The number we keep hearing is that Denver is 4-0 against Dallas in the regular season. What does that mean? Is it as one-sided as that number indicates?
Yes and No.
Yes, because the Nuggets built leads in most of the games, and figured out ways to win the close games. They beat the Mavs in a game without Carmelo, and they beat the Mavs in a game without Nene.
No, because the Mavericks team we see now has nothing to do with a Mavs team that had Devean George, Gerald Green, and James Singleton all start games in this season series. Josh Howard did not play at all in a 2 of the games, and played hurt in the other 2.
The question in this series is who will help Dirk score. He gets big production in pretty much every game against Denver so this idea that Kenyon is going to give him grief is not really based on past results. Jet will score, too. But beyond that, the Mavs could not count on much. That will have to change.
I am curious if the Mavs hit on something when JJ Barea did what he did in the 4th Quarter of their final meeting. Do the Nuggets have anyone to stay with him? I am thinking small-ball might make some sense in this series with JJ, Kidd, and Terry on the floor with Josh and Dirk for flashes.
Also, defending Carmelo is a big issue. I am sure Antoine Wright will be the first idea in order to hide Josh from foul trouble, but our evidence shows that Carmelo's biggest night came against that match-up last time.
Anyway, let's examine the 4 games:
November 7, 2008 : At Nuggets 108, Mavericks 105
This game was Chauncey Billups first game as a Nugget (this time). The Mavs shot a season high 35 3-pointers in a game where Jason Kidd missed a free throw to tie the game with 21 seconds left. The game was in Denver and featured one of Jerry Stackhouse's rare performances of the year. Also, Gana Diop posted 21 minutes, with Erick Dampier playing 10 scoreless minutes of his own. This was the 5th game of the year as the Mavs were in the midst of their 2-7 start. Carmelo had 28 on 7-18 shooting with Nene helping with 19 points of his own.
Mavs won most of the statistical battles including rebounds: 50-45, assists: 24-19, and FG %. But 17 turnovers appeared to be their undoing. Dirk had 23 and 10.
Dec 15, 2008 Nuggets 98, at Mavericks 88
This game featured the return of Josh Howard after an 11 game absence due to ankle injury, and he came off the bench to some low minutes. The Nuggets won their 7th game out of 8, and were on a roll that was pretty much based on their new-found defense based around adding Chauncey Billups to the squad.
The Mavericks were behind 27-15 after the First Quarter, and shot horribly the entire game (29-83). Devean George started and played 27 minutes for the Mavs, which indicates how long a season must be. Carmelo had 23 points on 8-19 shooting, but JR Smith stole the show with 25 points.
This game was never in question, and basically of the 4 games, this is the one that the Mavericks have no real explanation for. Dirk: 27 and 10.
January 13, 2009 : At Nuggets 99, Mavericks 97
This was the best game of the season as it featured many interesting items: Billups drew a very controversial foul call as he kicked his leg out on Jason Terry and got to the line with 2 seconds left in the game; Dirk went off for 44 points and 10 rebounds; Mark Cuban and JR Smith got into it; And Carmelo did not play due to his broken hand.
Instead, the Nuggets had 5 players in double figures and Chauncey, Nene, and Dahntay Jones were joined by the Birdman, Chris Anderson and Anthony Carter - the pride of Hawaii - off the bench. The Mavs had no Josh Howard again, and started Gerald Green of all people in this one. Once again, Dampier had lousy numbers against Nene, and Jason Kidd had a very poor 1-9 shooting performance.
March 27, 2009 : Nuggets 103, At Mavericks 101
The 4th and final meeting of the year in the season series featured Carmelo Anthony's most dominant effort as he scored 43 points on 18-29 shooting and scoring on both drives and jumpers with relative ease. In this game, Nene sat out with a league suspension, while the Mavericks had no Josh Howard and no Jason Kidd - both due to injuries. This is the first game where Antoine Wright played big minutes against Carmelo and obviously the results weren't great.
Johan Petro started in the post for Denver, and still Dampier had a very small effect statistically on the game with 5 points and 5 rebounds. It was a rare starting performance for James Singleton for the Mavs, and the results were not over-whelming. Dirk had 26-10, but did not shoot very well with a 7-23 night. The most troubling element of this night is that the Mavs were out-shot 56% to 36%.
Down the stretch, Barea was awesome, making big shots over and over. But, Carmelo scored and Dirk missed in the final minute, so the Nuggets won the game by 2.
Mavs splits against Denver
Denver splits against Dallas
Biggest stat for me? 45.5 versus 38.2. In 4 games, Denver shoots better almost every time against Dallas. They get better shots more often. They contest shots and make the Mavs rely on a perimeter game. How much of that is changed with a Josh Howard presence? Or is this just a fundamentally poor match-up for the Mavs?
We shall soon know.