The Denver Nuggets' 109-95 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in game one of their playoff series played out pretty much as Nugs' fans hoped. Denver has an advantage over the Mavs inside, which is why Nenê had a breakout game from a scoring perspective and previous Westword blog tribute subjects Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin proved so key. Indeed, K-Mart's beneath-the-basket bashing of Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki early in the first quarter, at a time when Nowitzki was draining virtually every shot he took, set the tone for the runaway that followed.
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Sure, Nowitzki is a great player, but he's proven over the years that he can be rattled. Unlike Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, whose anger has made their performances even stronger, Nowitzki often gets out of his game when the harassment is ramped up. So, Nugs, pound him, pester him, swarm him -- make him pay for every shot. This approach is no guarantee that Dirk will disappear. But it's a strategy that plays to Denver's newfound defensive strength -- which may be the most positive development to come out of a season full of unexpected good news.