Nuggets guard against complacency with 2-0 lead
DENVER, Colorado ” As team leader, Chauncey Billups intends on keeping the Denver Nuggets levelheaded.
Sure, the Nuggets are up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series with the Dallas Mavericks after another fourth-quarter spurt allowed them to scamper away with a second straight blowout Tuesday night.
Yet Billups, a grizzled playoff veteran, is guarding against complacency, not wanting his teammates to drop their edge as the series shifts to Dallas for Game 3 on Saturday.
“All I do is try to share my experiences of staying humble in times of success,” Billups said. “It’s good to be good. But you can’t get too high when you’re winning, and you can’t get too low when you’re losing.”
Through their playoff run, the Nuggets have adopted the adage of staying “humble and hungry.”
So far, Nuggets coach George Karl sees just that.
“I still think we’re humble and we’ve got to be hungry to go down there and try to win a game,” Karl said.
Now if only the layoff wasn’t so long. Three days seems like an eternity for Karl.
“About midday tomorrow, I’m going to be like, ‘Why aren’t we playing?”‘ he said.
Especially given the roll the Nuggets are on. Karl doesn’t want the hiatus to wipe out the Nuggets’ wave of momentum.
“I don’t think there’s any question the three days benefits Dallas,” Karl said.
It certainly gives Josh Howard’s right ankle more time to heal. The Mavericks high-energy forward was sidelined after just six scoreless minutes in Game 2 after landing awkwardly.
“We hope Josh has a speedy recovery,” Jason Kidd said.
Still, Chris Andersen doesn’t mind the downtime. He’s banged up from battling the Mavericks’ big men in the low post.
“I get pushed and shoved and elbowed and everything else in between, so it’s a good time for me to get some treatment and get a little bit of rest,” he said.
The time off provides a perfect opportunity for Karl to give his team a refresher course on defense. That’s about the only quibble Karl has with his team’s performance.
“I still don’t think we’ve played a great defensive game from the standpoint of every possession,” he said.
What needs to change?
“Cut the layups,” Karl said. “I’d like to take the layups and easy baskets away from them (as much) as we can.”
The Mavericks feel the same way about Nene, who has presented matchup problems all series.
The athletic center blitzed the Mavericks for a postseason career-high 24 points in the opener and then topped it with a 25-point spurt in Game 2.
“We’re just getting behind him, saying you do what you do and we’ll follow you,” Billups said. “We’re playing through him, because they really don’t have an answer for him.”
When Dallas does sag into the middle to negate Nene, it gives players such as J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Billups open jumpers.
“They’ve got so many weapons out there,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “They have a lot of ability to score and score in bunches.”
The same can be said of Nowitzki, who finished with 35 points as the Mavericks made a concentrated effort to get him the ball down on the blocks.
“He can come out and score 70 as long as we win,” Kenyon Martin said. “He can score 100 as long as we have 101.”
Martin has spent a chunk of the series covering Nowitzki, bumping and pushing him around.
He was fined $25,000 by the league for an aggressive shove on Nowitzki in the series opener but vowed not to let it alter his physical style.
That’s simply his game.
Karl certainly appreciates Martin’s defensive tenacity.
He wishes others would as well. Karl was surprised that Martin received no votes for the league’s All-Defensive Team that was announced Wednesday.
“He’s not only a big-time defender, he’s a stopper. He’s a reason why we win games,” Karl said. “That’s sad to see.”