Scouting Breakdown: Mavs vs. Nuggets

Originally Published: April 17, 2009
By Mike Moreau | Scouts Inc.

Second-round scouting reports
Hawks-Cavaliers | Magic-Celtics | Rockets-Lakers | Mavericks-Nuggets


Both of these teams come into the series having dispatched their first-round opponents in five games, so they have had plenty of rest and preparation time. The Nuggets blasted the Hornets in all four of their wins, and it was one poor foul-shooting performance that kept them from sweeping. Denver's defense was suffocating, and their offense was a juggernaut, as Chauncey Billups led the way from the first quarter of Game 1.

The Mavericks had a tougher time with a better team, but Dallas beat the Spurs with solid team defense and a balanced offensive attack. The Mavericks' offense is much more formidable and versatile than New Orleans', so Denver will have multiple matchups to be concerned with. Dallas, meanwhile, will be defending a much more explosive team than the one-man Spurs show they knocked out in the first round. Denver beat the Mavericks all four times they met in regular season, winning by three, 10, two and two.

Denver's offense vs. Dallas' defense

• The Nuggets are leading all NBA playoff teams in offensive efficiency, with a whopping 117.8 points per 100 possessions, and also lead playoff teams in field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Denver ran only at the sixth-fastest pace in the first round, but they can get points in a hurry in flurries of fast breaks fueled by their defense.

• The Mavericks' defense is solid but inconsistent, ranking seventh out of the 16 playoff teams in defensive efficiency in the postseason and 10th in defensive field-goal percentage, but they are third in rebounding. They lack defensive focus at times, and their help on dribble penetration is often nonexistent.

• In their four wins against the Mavs this season, the Nuggets shot 45.4 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from the 3-point line.

• In their first-round series with New Orleans, Denver scored every way possible, and it all started with Billups' 36-point explosion in Game 1. Everything begins with Billups, and he makes it his job to get everyone touches to keep the offense humming. He can also take over the scoring load when necessary.

• Dallas will have to decide if they can start the smaller Jose Juan Barea at the point, or play Antoine Wright with Jason Kidd. Billups feasts on smaller guards, posting and overpowering them, and the Mavericks will have to find out whom Barea can guard.

Carmelo Anthony is option No. 1 in the halfcourt, and he will have a much more athletic set of defenders to face in Round 2 against the Mavericks. Anthony torched the slower Peja Stojakovic in the first round, but in this series, he will see a steady diet of athletic defenders in Josh Howard, Wright and Brandon Bass. Anthony will jab, shoot and drive from the elbow extended, the wing or the top.

Nene Hilario is the Nuggets' post-up option, and he is coming off an excellent season in which he was finally healthy. He has a combination of skill and athleticism in the post, and Erick Dampier will be his primary defender. Dampier will use his size and strength, which was effective against Tim Duncan and kept the help defenders shadowing the Spurs' shooters. Dallas will not double as long as Dampier is holding his own inside. If Nene is too quick for Dampier, then the long, athletic Ryan Hollins will come off the bench. Dampier is really the only shot-blocking threat on the Dallas roster.

Kenyon Martin will slash to the basket and shoot the elbow jumper, giving Dirk Nowitzki a quicker, more athletic matchup. Nowitzki can use his size on the defensive boards, and may even guard Nene at times if Dallas goes small. Dahntay Jones will fly to the rim on occasional drives and frequent offensive rebound attempts, but his primary role is defending opponents' best guard.

• The Nuggets bench brings energy and firepower; it was one of the highest-scoring second units in the league this season. J.R. Smith can bring bunches of points, often from deep. Linas Kleiza will shoot the 3 or drive with authority, and Chris Andersen will finish in transition and score on the offensive glass.

• When Denver needs a basket at crunch time, the ball starts with Billups at the top, and will end up in Anthony's hands on the wing. Look for those two to take the big shots.

Dallas' offense vs. Denver's defense

• The Mavericks come into this series with a high-powered offensive attack of their own. This postseason, they rank third in offensive efficiency with 110.6 points per 100 possessions, fifth in field-goal percentage, and sixth in 3-point percentage. The Mavs are at their best when running, and although they had only the ninth-fastest pace of the 16 playoff teams in the first round, they are one of the best teams in the league at scoring in the secondary phase of the break, either with drag screens or with dribble penetration after ball reversal.

• The Nuggets were a dominant defensive team against the Hornets, and this postseason, they rank first in defensive field-goal percentage and second in defensive efficiency, rebounding and steals.

• Dallas outrebounded the Nuggets in all four games they played this year but shot only 38.2 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from the 3-point line, averaging 27 3-point shot attempts per game.

• The Mavericks have moved Barea into the starting lineup, and his dribble penetration and 3-point shooting were huge difference-makers against San Antonio. When he is in the game with Kidd, Barea will be the primary ball handler to provide the creation ability that Kidd no longer possesses. Barea may see Jones in Game 1, as it was Jones who gave Chris Paul fits in the first round. Jones can pick up a ball handler at full court and use his size to stay away and still block or contest Barea's shot.

• Kidd will still handle some point guard duties but will also spot up off the ball as the shooting guard. Look for Billups to defend him at either the 1 or the 2.

• Howard is usually the go-to guy in the first quarter, and the Mavericks will run sets that get him free and allow him to catch on the move. Dallas will look to run Anthony through a multitude of screens, and Anthony will have to expend much more effort than he did against the spotting-up Peja Stojakovic.

• Dirk Nowitzki showed tremendous patience in the Spurs series. He didn't force the action or become frustrated with the constant crowding and trapping. He waited until Game 5 to have his best game -- when the Mavs needed it most. The Nuggets will let Martin defend one-on-one, as he performed brilliantly against David West in the first round. Dirk will use his size and craftiness in the pinch post and post extended, and K-Mart will use his smarts and athleticism. These two will probe and fight each other all over the floor.

• Dampier is the post option for the Mavs but does most of his work screening and rebounding. However, it may be a point of emphasis for Dallas to establish him early and go at Nene inside, as Dampier has a solid, underutilized post-up game.

• Dallas gets instant offense off the bench from NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry, and he will enter games early if the Mavs are struggling. He will get his points off 3-point shooting, ballscreen action and dribble penetration.

• Terry can score in bunches, and is one of the NBA's leading fourth-quarter scorers. At crunch time, it's Terry or Nowitzki taking the big shots.

• Bass provides inside scoring, Wright is more the defender and Hollins can provide a spark off the bench.


Player Matchups

(All regular-season stats)

Barea: Barea shares ballhandling duties with Kidd. In the first round he averaged 10.0 points and 4.6 assists, and played pesky defense on Tony Parker. He came off the bench in three of the four games against Denver this season and averaged 9.8 points and 3.8 assists, and had 22 points and hit 5 of 7 3s in the Mavs' March 27 loss.

Billups: The Nuggets' leader and floor general makes everything go. He will set the offensive tone and is at the point of their halfcourt defense. In the first round, Billups averaged 22.6 points on 48 percent shooting, hit 19 of 29 3s and dished out 7.4 assists. In four games against Dallas this year, Billups averaged just 14.5 points on 33 percent shooting, but had 23 points in the Jan. 13 win without Anthony in the lineup.

Kidd: More of a point guard/shooting guard now, Kidd organizes the offense from the point or the wing. He had 22 points and six 3-pointers against the Nuggets back in November. In three games against the Nuggets, he averaged 9.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists on only 32 percent shooting.

Jones: Denver's perimeter defensive stopper, Jones hounded Chris Paul in Round 1. In three games against the Mavs, Jones averaged 8.3 points on 55 percent shooting and averaged 1.5 steals per game.

Howard: Howard was terrific against the Spurs in Round 1, averaging 18.8 points on 49 percent shooting. He averaged only 20 minutes a game in two games against Denver this season and averaged nine points on 5-for-19 shooting. His matchup with Anthony is key to this series.

Anthony: The Nuggets' leading scorer has torched the Mavericks this season. In three games, he averaged 31.3 points and 9.0 rebounds on 50 percent shooting, including 43 points and 11 rebounds in the Nuggets' March 2 win. Melo averaged 24.0 points and shot 46 percent from the field against New Orleans in the first round, while dishing out 5.2 assists per game.

Nowitzki: Dirk paced himself against San Antonio, averaging 19.2 points on 49 percent shooting and 29-for-31 from the foul line. He had 31 points and nine rebounds in the Game 5 closeout. Nowitzki scored more than 23 points in all four meetings with the Nuggets this season, including a 44-point, 14-rebound game the Mavs' 99-97 loss in Denver on Jan. 13.

Martin: Martin's primary focus will be on defending Nowitzki. He averaged 10.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in the first round while doing a great job of defending West. In four games against Dallas, Martin averaged 7.5 points on only 34 percent shooting.

Dampier: Dampier defended Duncan admirably in the first round, and averaged 8.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on 68 percent shooting. He has struggled against Denver this season, averaging only 3.3 points and 6.5 rebounds, and had four fouls in 10 minutes in a Nov. 7 loss.

Nene: Nene averaged only 9.0 points and 2.8 rebounds against the Hornets in Round 1. But in three games against the Mavs this season, he averaged 17.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 59 percent shooting. Nene had 20 points and six rebounds in the Jan. 13 win.

Terry: "Jet" brings scoring off the bench and clutch fourth-quarter shooting. He averaged 18.8 points on 39 percent shooting, while hitting 10-of-29 from 3 against the Nuggets this season.

Smith: Smith is a streaky scorer who averaged 16.0 points and hit 14-for-33 (42.4 pct.) from the 3-point line in the first round. In three games vs. Dallas, he had 25 points, two points on 1-for-14 shooting when he started for Melo and 22 points off the bench.

Mavericks

Bass: The athletic forward averaged 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds on 56 percent shooting in Round 1. He had similar numbers in four games against Denver this season in 19 minutes per game.

Wright: Wright may see starting duty depending on matchups at guard and forward. He hit 6-of-13 3s against the Hornets in the first round. Wright also averaged 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds against Denver this season.

Hollins: The second-year center brought game-changing energy in his appearance versus San Antonio in Round 1. He had nine points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes against Denver on March 27.

Nuggets

Kleiza: The guard brings scoring and toughness off the bench. He averaged seven points per game in 15 minutes in four games against Dallas, and averaged 10.0 points and made 7-for-14 three point shots against New Orleans in the first round.

Andersen: The Birdman brings the energy off the bench, with 6.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in four games against the Mavs this season.

Anthony Carter: Carter is a steady backup to Billups. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 assists in 25 minutes off the bench in the four Nuggets wins over Dallas this season.


Prediction

Both teams have an arsenal of talent that can score and defend. Individual matchups and the coaching adjustments from game to game will be key in this series. Although Denver won all four games with Dallas this season, the lineups were often scrambled, and three of the four were decided by three points or fewer. But Denver has home-court advantage and a former NBA Finals MVP running the point. Expect flurries of scoring from both teams; great individual performances on both sides; and an exciting, up-tempo series.

Prediction: Denver Wins 4-2

Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.

Synergy Sports Technology systems were used in the preparation of this report.