DENVER (AP) -- Move over Tony Parker and Chris Paul. Make way for the old guards.
The second-round series between Dallas and Denver that begins Sunday at the Pepsi Center features two veteran floor leaders in point guards Jason Kidd, 36, of the Mavericks and Chauncey Billups, 32, of the Nuggets.
"Two old dogs," Kenyon Martin said.
One great matchup, proclaimed Nuggets coach George Karl and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Kidd sent Parker packing along with the rest of the San Antonio Spurs, and Billups gave Paul and the New Orleans Hornets an early start on their summer break, too.
Billups and Kidd have met in the postseason before. Kidd's Nets swept Billups' Pistons in the 2003 Eastern Conference finals but bowed out to Detroit in the semifinals in '04, when Billups got his ring.
"It's been five years, they're probably a step slower, but they're smarter," said Martin, who has a unique perspective on the matchup because he played with Kidd back then and he's on Billups' side now.
Billups said he hasn't had to make concessions for age: "I'm still in my prime right now, so I haven't had to."
Kidd free acknowledges he's changed his game as he's gotten older, and Martin said Kidd's only gotten better since they parted ways five years ago.
"The older you get, the more you have to think," Martin said. "He's always been a thinker on the court. But I think he's thinking more than he ever has. I think that's why they're playing as well as they are."
Billups is the main reason the Nuggets made it out of the first round for the first time in 15 years.
"Chauncey's probably a better scorer than Jason is, but Jason's probably a better passer," Karl said. "But the orchestration of their teams, they've been doing it for years. Chauncey's done it for six years (in Detroit) and now he's done it for us. Jason was incredible for many, many years, and now he's doing it with Dallas."
Carlisle has coached both men. He had Billups in Detroit in 2003 before facing him with Indiana in the 2004 and '05 playoffs.
"If you're a young player who plays the point guard position, watch this series because you're going to see two of the best and most experienced in the game," Carlisle said. "And you're going to see contrasting styles. Each guy leads his team in a different way.
"They lean on Chauncey for scoring a little more than we need to with Jason, but they both can put the ball in the hole, they both have a pulse on the players they're playing with. It's like a better basketball DVD -- just stick around and watch it because you'll see great play at that position."
A blueprint on how to play the point?
"Well, that's a great compliment," Kidd said. "But when you look at Billups' resume, he has a championship, he was the MVP, he's been a winner wherever he's gone. He's come to Denver in the trade and changed the atmosphere here with some talented guys, so they're probably watching him more than they're watching me.
"For each of us, I think our careers have gotten better, but he has the trophy that I want."
Billups considers this a wholly different challenge than he had in facing Paul, the Hornets' ultra-quick All-Star point guard who was constantly hounded by double teams.
"With Jason you've got to worry about so many things," Billups said. "He's such a great rebounder, so you try to keep him off the glass. He's a great standstill shooter, so you've got to try to keep him from spotting up. And he's just one of the best facilitators of all time. Most of his damage he does is in transition and it's tough to guard people in transition."
What both men have in common is the know-how that comes from years of playoff experience.
"It's big because as you advance each round it gets more challenging on every level," Carlisle said. "The competition gets better, the intensity of the buildings, each guy has to manage the emotions of the younger players on his team. The respective leadership qualities of each guy will go a long way in deciding how well their teammates play. It's a great matchup."
Dallas All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said besides being winners, "both of them a a lot of experience and they just carry something about themselves out there that makes you follow them. That should be a fun one to watch."
Nene's playoff career-high 24 lift Nuggets in opener
DENVER -- If not for Nene's breakout first half, Carmelo Anthony's fourth-quarter fireworks and Anthony Carter's defensive deftness wouldn't have mattered much.
Nene kept Denver in it until his teammates could turn this one into another laugher, scoring 18 of his playoff career-high 24 points in the first half of the Nuggets' 109-95 rout of the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday in the opener of their second-round series.
"'Melo in foul trouble and kind of searching for an offensive confidence, we got it from Nene," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "The balance of our team has quietly been a strength of who we are. In the second half 'Melo got into the game, J.R. [Smith] jumped into the game and our defense was fantastic."
Nene, who beat testicular cancer last year, played more minutes than ever this season and over the last month he really hit a wall. In the Nuggets' five-game dispatch of New Orleans in the first round, he averaged 9.0 points and 7.8 rebounds.
His fantastic first half saved the Nuggets, who poured it on the second half thanks to 20 Dallas turnovers, eight by Jason Kidd, who turned over the ball just three times in the first round.
• Playing beyond round one for the the first time since 1994, the Nuggets grabbed a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinals series and have won 14 straight home games dating back to the regular season.
• Denver improved to 5-0 vs. Dallas overall this season.
• The Mavericks have dropped 11 of their last 13 road playoff games.
• Nene led the Nuggets with a playoff career-high 24 points, becoming the first Nuggets center to score 20 points in a playoff game since Dikembe Mutombo in 1994.
• Carmelo Anthony added 23 points on 7-for-10 shooting, his best shooting performance ever in a playoff game.
• The Nuggets have won each of the last 11 openers they've played at home.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
"Offensively, we were good," Karl said, "but defensively we were really good."
Thanks to their stifling defense, the Nuggets outscored the Mavericks 29-4 on fast breaks, but the disparity that really bothered Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was the 36-13 advantage Denver had at the line.
"We're going to have to raise our level of aggression if that's what's going to get us to the free throw line," said Carlisle, who was particularly bothered that Dirk Nowitzki took just four foul shots plus a technical.
"I'll look at that closely, and if the referees were right they were right. But he's being played very physically, away from the floor where the rules are different than in post play," Carlisle said. "We'll look at it and if there's a complaint to be made we'll talk to the league about it."
Anthony found it funny the Mavs were complaining about whistles because he was in early foul trouble for what he considered questionable calls.
"Foul trouble didn't bother him, it didn't freak him out, it didn't take him to a dark side that we had to worry about," Karl said. "He trusted the team, the team did great and he came out in the second half and was a leader for us.
Making A Point
The Nuggets dominated scoring in the paint, on the break, from the free-throw line, and off the bench in Sunday's Game 1 vs. the Mavs.
Mavericks vs. Nuggets Mavs Nuggets
Pts in the paint 30 58
Fastbreak pts 4 29
Pts off FT 9 25
Bench pts 30 39
"His maturity, his mental involvement now is team and not individual ... I don't know who's given him that wisdom. Is it Chauncey [Billups]? Is it a gold medal? Is it the coaching staff? I don't care, I think he's doing a fantastic job."
Anthony scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including a dunk off Smith's behind-the-back assist that rocked the arena.
Nowitzki led Dallas with 28 points and 10 boards, and Josh Howard, Kidd and Jason Terry each scored 15.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets have won 14 straight.
The Nuggets led 82-80 when they iced it with a 15-4 run. It began with two free throws and a bucket from Chris Andersen, who blocked six shots, and two foul shots and a jumper from Anthony.
From there on, it was the brand of basketball the Nuggets have been playing all season, with Billups and Carter taking turns leading the way at both ends of the floor.
"That's how we win," Billups said. "We win with our numbers and not just one or two guys having big nights."
Nowitzki, who scored 13 of the Mavericks' first 17 points, was thrown to the floor by Kenyon Martin in the first quarter and didn't get an open look the rest of the day.
"I felt like in the first quarter I had some good looks there and after that, they really made me work for everything I got," Nowitzki said.
In the first half, Erick Dampier turned his left ankle and Howard, who missed two 11-game stretches this season with a bum left ankle, turned his right one.
"I can't avoid injuries," Howard said. "Right now I could get hurt walking off a plane."
Nuggets VP of basketball operations Mark Warkentien was voted the NBA's executive of the year. ... The Mavericks are 0-5 against Denver this season. ... Billups was introduced before Denver's win by one of his childhood heroes, Hall of Famer John Elway. Elway, who led the Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl championships before retiring a decade ago, donned a Billups' No. 7 jersey when he walked to halfcourt and introduced the floor leader born and raised in Denver.
Anthony scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, Nene scored 25, J.R. Smith had 21 and Chauncey Billups 18 for the Nuggets, who won for the 15th straight time at the Pepsi Center, where they haven't lost since March 11.
The series shifts to Dallas for Game 3 Saturday night, and the Mavericks can only hope they're going to be as good on their home court as the Nuggets were on theirs.
"It's kind of shocking we have three days off," said Nuggets coach George Karl, who would much prefer to keep the momentum going by playing sooner.
The Mavericks are 17-1 at home since the All-Star break, but that one loss was to Denver.
The Mavericks now face the daunting task of having to win four of five against the Nuggets, a team they're 0-6 against this season and one that is playing with so much confidence and efficiency.
"They've held serve," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "We go back to Dallas and we've got to do the same. We've got a few days to regroup and work on some things."
The Nuggets, whose six postseason wins have come by an average of 24.8 points, broke open a back-and-forth game by starting the fourth quarter on a 16-2 run, sparked by Anthony's 10 points, to take a 102-85 lead.
"We're just an explosive team in that way," Billups said. "That's just kind of what we do. That's who we've been all year."
Dallas didn't score until Brandon Bass's basket at the 8:36 mark, and then they went another 2½ minutes without another point until two free throws by Nowitzki.
Ever since the playoffs started, Denver has made a habit of using a fourth-quarter spurt to create both separation and doubt in its opponents' heads.
"I think the second and third quarter, Dallas was the better basketball team today," Karl said. "But then there's just a character of our team to get tough in the fourth and for some reason we make a lot of 3s in the fourth."
After getting pushed around in the opener, the Mavericks said they had to stand up to the bullying in Game 2 and they tinkered with their starting lineup, replacing Jose Juan Barea with Antoine Wright.
They wanted to attack the rim more, but Josh Howard's two sprained ankles sent him to the bench after six scoreless minutes. They still improved the differential in points in the paint while also taking better care of the ball -- until their fourth-quarter follies.
After committing 20 turnovers in the opener, they coughed it up 13 times in Game 2, including five times in the final period.
"Well, again turnovers were our undoing early in the fourth," Carlisle said. "I thought we did a great job hanging in the first half and then the third quarter. Maybe it was a little bit fatigue again. A couple turnovers, it started a run and we didn't recover from it."
The Mavericks trimmed an early double-digit deficit to 58-55 at halftime when Jason Kidd hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer after Smith put up a 3-pointer with too much time left on the shot clock.
Kenyon Martin, who was slapped with a $25,000 fine for a hard foul on Nowitzki in the opener, was whistled for a double technical when he was grabbed by Ryan Hollins around his waist and tried to wrangle free. The Nuggets, who called the monetary fine overkill, also took umbrage at this whistle.
Nowitzki, whose five free throws in Game 1 drew the ire of Carlisle, went to the line 13 times, making 12 of them.
The Nuggets got the crowd back into it when Billups beat Jason Terry to a loose ball and fed to Smith under the basket for an electrifying dunk that gave Denver a 77-76 lead.
Smith pickpocketed Terry for a breakaway slam and Billups' 3 made it 84-78, but the Mavericks cut the deficit to 86-83 heading into the fourth quarter.
This is the Nuggets' longest home winning streak since a 19-gamer in 1989. ... The Mavericks haven't won in Denver since Dec. 31, 2006.
Have a couple days off now too so hopefully Melo can get back to 100%. If we win game 3 on Dallas's home floor I'm calling the sweep..if not I say it gets done in 5.
Is Denver and Cleveland the only two teams that haven't dropped a game at home thus far? haven't really looked into it but just thinking about it I'm pretty sure those are the only two teams that are perfect at home in the playoffs.
Anyone else think were kinda getting overrated with all this finals talk? maybe if Houston knocks off the Lakers? are chances go up but I'd say it's a long shot
Orginally Posted by Cabbage that is whats going to happen. L.A is weak.
They are weak in a sense that if you frustrate them defensively they will be off of their game. Look at the games against Houston.
Derek Fisher and Louis Scola
Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest
I have a feeling that LA will pull it off against Houston, so all the Nuggets need to do is play physical, K-Mart will have to front Kobe all day long, or whoever is covering the guy...Dahntay, JR, etc.
The only problem we may have is stopping their front court because of their size, Pau has given us trouble everytime we play them.