-1 in its last 17 home games, and 18-4 in its last 21, and that unfortunately contains the garbage, means-less-than-winter-coat-sales-in-Hawaii loss at Portland in the season finale. But most importantly, while the Nuggets thrived offensively like they always do, scoring at least 107 in each of its four wins, it's the DEFENSE - that's right, the Nuggets' defense - that won this series. Ready for this? The Hornets scored more than 90 just twice, never even sniffed 100, and averaged 84.2 points for the series. EIGHTY-FOUR POINTS IN THE SERIES!!! The Hornets also shot less than 40 percent for the series. Now, that, my Boomer Sooner friend, is what we call, DOMINATION.

Your Mavs are playin' well, but they have no idea what buzzsaw they're about to run into.

Congratulations AJ, your Nuggets were so dominant against the Hornets. A team that: a) gave up on there coach; b) Backed into the playoffs with a 3-6 record in April; c) their best player CP3 gave up on his team! Now, I will hand it to the Nugs, the 58 point victory was incredible even if the Hornets had already thrown in the towel. The Nugs -15 in the 5th game was the easiest money I have ever made. But don't you dare attack the significance of beating an old Spurs team when Denver beat a Nawlens team that has never even sniffed the conference finals before... and was a dissapointment all season. The Spurs are still the Spurs, a team built for a championship with the best PF ever to play and one of the best playoff coaches (with an awful beard) of all-time. Obviously the team is old, and Manu was out, but this is the team the Nugs lost to back in December by 17... IN Denver. So congratulations. You dominated the 7-seed that had been fading all April... but now you are playing one of the hottest teams in basketball.

You had it easy in round 1... now it's time for inexperienced Denver to realize... "Oh it's the playoffs now."

Oh, don't you worry, B-dubs, the Nuggets realize it's the playoffs. Remember when Melo got suspended for refusing to be subbed for? That was a babyish, regular-season type attitude. In Game 5? He went up to George Karl, and asked if he could play every meaningful minute. Not because he was hogging time, but he was so, so set on getting out of the first round and ripping that meaner-than-Chris-Griffin's-closet-pet monkey off his back. Thankfully, GK let him, and Melo made Nawlins pay. That's not just maturity; that's playoff mentality right there.
Speaking of Melo, I'm curious: just how do your Mavericks plan to stop him? What I will give Dallas - and I'm sure you'll be quick to discuss this in your rebuttal - is they have just as many offensive weapons as Denver does. But guess what? The best player on the floor, is wearing No. 15. No, not No. 41. (Impressed? I didn't even have to look that up.) I love what Bill Simmons wrote about Melo in his MVP column three weeks ago: "I'm still waiting to see an "I need to dominate every night" fire from him. At this point -- six years in the league, turns 25 in May -- we should be seeing it. Does he have it in him? Is it lurking in there? Even a little?" Did Game 5 help answer your question, Bill? In a tight elimination game where the Bees showed a ton of heart, Melo put up 34 points (on plus-50 percent shooting), six boards, three assists, four steals, and yes, he played every meaningful minute. Plus, he showed in his postgame comments how much it meant to him that he got out of the first round.
What do you think? Is Dirk showing that kind of passion right now?

Wait wait wait. Asking your coach to guarantee that you play every meaningful minute is maturity? That sounds like immaturity and it sounds like Melo was/is worried that Karl doesn't have confidence in him. And who cares what happened in game 5, that series was over after game 1, and even if it was a series back in New Orleans... game 4 took care of that. So gritty playoff performance? No, of course the Hornets showed some heart but that game was FAR from a tight elimination game. Try winning in San Antonio... when they are healthy, IN OVERTIME, in a game 7. That sounds familiar, oh thats because...

Dirk sent that into overtime... and how are the Nugs going to stop him? In 4 games against Denver the Dunking Deutchman averaged 30 points a game! He has been one of the hottest players in the league since the All-Star Break, averaging over 30 pts and 9 rebounds in April. Here in Dallas we aren't trying to prove he can be a leader or listen to his post game question marks. We know what we have in Dirk, a leader and a clutch performer. The fact that you are trying to defend "the best player on the floor" by talking about how good his postgame comments were, that tells me that you still don't have confidence in this teams maturity. The fact is, Chauncey Billups made this team the way it is. Don't tell me about Melo and his new playoff attitude, this team needs to ride the grit and playoff experience of Billups to win this series. The problem is, this is the perfect matchup for Jason Kidd.

Everybody knows Kidd is past his prime and can't hold the jock of younger point guards, but Kidd can run a team and stay in front of Billups. That is the most intriguing matchup in this series, and its going to be a tight series.

Enough with the small arguments, AJ, use your biased-homer-psychic powers and forecast the next two weeks for our readers.

How are the Nuggets going to stop him? A little guy I like to call Kenyon Martin, who's finally healthy this season and rendered David West completely useless in that last series. Plus, with Chris "Birdman" Andersen manning the bucket and Dallas failing to produce a big man scoring more than Brandon Bass' 8.5 a game, Dirk's going to be completely dependant on jump shots all series because he'll have Birdman waiting on the inside should he find his way past K-Mart. I don't think that can work consistently over a seven-game period, personally. So I don't think the Nuggets will stop Dirk, but they can contain him. They have to, because Dirk certainly has teammates that can hurt Denver scoring the basketball.

Couple other things I wanted to point out: because the Nuggets used Dahntay Jones exclusively on Chris Paul, Jones averaged three more minutes a game during the playoffs than he played during the season. Those three minutes were taken directly from one J.R. Smith, who is simply "3-diculous". Since the Mavs don't have a stud inside-and-outside guard among its roster, Jones will take a backseat role, and that means a heavier dose of J.R. Swish (okay, sorry, enough of the homerism. But isn't that a cool moniker?)

Nene didn't do a lot last series, with his scoring average down from 14.6 during the season to a paltry nine points a game in the Hornets series; lower than the immortal Linas Kleiza (who, by the way, is just waiting to break out sooner or later Eddie House-style). Nene has shown when he doesn't have to play tough defense against offensively-minded centers, he can thrive. Again, Bass and Erick Dampier don't figure to force Nene on the defensive end, so we'll see how they fare guarding Nene in the post.

Plus, the Nuggets have Allen Iverson...oh, wait. Damn. Never mind.

Finally, you have to admit that the Nuggets do EVERYTHING RIGHT. They score inside, they score outside, they get to the line, they make their free throws. They play on-ball defense, they guard the post well, they block, they steal, and when they want to, they rebound. For the first round, Denver had the No. 1 offensively efficient team and No. 2 defense (Cavs). They have a great starting unit, and arguably the best bench in the league. This is NOT George Karl's first rodeo; Rick Carlisle isn't quite as seasoned. Plus, the Nuggets have home court. They've done all right there this season (16-1 in their last 17 at the Can, 36-8 overall)
By the way, notice how I'm not pointing out Denver's 4-0 record against Dallas this season. This is a different season, the playoffs, and the Mavericks are certainly a different team. That doesn't mean the Nuggets still aren't better, though. They'll hold serve at home, split in Dallas, and wrap things up at home in a series that will be closer than the series score will infer.
Prediction: Nuggets in 5

Nuggets in 5? I respect your decision... *cough* homer *cough*

Seriously though, Nugs in 5 could definitely happen. You have to look at the home records here. The Mavs and Nugs are a combined 33-2 at home in their past 35 games. That's unreal. Winning on the road will not be easy in this series. If the Mavs can somehow steal a game in Denver then I like them in 6. However, that is the only scenario that renders a chance for the Cubanites to advance to the conference finals. If Dirk and company can't steal one from Denver, then they would have to win all home games AND steal game 5 or 7 in Denver.... not gonna happen. If they let one slip away in Dallas then Denver wins in 5. However, I'm going to go with this series being all about the home court.

Like you said AJ, the Nugs have too many weapons and can score anyway they want. Melo could go off for 40, JR Swish could go off for 40, Nene could drop 20 and 15 and Billups could drop 20 and 10 dimes. The Mavericks have weapons, but Dirk is the only guy that can really take over a game. Howard might be able to throw a bomb party during the playoffs, but he can't take over a game like Billups, Anthony, Smith, or Dirk. Dallas settles for jumpshots 99% of the time and in the playoffs... that won't win you many series.

Being a fan, I have to hold on to hope. I hope the Mavs don't put up a dud and shoot 30% in a home game, otherwise the series will be over in 5-6 games. I hope Dirk shows why he IS the best player on the court. I hope Devin Harris lights ups Chauncey....errrr... I hope Jason Kidd's knees hold up long enough to make the Billups matchup exciting. I hope Josh Howard does something crazy that makes me laugh at his immaturity and ridiculousness... but that he also D's up on Anthony well. I hope the Mavs won't get blown away as easily as Nawlens. I hope Denver puts up a stinker (Game 3 in New Orleans) at least once in this series...but in the end...
Prediction: Nuggets in 7 games

Stay classy,

B-Dubs and AJ

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