All the talking heads and analysts have already said the Nuggets win the series, and I think that’s likely as well. Denver simply has too much to overcome the Mavs:
- Billups vs. Kidd – This will come down to Billups being able to score in transition. Kidd is slow, and if he’s out of position because he’s trying to pull down a rebound, Billups is going to get an easy look. Since Billups matches Kidd in terms of playmaking, and since Kidd’s offense is pretty poor, Kidd needs to keep Billups from scoring a lot (like he did tonight) to win the matchup. Billups is the guy in this series, but it’s going to be close.
- Smith vs. Terry – At best, Terry will have a huge night and win a game by himself. At worst, he’ll match his regular season performances. Smith is likely to choke in at least one of the games in this series, so Terry will win the matchup overall. Too bad Denver’s Dahntay Jones will completely outplay Barea. The Nuggets win this matchup because their 2 guard tandem is better.
- Melo vs. Howard – I wouldn’t be surprised if Melo underwhelms in this series. The more I see him play in the playoffs, the more I think he’s not a franchise player. Still, he does demand a double team wherever he goes. That makes him the winner in this matchup against the above-average Josh Howard.
- Nowitzki vs. K-Mart – K-Mart clearly wasn’t ready for Nowitzki tonight, and I don’t think he’ll ever be able to bother Dirk the way he was able to bother David West in the last round. Dirk’s range is just too much for Kenyon. Still, I can’t help but think that Kenyon will adjust. My guess is that Dirk only has one more game where he’ll play as well as he did tonight, while Kenyon’s game performances will only get better as the series grinds on. Dirk wins this matchup hands down, but unfortunately for the Mavs Dirk’s best isn’t enough to win the series.
- Dampier vs. Nene – This is the key to the series. If Nene is aggressive and scores regularly, a lot of things will open up for Denver and the games won’t be too hard. On the other hand, if Damp can intimidate Nene (which he’s fully capable of doing), the games are going to be close. I think a close game is an advantage for Dallas, but as of now this matchup looks like Denver’s advantage to lose.
- The Benches – Denver’s bench begins and ends with Chris Anderson and Anthony Carter. These two were instrumental in Denver’s win today, and their veteran skills won’t dissapear on the road like the Mavs younger bench players Barea, Hollins, and Bass (yes I know Barea started, but he’s a bench player in my eyes). Still, I think team B.B.H. is going to be a handful in Dallas. The matchup favors Denver simply because Denver has home-court.
- The Coaches – I think Rick Carlisle has the advantage here. Karl’s a decent coach, but he’s been yelling and screaming at his team for years – the Nuggets tuned out Karl a long time ago. Carlisle, on the other hand, has the complete attention of his players. Carlisle will be a big part of the reason Dallas edges Denver in any close games, and he gives Dallas the edge here.
The prediction – Nuggets in 6.
Where does that leave Denver in the next round against the winner of the Lakers/Rockets? More on that later…