Point guard: Chauncey Billups vs. Jason Kidd
Not that long ago these two were playing against each other in the East, a couple of years younger, still considered to be amongst the NBA elite. Kidd is still leading his team on the break, and Billups has rescued the Nuggets for being a playoff afterthought, to a possible contender. Kidd will have long nights in trying to contain him. Advantage: Nuggets.
Shooting guard: Dahntay Jones vs. J.J. Barea
Antoine Wright was the starter for Dallas during the regular season, but the Rick Carlisle changed that. Carlisle believed that starting Barea brought an extra scoring punch to the starting line-up, a gamble you can take when you have Jason Terry on your bench. Jones is brought for his D, so he has to run around chasing Barea or the Jet all night long. Advantage: Mavericks.
Small forward: Carmelo Anthony vs. Josh Howard
If it wasn’t for Josh Howard, would the Mavericks be in the playoffs right now? Howard may not be completely healthy, but he certainly didn’t show any signs of slowing down against the Spurs. Melo is so well-rounded offensively, that it’s difficult to stop him, and also averaged 5 assists per game against San Antonio, while still getting his points. Tough call, because they are equally important to their respective teams. Advantage: Nuggets.
Power forward: Kenyon Martin vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Nowitzki clearly has a height advantage over Martin, but the latter is a very aggressive defender, something Dirk doesn’t always cope well with. Nowitzki has unlimited range, so he can stretch the Nuggets’ D by opening up the lane for guys like Terry and Barea. I’m impressed with Martin’s play and always have a soft spot for him since I’m a Nets fan, but he’ll have his hands full with Nowitzki. Advantage: Mavericks.
Center: Nene vs. Erick Dampier.
Damp is huge, a good rebounder and will block a couple of shots every game. Nene played decent against the Spurs, but it would be very welcome if he stays on the court a bit longer, avoiding foul trouble. Advantage: Nuggets.
On one bench you have the Sixth Man of the Year in Jason Terry, along with Antoine Wright, and the highly entertaining Ryan Hollins. On the other bench you have two players named J.R. Smith and Chris Andersen. I’m a fan of these guys, so I’ll keep it short and simple: Advantage: Nuggets.
Coaching: George Karl vs. Rick Carlisle
Carlisle maybe hasn’t been around as long as Karl has, but his coaching career has been quite successful so far. Karl’s team has the chance to go a long way, but to choose between either of them in this series is pointless. Advantage: none.
What I’d Say:
Nuggets in seven. Both the Nuggets and Mavericks play a team-oriented style of basketball, but Denver is better defensively. Also, both teams had a relatively “easy” first round, so the wear and tear of the playoffs shouldn’t bother them too much. The Nuggets are playing at such a high level right now, which makes me wonder if the Mavericks can find ways to stop all those guys who can easily put up 20 points if needed: Melo, Billups, Nene, Smith, and even Martin can all score. Good luck with that.