Dallas at Denver, 10:30 p.m. ET -- The AP reports: So, the Dallas Mavericks want to toughen up to hang with the NBA’s new “Bad Boys”? Dirk Nowitzki knows better. “I don’t think we can play as physical as them. We don’t have the personality for it,” Dallas’ center acknowledged Monday, 24 hours after getting knocked around like a pinball in a 109-95 loss to Denver. The rough-and-tumble Nuggets were quicker, stronger, tougher and much more athletic than the Mavericks in the opener of their second-round series that left Dallas’ players grabbing more bags of ice than usual and their coach threatening to rat out the officials to the league... Carlisle didn’t tip his hand, but Karl said he expects the Mavs to put Antoine Wright or James Singleton on the floor more often to keep a defender on both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. The Nuggets forced 20 turnovers in Game 1, outshot the Mavericks 36-13 from the foul line, outhustled them 29-4 on fastbreak points and outmuscled them 58-30 in the paint.
I think tonight's game is going to be much closer than the last one. With Carlisle b*tching and moaning about the free-throw disparity after last game (newsflash: Your team shoots jumpshots), the refs are going to give a lot more ticky tack calls going the other way. In any case, I still think the Nuggets pull this one off.
Going to be a good game tonight. Super excited to see my boys in action again. It might be closer, but like Dirk says, they aren't as tough as the Nuggs. We need to keep home court advantage and get the first two.
If Dallas doesn't turn the ball over every second possession, then this game will be much closer. We can't let Dirk get off to a great start again, gotta stick right to him and make him put the ball on the floor. I expect this to be a Denver win, especially if we get our running game going like last game, Dallas simply cannot keep up with us. How's Howard and Dampier's ankles doing? That could be a key to the game as well.
Confessions of a converted fast break coach
by Chris Dempsey on May 5, 2009
This is the peek behind the curtain, the fly on the wall moment.
Nuggets coach George Karl is leaning back on a stool a few feet away from the court in the team’s Pepsi Center practice facility. He is spilling the beans on how an offseason of purging took the Nuggets from run-down to a team now three wins away from the Western Conference Finals. All of the essential moves and conversations that happened before the regular season arrival of guard Chauncey Billups took a decent Nuggets team and pushed it to among the NBA’s best.
Karl starts with an admission that the run-at-all-costs offensive philosophy he preached two years prior to this season – though it resulted in a combined 95 wins (50 last season) – was the wrong way to go.
“I may have taken too much of a risk,” Karl says.
And that’s just an appetizer.
We’ll start last spring, after the Nuggets were swept out of the playoffs by the L.A. Lakers. Assistant coach Tim Grgurich, Karl’s longtime right hand man, wanted the coach to wipe his hands of emphasizing offensive basketball. Grgurich wanted to turn back the clock to the defense-first system that was a success when the two were winning games by the boatload in Seattle.
“We can’t do this anymore,” Grgurich said to Karl. “We can’t coach like this anymore. It just doesn’t work.”
“He was saying it for himself, but he was also saying it for me,” Karl recalled. “And I just looked at him and said ‘Grg, you know something, you’re right.’”
But Karl also said he had some early opposition from another assistant, Adrian Dantley, who wondered why he would scrap the system that had the Nuggets ranked among the NBA’s best on the offensive end.
“Dantley said, ‘Why in the (heck) are you changing? You score in the top five, why are you changing your philosophy?’” Karl recalled.
But his mind was made up. Karl rose through the ranks as a defensive-minded coach with offensive flair. In Seattle, his teams got after the opposition with relentless effort, turning Gary Payton pressure-induced stops into Shawn Kemp show time dunks.
More importantly, there was a hands-on approach to how the coaching staff handled the players. In the summers coaches stayed close to the athletes. There were talks and visits and one-on-one practice sessions. That extra personal attention was non-existent in Denver.
Grgurich wanted to get back to that. Karl agreed. They divided up the roster. They were the point men, but all of the assistants were responsible for keeping track of two or more players.
“He had Kenyon, I had Nene,” Karl said. “A.I. (Allen Iverson) is impossible to touch in the summer time, but we at least got in some phone conversations with him. Melo was in China (for the Olympics), so we were ok there. All the other guys were fairly easy.”
Karl, who had past run-ins with Martin, thought he’d be the toughest to get on board with the changing philosophy he wanted to implement – more discipline, improved professionalism, better leadership, and a focus on defense on the court.
He was wrong.
“The guy that jumped in really quick, was Kenyon,” Karl said. “We thought Nene and Kenyon were the hardest guys. Kenyon basically said this is the only way we can survive. And as soon as he got back (for training camp) we met and he said ‘You’re not going to have any problem with me. I’m going to be your leader.’ He jumped in and basically called himself out.
“We had our first (team) meeting of the season and he said ‘I’ve been a problem for coach, but it’s not going to happen anymore, and I’m going to be the policeman.’ Our off the court activity was part of it, too.”
Martin admitted he had a bad attitude much of his time with Karl, and that a lot of it was due to frustration with having to deal with two microfracture knee surgeries that limited his ability to play at the level he was accustomed. His knees hurt. His pride hurt. He took it out on Karl and others in the organization on a near daily basis.
Martin knew he had to change.
“I had to get out of my own way,” he said.
As for Nene, who had been branded as a player who was not living up to his six-year, $60 million contract, he and Karl vented over dinner at the ritzy Capital Grille restaurant downtown.
“We yelled and screamed a little bit,” Karl said. “He didn’t say all nice things. I didn’t say all nice things. My line to him at that time was ‘Nene, you’ve gone from an overpaid bench player to an underpaid starter, in one trade (the Marcus Camby trade). If you’re as good as I think you’re going to be, at the end of this year, they are going to call you an underpaid star. Right now, they are calling you an overpaid bench guy.’ I said, ‘What a great opportunity. What a great challenge to show people that they don’t know what the (heck) they are talking about.’”
Karl demanded harder work from Nene, who took it easy during the summers only to report to camp out of shape and thus, more susceptible to injury.
“I said ‘You’re not going to be able to do it with your habits,’” Karl said. “He would be complaining about this guy and (that guy’s) professionalism. I said ‘If you want that to change, you’ve got to help me. The first way you help me is get in the gym.’ And on August 15, he was in the gym probably four or five days every week from that point. He had never done that before.”
That all set the stage for the Billups trade, sending Iverson to Detroit, which occurred on Nov. 3.
“The culture was changing before Chauncey came,” Karl said. “And then Chauncey comes and here’s the spokesperson for everything I was basically saying. So I’m not fighting and ego managing and molding.”
Now, they are simply winning.
Basically this is the reason Nene and JR are having career years, and the reason Denver's D was improved. Chauncey obviously came in and fit in perfectly with what was already going down in Denver and brought his 3ball the the starting lineup.
i just can't see the mavs winning this one. howard is hobbled, dampier cannot battle with nene, no one on their roster can defend melo, and carlisle's already making excuses blaming the refs. i say nuggets get off to a great start tonight as opposed to last game and cruise the rest of the way.