The second round of the playoffs began for the Denver Nuggets Sunday—an event so huge for the city, John Elway was there.
But not just in attendance like he has been seen before—the Duke of Denver was there to make a goosebump-worthy introduction.
"From the old number seven, to the new number seven, Chauncey Billups," Elway's voice roared.
The scene was magic, and reminiscent of 1994, the last time Denver made it out of the first round. Elway was there then too, riling up McNichols Arena much like 2009.
This Sunday belonged not to the Broncos, though, but to the Nuggets.
Denver came into this series on cloud nine, but was smacked in the mouth out of the gates.
The Mavericks, spurred on by Dirk Nowitzki's unconscious first quarter shooting, out scored the Nuggets 24-16. Nowitzki went five-of-five from the floor to start, and had 13 at the end of the first period.
The second quarter, however, was a much different story.
Kenyon Martin pushed Dirk to the ground in a show of frustration, and a "never back down" mentality. The move threw Dirk off his game, as Nowitzki went one-for-seven in the second quarter with only two points. Nowitzki was shadowed by both Martin and Birdman Andersen, who fought hard against the superstar.
The Nuggets had their best quarter by far in the second, putting up 35 points to the Mav's 23.
Nene had a huge half, scoring 18 of his Nuggets-high 24 in the first 24 minutes. He was quick, spinning off Dampier for a lay up, and fast, grabbing a rebound, then running the floor for an explosive Brazilian tomahawk dunk.
Carmelo Anthony, Denver's second-best scorer Sunday with 23 points said, "Our thing with Nene is just play fast, just run. We knew Dampier couldn't keep up with him."
For Dallas, Nowitzki had a game-high 28 points, scoring well in the third quarter, but quieting down in the fourth, with only three points. Dirk added ten rebounds, yet his efforts were not enough against a much deeper Nuggets team, as Denver played fast and physically to win 109-95.
A few fundamental factors led to a comfortable Nuggets win
Denver, while it seemed early were going to be in trouble with the refs, foul calls ended up in their favor. Dirk traveled numerous times and wasn't called, and got calls on many shot attempts. On the other hand, 'Melo was in foul trouble early and had to sit for most of the second quarter.
In all though, the Nuggets had a huge disparity in free throw attempts, at 36-13, something Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle was unhappy with. ""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,'' complained Carlisle.
"Aggressive" was the key term used over and over again by players and coaches alike in their post game interviews.
Nowitzki said, "We knew how aggressive their defense is from the New Orleans series." Apparently there was nothing Dallas could do about it though, as they were out-physicaled all day.
"We started out soft, shooting jump shots, then got more aggressive and took the ball to the hoop," explained Billups after the game. Mr. Big Shot continued, "We have the best bench in the league. We win with our numbers."
Denver certainly did that in Game One, as they got a combined 38 points out of Carter, Andersen, and Smith. Their intense and aggressive play really drives the Nuggets, and allows the starters time to rest.
The Nuggets' bench is the separation factor in this series, and a reason Denver should win in six games.
When asked about the win, Anthony said, "We wanna protect our home court. We gotta come out more aggressive (in Game Two)." As Billups reflected on the victory he said, "Our goals are bigger than that."
Let's hope Denver does truly come out aggressive in Game Two, not flat like Game One, and jumps out to an early lead. The Nuggets need to focus on one game at a time, something it seems they have down at this point, something that will lead them to victory once again in Game Two.
Game Two is on Tuesday night at 8:30 PM on TNT.
In The Bonus
Denver outran Dallas to the tune of 29-4 in fast break points. Also, the Nuggets dominated down low, almost doubling up the Mavericks 58-30 in points in the paint.
Dallas played sloppily throughout, Jason Kidd even turned the ball over in consecutive possessions, and they totaled 20 turnovers in the entire game. Denver was strong on the offensive end, outshooting Dallas 54.8 to 48.8 percent.
However, one concern could be the Nuggets free-throw shooting, which was a paltry 69 percent.