Some Things I Expect To See

Published: April 18, 2009

Based on previous games between these two teams, here’s some things I expect to happen in the opening game. 

First, expect some cross matching in the backcourts as both teams prefer to keep their best defender on the opposing team’s point guard. Dahntay Jones will open defensively on Chris Paul, while Billups slips over to handle Rasual Butler.  Vice versa, Rasual Butler will open defensively on Billups, with Paul taking Dahntay.

When the athletic and intelligent Dahntay is hounding Paul, expect the Nuggets to attempt to jump the pick and rolls, with both the big man and Dahntay trying to push Paul towards the sidelines and pin him there.  Typically, when aggressively trapped, Paul will either split the trap, lob over the top to the big man who dives to the hoop, or fade back and wait for the trap to soften or try to whip the ball to Stojakovic or Butler at the top of the arc.   In past games, the Nuggets don’t soften the trap, forcing Paul to pass over and around their long arms – giving them every opportunity to knock it loose. 

Once Dahntay goes to the bench, Denver will put in Anthony Carter, who typically has a much harder time applying the same sort of pressure Dahntay does.  Things should loosen up then – and if it gets too loose, expect Renaldo Balkman to enter the game and try to pressure Paul the way Dahntay does.

The Nuggets will leave Kenyon Martin alone to defend David West – and he will most likely do a very good job of it.  Martin’s ability to attack a player’s dribble will bother West’s most potent weapon, his face-up game at the elbow or low post.  This season, West has only managed 40% shooting against Martin, though he does typically draw a couple extra free throws.

As for Posey, Peja and Butler, as long as the trapping defense is active, expect one of them to have an open shot available.  In previous games, the Hornets have found enough room that they averaged 16 three point attempts between them against Denver, with only Butler taking less than normal.  Unfortunately, while Peja and Butler knocked down half their attempts, Posey has only managed (*gulp*) 17% shooting.  However, I have a feeling Pose isn’t that likely to imitate those numbers over the series.
One interesting thing to note is that Chauncey Billups is perfectly in Rasual Butler’s wheelhouse defensively, being rather slow and easy to defend on the drive because of Butler’s length.  In four games this season against the Hornets, Butler has held Billups to 35% shooting from the field and 32% shooting from deep while Billups has only earned .5 free throws more per game due to the defensive pressure.  Billups has also only managed 4.8 assists per game.  I expect more of the same as Butler sticks to him like glue.

Expect Paul to open the game aggressively.  Most games, Paul floats through the first two quarters.  This is the playoffs, he’s not going to do that.  It’s one of the primary reasons I’m not as worried about the trapping defense the Nuggets employed so well against him earlier this season.  He’s not going to let the defense take the initiative.  I’m somewhat worried about Tyson’s ankle flaring up.  I’m most worried about our shooters.  The type of defenses i anticipate will leave them open.  If their struggles continue, the Hornets are going to get rolled.  If they can knock off their poor shooting over the past couple weeks, I like our chances.

Late game tomorrow night.  9:30 Central, 10:30 here where I’m watching.  The Hornets only need to steal one of the first two in the Mile High City to be in good shape.  Enjoy the game.

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