Keys for the Denver Nuggets Going into Game Two

Sean StancillSenior Writer IMay 4, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 29:  Starters Carmelo Anthony #15, Chauncey Billups #7 and Nene #31 of the Denver Nuggets watch the final minutes against the New Orleans Hornets from the bench in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 29, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Anthony had a game high 34 points as the Nuggets defeated the Hornets 107-86 to advance to the Conference Semifinals against Dallas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Despite an off-night from leader Chauncey Billups (six points on 2-of-8 shooting) and a exceptional performance from Dirk Nowitzki (28 points and 10 boards) the Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 109-95 to take control of their second-round series 1-0.

Its safe to say certain occurrences are unlikely to surface again such as Billups' woeful night and Sixth Man Of The Year Jason Terry playing visibly quiet.

With that taken into account, here are the keys for the Nuggets going into Game Two:

Expect Carmelo To Continue To Attack:

As I wrote before, Melo will continue to shred the Mavericks as he's done in his career and he continued that streak.

He made over 65 percent of his shots from mid-range and long-range as he went 7-of-10 from the floor, 2-of-3 from behind the arc, and he also made all seven of his free-throws en route to tallying 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks, in a well balanced effort despite playing with foul-trouble for the majority of the contest.

With Josh Howard certainly favoring his newly sprained left ankle, you can expect Melo to be more aggressive on drives, attacking the rim, and from the triple-threat position.

A hurt ankle restricts mobility and both of Howard's have suffered injuries this season. Anthony is one of the quicker forwards in the league and if Howard can't stay in front of him the Nuggets' should have a field day in Game Two.

Exploiting The Right Matchups:

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Defensive specialist Dahntay Jones did a modest job of using his size at 6-6 to punish his defender who was the smaller JJ Barea (5-10) and scored on a couple of easy baskets with his back to the basket including a key three-point play early in the game.

With prior knowledge that Erick Dampier might perhaps be the slowest center in the league getting up the court, Nene's game-plan was to attack the rim and use his speed to drive around the slower veteran.

And watching Dampier crumple to the floor only accentuated those motives. Nene exploded for 18 of his 24 points in the first-half and threw down a series of one-handed hammers and proved to be the underlining most important player for the Denver Nuggets in the game.

Later in the second quarter, Nene found himself in the passing lanes, picked up a steal, and lofted a perfect outlet pass over two Mavs' defenders to J.R. Smith for an easy dunk.

On a few possessions later, he blocked a Dirk Nowitzki lay-up and then raced up on the other end of the court; streaking past Erick Dampier and elevating for a dunk.

After Game One, Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle may look to make adjustments, possibly by starting Ryan Hollins at center to contest Nene's quickness. However Nene still has the strength and the superior basketball I.Q. to bull the thinner Hollins in the paint.

If Nene can get off to a hot start, the Nuggets' will be operating on all cylinders.

Consistent Bench-Play For The Nuggets:

J.R. Smith, Chris "Birdman" Andersen, and back-up point guard Anthony Carter all scored in double-figures and the trio alone outscored all seven players on the Mavs' bench (including Sixth Man Of The Year Jason Terry) 38-34 and they also helped seal the Nuggets' victory with their free-throw disparity as they got to the line 15 times to only two for Dallas.

The Nuggets' trio also shared the ball and combined for 12 assists to just 2 turnovers, highlighted by the unselfish play of J.R. Smith who had six and scored 15 points along with three steals.

Birdman took care of the defense and was truly in his own element as a rangy shot-blocker who had a playoff-high six blocked shots and also contributed six boards and eleven points.

Lastly, Anthony Carter provided another dose of steady, veteran leadership and orchestrated Denver's offense and really helped set the tempo. He knocked down timely shots and also got back on defense which George Karl unquestionably admires.

The Nuggets' have one of the best benches in basketball and if they can continue to get an onslaught from their bench it will ease the load off of the starters and further cement the game when the starters are clicking.

The series will resume on Tuesday back at the Pepsi Center with the Nuggets leading 1-0.


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