All the non-basketball and officiating antics aside, I think it's safe to say that the Denver Nuggets have shown to be the most improved playoff team year over year since last year. Definitely the trade to bring Chauncey Billups went a long way in the new attitude, but just the renewed commitment to defense. The last couple of years, the Nuggets played fast, scored a lot of points, but gave up a lot more points in the process. They've completely reversed their philosophy this year, defense leading to their offense.

That's why I like this one specific sequence so much, because it really shows that new philosophy. Nene Hilario of the Nuggets is guarding Erick Dampier of the Mavs out on the perimeter, big on big. Instead of just backing off which most players/teams would do, Nene crowds him, baits him into putting the ball on the floor. Dampier takes the bait, tries to beat Nene off the dribble, and loses the ball. Billups takes the ball the other way, Antoine Wright decides to play 1 arm length away, and Billups drains the long 2,

I don't think you want to play chest to chest all the time and against everyone. For example, if it was against JJ Barea, I think you'd want to give some space because he's fast and can break you down if you're too close, same with a mobile big man like Dirk, you want to be no more than 1 arms length away. But when it's big on big on the perimeter, most of the time, I agree with crowding the ball. Make it hard to pass out of and even harder to drive,


The Nuggets are playing some of the best basketball right now. As I've mentioned before though, they have some volatile personalities on that team. Can they maintain their composure to close out this series, and endure through 2 more grueling series? That remains to be seen. They have the game to go all the way though.

As for the Mavs, it is really unfortunate about the Game 3 ending. I think all coaches have dealt with similar situations before, and the only thing one can do is to remind your players to not rely on the refs. Don't play to get the call from the ref, play as if there were no refs.

For more great defensive skill development and philosophies, check out Dean Smith's 2-Pack Defensive DVD set. Coach Smith is the legendary former head coach of UNC. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.