In game one, we all witnessed what the Nuggets faithful knew about Nene. Big Brazil’s play was critical in every sense of the word as he basically canceled out the play of Tim Duncan by scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to counteract Timmy’s 14 points and ten boards. In game two, Nene is going to have to give a repeat performance, regardless of how the numbers pan out, in an effort to nullify or better his counterpart. My feelings are if you take the Spurs’ heart, i.e. Tim Duncan, the rest will fall!
Also in game one, Marcus Camby was all that was advertised in my first meeting’s preview. Along with helping Nene on Duncan, the Captain absolutely dominated his counterpart in Franny Elson. Having the luxury of a defensive helper like Camby is invaluable because it allows the Nuggets perimeter players to overplay the first pass off the ball, and when the ball is in the post the Nuggets have the choice of not to send the double-team knowing that the Camby-man is looming on the weak side help. And as we all saw in game one… Having another frontcourt player who routinely grabs double digits in rebounds was critical in limiting the Spurs to one shot and out on most offensive possessions. I’ll be looking for Camby to improve on his ten rebounds from game one in tonight’s game because, heck, that is what the Captain does.
Transitioning now from good things that did happen to things that didn’t have me concerned about the play of Manu Ginobili. The flopper had a terrible game with only nine points and two assists in game one, but the Nuggets need to be ready for Ginobili to bounce back tonight. I’m not so sure that Denver has completely figured out how to defend the slippery Ginobili, or if such a thing is even possible, but what I would like to see is for the Nuggets to frustrate him early in an attempt to disrupt his game and take him out of the offense. My thoughts are to be able to control the damage that the Spurs stars can inflict while making their second tier players step-up in an attempt to beat us.
And since I’m on the topic of second tiers, I would like to see more of an impact from the Nuggets reserves in game two. In the month of April, George Karl has essentially sliced down the number of reserves he plays to three. Eduardo Najera, Linas Kleiza, and J.R. Smith are the chosen trio and were the only non-starters to play in game one. Nobody made that big of an impact in the first meeting, but J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza are certainly capable of putting up big numbers. With J.R., it usually always boils down to the results of his first three shots. If the twine starts to tickle… Look out because J.R. is a player that can get red-hot at the drop of a hat! And what will be of the most important aspect of getting J.R. in rhythm will be his shot selection. As for Linas, I feel that his outside game is predicated on his confidence, which is almost always boosted by getting him out on the fast break and putting the big Lithuanian in a position to finish strong. When Linas starts to feel included on the break his outside game really comes alive and from there he can be a deadly substitute at any juncture in the game.
Other than those select points, if Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony can torch the Spurs for anywhere near 60 points again in game two as they did in game one I like the Nuggets chances of taking a commanding lead in the series. The Spurs may think they have an answer for Carmelo in Bruce Bowen, but they sure don’t have a clue as to how to stop The Answer! Even if Allen Iverson isn’t able to reach 30 points again tonight, remember that the Nuggets are a formidable 12-1 when AI reaches double digits in assists.
My final thought stems from back in 2005 when the Nuggets snatched game one from the Spurs before exiting the playoffs stage left. I bring it up not because I think the same outcome is likely, but rather because of the learning experience that needs to brought to the arena for tonight’s game. The Spurs know what it is like to be down and what it takes to even the score and transfer the series momentum. The most important thing is whether or not the Nuggets have learned from their mistakes of yesteryear and have the character to take control of this series by the horns.