Mavericks Are Way Over Their Heads; Nuggets Did Exactly What Needed To Be Done

By Gregory Moore
Updated: April 26, 2005

Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson was fined $10,000 for berating NBA official Joey Crawford but he is going to need to do more than yelling to get his team to win their series.

SAN ANTONIO — The Dallas Mavericks are down 0-2 in their best of seven game against the Houston Rockets and it may appear that they are on the verge of being swept out of the first round unceremoniously. Last week in my opening round prediction I had them winning the series 4-2 but it seems that this particular prediction is in serious jeopardy. The Mavericks have no answers to what the Houston Rockets are doing and that is partially because new head coach Avery Johnson has never coached in such a situation. He’s way over his head and his first true coaching stint might become a very unpleasant one.

“It’s a new series for us. We’re definitely in the driver’s seat,” Houston’s Tracy McGrady said. “We’ve got to stay grounded. We haven’t done anything yet.” For Rockets fans this is indeed a new series as it now shifts to the friendly confines of the Toyota Center where home court advantage could truly help the players yet this is fast becoming a nightmare for Johnson because the playoffs is where the coaches shine; not the players. The Rockets’ Jeff Van Gundy has playoff experience that includes the infamous series between New York and Miami. Van Gundy also has experience coaching against Johnson, as it was Van Gundy’s Knicks that watched Avery drain the 18-foot jumper to give the San Antonio Spurs their first title. During this time of the season, Van Gundy has learned how to make adjustments and get his players ready to do battle. This is Johnson’s first go round as a head coach in this situation.

The Mavericks could very easily lose this series because what Johnson is trying to get them to do is play a style of defense that he does not have the personnel for. The results from the second game are very evident as McGrady was able to hit that winning shot. Players for the Mavericks were out of position. This series may even up and the Mavs might be able to prove themselves better players in the upcoming games but for right now both the players and Johnson are being outplayed and out coached by a better team down the stretch.

Nuggets need to get real with themselves. The Denver Nuggets came into the SBC Center and did what they were supposed to do and this win a game on the opponent’s floor. Now while the Nuggets and their fans are celebrating, Spurs faithful already know the score and have seen this play before. Flashback to about the same time two years ago when the Spurs played the then Phoenix Suns in the first round. Stephon Marbury and the Suns were capable of winning the first game of the series and shocked the team. Now we all know what happened from then on, the Spurs won the series and went on to win their second title in four years.

The Spurs missed seventeen shots in the final quarter but were still in the game even to the end. The final score was 93-87 but let’s play hypothetical math for a moment. Let’s say that the Spurs knocked down two three pointers and six jumpers. Let’s say that the Spurs also held the Nuggets to seven less points. The final score would have been 105-86. Would Nuggets fans and their media be bragging then? No. They would be saying that they are overmatched in this series.

Does anyone believe that the Spurs may go ice cold in shooting once again in this series? If the Spurs had hit eight open shots in the scenario I spoke of they would be looking to put a dagger in the Nuggets early in game two. The Spurs coaching staff knows that what they have to do is make sure that the team gets confidence shots to go down and will be stressing that point for the rest of the playoffs. Nuggets head coach George Karl knows this to be the case too because he understands that anomalies like what the Spurs’ players experienced doesn’t happen often. This is the Vegas line favorite team that the Nuggets are playing and surely nobody from that organization is taking this win lightly.

The Nuggets did their job and stole one. Now the pressure is on the Spurs to hold home court and then go up to Denver and return the favor before closing this series out and begin preparation for their next round opponent. The series is entertaining, it’s just that now it’s time for the favorite to win it all and not let the Nuggets get any more confidence than they already have.