During the first half of last night's playoff matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, the Nuggets lacked focus. Moments when they exhibited the scorching intensity of the New Orleans series would be followed by static offensive possessions or blown defensive assignments of the sort that have been blessedly rare of late. And then there was the last sequence before the break. The Nuggets should have been able to run down the shot clock to just shy of zero, but J.R. Smith couldn't resist the urge to shoot a three several seconds earlier than necessary, giving Jason Kidd the chance to fling up (and swish) a three-ball of his own. As Kidd ran off the court with the newly energized Mavs, who trailed by just three at that point, J.R. had a dazed look on his face, as if he couldn't believe reality hadn't matched up with the vision in his head.
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Thankfully, the cockiness exemplified by Smith's miss flipped in the second half, leading to a comfortable 117-105 Denver victory -- and this turnaround bodes well. These guys have played so well for so long that they clearly didn't believe they could be anything less than stellar, as they were during the first two quarters. This 24-minutes of relative mediocrity gave them the wake-up call they needed, and it came early enough to let them avoid a disastrous loss. The outcome provides the right kind of confidence builder as they head to Texas for a no-longer-must-win game three.