Not many people would have predicted that Semi Final match up at the start of the season.
Dallas was steadily fading away, unable to blend the mercurial talent of Jason Kidd into their system. Unable to gag their owner. Unable to find their bench.
Denver was doing their best impression of the Incredible Hulk. At any time they were as likely to go crazy and score 200 points as they were to crumble and fall to League worst teams.
Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony were happily pouring in the points safe in the knowledge that as a franchise they were treading water. They did not have the discipline or commitment to team defense to propel them to Post Season success.
However, it is amazing what a few trades and a little bit of time can do.
Turns out that all the Mavericks needed was a season to gel and start firing. Kidd started looking like the player that he was when he led New Jersey deep into the Playoffs and the Dallas bench began to up its production largely due to Jason Terry’s move to Sixth Man.
Denver did what all teams in the hunt for a Championship do and traded away their best defensive player for a bag of skittles and bottle of Coke. Wait. What?
Marcus Camby departed for the Wonderland of the Los Angeles Clippers while the Nuggets welcomed back their Brazilian Beast Nene who had missed the previous season through illness.
One trade was not enough, so Denver pulled the itchy trigger again, shipping the League’s once best and still prolific scorer Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Chauncey Mr Big Shot Billups.
Billups has brought veteran leadership and a defensive mentality to a team that desperately needed a father figure. Thanks to Billups, the Nuggets learnt the power of defense.
Suddenly the starting line up looked like it could be something special, perfectly complimented by a freakishly athletic bench led by JR Smith and Chris Anderson.
And so, here we are, Denver meet Dallas for the chance to play in the Conference Finals.
Who is more worried by the series? Dallas. Unquestionably. They know full well how dangerous the Nuggets are having not taken a game from them all season, losing all four games.
The run and gun fun may have been tamed, but the fire power remains. No playoff calibre team can hang with Denver when they turn on the coring tap, aside from the Lakers.
For the Mavericks, it depends on what Chauncey Billups turns up to play. In the first round he shot 65.5% from three point land. If he does that again Dallas may as well stay in Texas and get the BBQ on. Just about un-guardable.
However, Dallas does have a chance. They just have to take their chance and avoid a slow start against a hungry Denver that will be punished.
If the Mavericks can shoot the lights out in the series and JJ Barea can stay effective and Josh Howard’s ankle holds and Dirk comes up big then Mark Cuban’s boys will be in the mix. Not much to do then.
The smart money would certainly be on the Denver Nuggets who are too smart and too athletic to not capitalise on the opposition’s weaknesses. Billups will look to post up Barea and the consequences do not bare thinking about.
For the simple fact that Denver has more difference makers than Dallas, the Nuggets will win this series.
The Bird Man’s blocks, Nene and K-Mart’s presence inside, Chauncey’s defense and 3 ball, Melo’s scoring and JR Smith’s wild card ability to embarrass opponents should easily out match the Mavericks.
See you in the Conference Finals Denver.