In my Denver series preview I stated that the Mavericks had to push the pace to win. I went so far as to say:
(DMN writer David) Moore thinks that if the scores edge over 105 this game is a quick exit for the Mavs, I think the opposite: If the Mavs can get the scores over 110, they are in the driver seat.
Clearly I was right and Moore was wrong, as our one victory was the one where the teams scored over 110. :)
Actually, it's not so much the scores that I thought were important so much as the pace. My perception was that for the Mavs to counter Denver's much better half court defense they had to create a chaotic very fast pace to minimize it, as the Denver transition defense is much weaker. That absolutely happened in game four, where the pace was a scorching 101. However, the Mavs also "won" game three, where the pace was a moderate 92. What happened there?
Ah, I'm glad you asked, because it reveals the razor thin opportunties that the Mavs have to win this series. What happened in game three was basically what happened in San Antonio, and it is, indeed, a way for the Mavs to win, but it's also very risky. What is it? Well, as I outlined in my series preview:
Dallas got past San Antonio by basically using the Phoenix strategy: Don't worry about defense, just outperform them on the offensive end so much that it won't matter. This is obviously much harder against a Denver team with a formidable offense, but the Dallas offense is so good that it is still possible.
So the optimist in me looks at tonight and sees two possibilities for victory:
- The Mavs offense plays at an exceptional level, while containing the Nuggets to an average to slightly above average performance.
- The pace of the game is high enough that the much better Denver half court defense is minimized.
Of course, the two work hand-in-hand. Negating a Denver defensive advantage allows our offense to perform better.
There's an easy way to assess the game as it goes along: If the Mavs are scoring between 25-30 points per quarter, then they are in the zone where a win is distinctly possible. Bump that up to 30-35 and then you can do your happy dance. Of course it also requires the defense to at least do a decent job of holding Denver back. If the defense falls on its face like they did in game two, then all bets are off and the Mavs have no hope.
- I expect Denver to continue to have foul trouble. Dirk is on a mission, and he appears to be single-handedly removing Denver players from the floor due to foul trouble.
- Josh Howard is the wildcard. You can no longer scoff at his importance to the team. If he is too hurt to be effective, everything I outlined above becomes that much harder, if not impossible. Yes, I'm basically saying that we have no hope without Howard being effective.
- I'm curious if we'll see Carlisle toss the small ball team out there more often, with Bass playing in place of Dampier. I'm guessing yes after what we saw in game four. This also dovetails with my thoughts above in regards to offense. Quite simply, a Dirk/Bass frontline is harder to guard than a Damp/Dirk frontline--with the amount of isolations being given to Dirk, Damp's role has become less important. Of course, that crazy Birdman character can screw everything up by scoring instead of fouling.