Nuggets/Mavs Game 3 Recap
Some terms for your debate.
Some nights you just know that when you go to sleep, the next morning NBA nation is going to be up in arms in the midst of a heated debate. The no-call on Antoine Wright’s chest bump of Carmelo Anthony should probably do the trick, at least for the folks in Big D, especially now given the League has admitted the officials missed the call. There are plenty of points worth arguing: the officials dropping the ball, ‘Melo not giving up on the play and hitting a tough shot, everyone else assuming a foul would be called, the list goes on and on.
Having spent one year on my junior high school’s debate team I like to think I’m relatively well versed in the proceedings of a formal debate. There’s the resolve or topic of debate, opening statements, cross examinations, rebuttals and closing statements. At the start of each debate, the affirmative team is charged with providing definitions for key terms that are present in the resolve for that debate. That seems like a good starting point for this game given the chatter that is bound to result from the controversial conclusion.
Definition: a basketball game that features 61 fouls but is ultimately decided by a no-call in the final seconds.
In every game that is decided by just a couple of points, or in this case one point, there comes a point where the action starts to drag as a result of teams fouling one another. Typically that occurs in the final minute; in this game that moment transpired early in the third quarter. The Mavericks and Nuggets shot 89 free throws; 89 free throws! At times this thing looked more like an overdone charity free throw shoot-a-thon than it did an NBA playoff game, to the point where it was possible to walk down the block for a bite to eat and conceivably miss no more than two minutes of actual game time. Four different players attempted more than ten free throws, and only two players who saw more than ten minutes of playing didn’t attempt a freebie. Even more surprising though was that in a game that featured so many trips to the charity stripe, it wasn’t ultimately a major deciding factor since both squads shot 80 percent or better.
Definition: Dallas ending either Denver’s control of the 4th quarter or their dominance on the offensive glass.
The Mav’s spent the first two games of this series playing 36 minutes of basketball before ultimately conceding the home court advantage to the Nuggets. Denver went on 4th quarter runs of 26-9 and 16-2 in games one and two respectively to give them their 2-0 advantage, but Dallas decided to buck the trend on their home floor. The Mavericks played a solid second half, at least a stronger one when compared to the first where they spent a lot of the time watching Denver come away with second chance points. Despite generally poor shooting from ‘Melo, Nene and Chauncey Billups in the first half the Nuggets actually had a slight edge going in to the locker room thanks to tireless hustle on the offensive glass. In all, five different Denver players hauled in multiple offensive rebounds, and that was enough to keep the ship afloat before Mr. Big Shot (Billups) pumped in 23 second half points. Even with Billups going off, Dallas didn’t fold in the final 12 minutes of play as they had in the previous two contests, they kept the pressure on the entire way, and actually won the battle of the boards by a margin of 35-28.
Definition: a picture of Billups or Jason Kidd; take your pick
It isn’t always necessarily in what manner a player makes an impact, it’s when he makes that impact that counts the most. For both Kidd and Billups they opted for the second half. After laying an egg with 6 points in game two, Billups went to work after the break dropping 23 of his 32, and he did it in his typical efficient fashion. It doesn’t matter how old he gets, Billups always manages to get that extra boost of juice come the postseason. J Kidd on the other hand took us back to the early days in Dallas when he was a fresh faced rook out of Cal. The third quarter belonged to Kidd; whether it was putting the scoring load on his shoulders and attacking Billups himself, or making the nifty pass in transition, for a brief period it was easy to forget that he is on the back end of his career.
Definition: Dirk’s effort
Nowitzki wanted this one, not that he didn’t want the first two, but he really wanted this one. You could tell in the way he attacked the glass for 16 rebounds, you could tell in his body language after knocking down jumper after jumper. More than anything though, you could tell in his reaction after the game was over. While many of his teammates were on the floor either jawing with Denver or looking to hunt down an official (Mark Cuban even got in on the action by pushing a camera man), Dirk went straight for the lockers. His shoulders were slumped, his face had a blank expression and he generally looked like a kid who after expecting a snow day was greeted by an army of snow plows the next morning. There is absolutely no silver lining in this outcome for Nowitzki. He played a brilliant game, did everything he could to get his team a win, but due to a botched call, his team is all but finished in the playoffs.
Did Denver play well enough to win this game? Of course they did. They started the game off shooting poorly, but Dallas shot themselves in the foot by allowing the Nuggets to beat them repeatedly on the offensive boards. Weather early game problems and stay within striking distance: check. They had big games from ‘Melo and Billups, particularly the latter who blew up in the second half when it counted most. When Chris Andersen fouled out in the third quarter Nene and Kenyon Martin kept the adrenaline levels up with a few key plays inside.
The issue isn’t that Denver didn’t do enough to win, it’s that in this game Dallas did just a little bit more. Dirk was huge, he played arguably his best game of the playoffs. When things looked like they were going to start dropping off in the third quarter J Kidd took matters into his own hands and put the Mavs back in the drivers seat heading into the fourth. Josh Howard and Erick Dampier both had foul trouble so Brandon Bass stepped up his offensive production and Ryan Hollins gave quality minutes inside. Dallas did everything right and still couldn’t put a notch in the win column.
Do the officials ultimately take the heat for this one? Absolutely. But maybe this is fate’s way of saying that the Nuggets are going to take this series in the end anyway, regardless of how it’s done. Maybe this is vindication for all the coaches out there who always say to keep playing until the whistle blows, no need to make assumptions before that. Or maybe this just means to keep an eye on Mark Cuban’s twitter posts for the next 24 hours.