Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Game 2: Nuggets 117, Mavericks 105 (2-0)

The Notes for Game 2 ...

Same song, different verse.

Was the big winner of the first round series really the Spurs? If by losing that series you could avoid suffering the public humiliation of being routed in consecutive 4th quarters, you have to wonder.

I am speaking with tongue in cheek, but with regards to Games 1 and 2, I am hearing so many people rationalize these throttlings as "hey we were right there at 82-80 (Game 1) and 86-83 (Game 2)". Andwhile that is true, from where I sat it seemed a lot more like watching an animal play with its food for a while to battle the boredom of the day, and then when the mood struck, it was time to turn up the seriousness of the situation and go in for the kill.

Denver is better. And not just by a little bit like we thought before the series began. And while we can all wonder what difference Josh Howard would have made on 2 ankles, I think it would be terribly optimistic to assume that he could have changed the final outcome of these two games in Denver. Loss, Loss.

A quick browsing of the game's play by play sheet will reveal the truth: The Denver Nuggets had 9 dunks, 7 layups, and 2 tip in baskets for a total of 18 "bunnies". Add to that 31 made free throws and they can account for 67 of their points as "easy points". The Mavs had 3 dunks, 5 layups, and 23 free throws to run their "easy points" total to 39. Very simply, they are getting 28 more "easy points" than you. Does any other stat matter?

That is the equivalent of standing 15 feet from the dart board, while your opponent can stand 2 feet away. Do you think your odds are good to win that game of darts?

I wish I had some brave way to look at this series, and for now I will close my eyes real tight and believe in a different result when the games are played in Dallas, but as we said in Game 1: Styles make fights. Are the Nuggets world beaters? I kinda doubt it. But, are they tailor made to give a team like the Mavericks all sorts of problems? You better believe it. That is why you cannot look at Nene and say that he doesn't score 25 every game so he will come back to earth after Game 1. Has it occurred to anyone that he might score 25 a game if he played against Erick Dampier every night? Apparently, it has occurred to Nene.

The following are various things to rant about from another buzzkill night in Denver:

* It seems to me that there are times when you play a team that is led by a great player and there are other times, deeper into the playoffs, that you a play a team that has an ensemble cast of players. The beauty of Denver right now is that unless you were told before the series, you would not know that Carmelo Anthony is their "superstar". They have a cast of characters who take turns taking the lead. This allows Carmelo to float for long stretches andthen dominate for 5 minutes to remindyou he can. Sort of like Boston has done with their "Big 3" and even the Lakerscan when the mood strikes. But, Dallas? In Dallas, it seems we ask Dirk to go get 30. If he does, then we blame him for not making those around him better. If he doesn't, we blame him for not scoring 30. Basically, we are asking him to do what Lebron does. Meanwhile, the management of this team assure us he has plenty of help.

* Could we just go ahead and legally change Jason Kidd's name to "Future Hall of famer Jason Kidd"? I swear in these two games the announcers have called him that 10 times. And while we are filling out those forms, let's make sure that the "Birdman" really is named Chris Anderson because I am not sure I have ever heard a player's nickname replace his real name like this current phenomenom. Although if they ever go an entire game without calling Kobe anything but the Black Mamba, I would enjoy and support it.

* Nene's domination of Dampier was just as bad in Game 2 as it was in Game 1. Of course, foul trouble was back in play for Dampier which is like suggesting the sun comes out in the morning. As I said after Game 1, the real issue is when Dampier and Howard get their 2 fouls in the first 5 minutes trying to play tight defense because then what? Who comes to the rescue? Ryan Hollins. Who I know gets us all excited with his energy, but let's not forget the incredible pace at which he accrues fouls (5 in just 14 minutes last night) keep him from staying on the floor for long. Back to Dampier, things were going pretty well until his weak perimeter pass was picked off by Carmelo and ended in a dunk sparking another Denver surge. He must be better, but that faraway look in his eyes tell the story: he knows he is outclassed by the flying postmen of the opponent. Where are the Spurs when you need them?

* With 6:07 left in the 1st Quarter, the Nuggets had 6 points and were down 12-6. Over the next 12 minutes, they scored 41 points, and with 5:45 left in the 2nd Quarter, they held a 47-38 advantage. Let's understand a reality here: This series is not an absurd mismatch because of the Mavericks offense. They can occasionally hang in there when they knock down their shots. The series is an absurd mismatch because the Mavericks cannot get stops at all. Their defense consists of hoping the Nuggets miss. They are giving up 30 points a Quarter with great routine and have no real plan on how to change it. The 2-3 zone was pretty much a white flag of surrender. The absurd foul trouble only complicated things. Denver appears to vary their attack only to keep their many eager scorers satisfied.

* What is more unintentionally comedic than the end of Quarter interview with Rick Carlisle? The talking head asks Rick what he has to do differently to change things around in the 2nd Quarter andyou can just tell from his expression that he wants to say something like "make a trade during this timeout with Orlando to get Dwight Howard in here", but instead he just says whatever cliche is on his tongue and goes back to his defeated huddle. If I were to guess, Carlisle would vote down the league rule on in-game coach interviews.

* So how many times did you say to yourself or those around you that you cannot believe the Mavs are this close? Down 3 at the half? Actually taking the lead in the 3rd? How was that possible? A pretty cool offensive display from Dirk and Jet is what did it in the 3rd Quarter. Problem with that? In the 3rd Quarter, Terry, Kidd, and Wright played all 12 minutes. Dirk played 11:58. But once the 4th Quarter began, Carlisle could see the legs of those players begin to look weaker. He had to get them some rest. He tried. And the bench promptly gave up a quick, but lethal 9-0 run to start the 4th with Jet, Dirk, and Kidd trying to get a quick rest. Not enough horses. Game over.

* Recipe for a rough 4th Quarter is as follows: Tired players. No help from the supporting cast. Low on timeouts. High on foul trouble. Altitude. Athletic opponents who appear very fresh. Anything else? Good luck, coach. Basically, hanging on for dear life with 12 minutes to play.

* Which brings us to the absurd TNT performance last night from the normally flawless studio show. They had a marginally interesting conversation at halftime of Cleveland-Atlanta about Dirk discussing those who guard him. The panel of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Chris Webber decided that this broke the code of basketball where you never let those who guard you know that they are good at guarding you. OK. Point made. Then, they thought it was so riveting that they needed to go back to it between games. Then, the announcers in Denver had to discuss the discussion back at the studio. Then, at halftime, the studio guys had to discuss the announcers in Denver discussing the discussion that had now been held 4 times! And honestly, was it that big a deal? Dirk was asked to compare and contrast the 3 bigs that Denver throws at him - even though he is averaging 30 a game against them. So he elaborates, and those guys want him to just thrust out his chest and say "nobody guards me". Fine. We get it. And who is the cockiest in that studio? Here is Chris Webber nailing Dirk harder than anyone. I can't help but recall the number of times Dirk had his way against Webber on the court, but now that underachiever is going to hold a clinic on what the great players do? How would he know? What big games did he win? Sorry. If anyone has a lesser resume of team achievements, it is C-Webb, without the personal longevity of excellence either. I'll take it from Barkley and Smith who have built cred in the studio as analysts, but Webber sees the over-the-top delivery of Barkley andthinks that all you have to do is say things with great expression andmaybe people will agree with you. Webber is incredibly annoying on television, andthe way he told Ernie Johnson that any defense of Dirk is ridiculous pulled me offsides with great ease last night. Ok. I feel better now. But, to TNT, less is more. Webber does not add anything.

* Most frustrating moment of the night? Jason Kidd is driving the lane and appears to have a wide-open layup. Instead, because his contract stipulates he is not to consider layups, he fires the ball back out high to nobody in particular that launches another Denver fast break. JJB must foul Carmelo, 100-85, and the route is on.

I honestly don't know what to say at this point. It does appear that Rangers season will have the whole stage in about a week if the Mavericks don't figure something out quick. I would like to think a change of scenery will bring about a giant change in the series, but for that to happen, the Nuggets plane better forget how to find Dallas on the map.

Backs are now squarely against the wall. Doubt has joined the series. Your move, Mavericks, or it is your tee-time.

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