Coach's Corner: Matt Guokas on Mavericks vs. Nuggets
By Matt Guokas (As told to Andrew Pearson)

The Mavericks visit the Nuggets Friday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Camby's rebounding has been important for the Nuggets this season.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
The Nuggets are looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s tough home loss against Chicago when they came all the way back from 20 points down only to see their chances thwarted by a huge Tyson Chandler block. Denver is a team that scrambles on defense. They’re very aggressive, and as a result, they get a lot of steals, currently ranking second in the league with 8.45 per game, and turnovers, 16 per game. When you do that it of course leads to the fast break, which they do very well, and a lot of easy baskets. The Nuggets want to play an up tempo game and take advantage of the altitude in Denver. They’re a very poor three-point shooting team, near the bottom of the league at only 32 percent, and they’re a less-than-average rebounding team.

Marcus Camby is so important to them with his rebounding, shot blocking and improved offense. When he is in the lineup, they are undoubtedly better at rebounding the ball. Overall they are not a good rebounding team, but they scramble to create a lot of possessions so it doesn’t hurt them that much. Andre Miller has really adapted his game to fit in the way George Karl and Doug Moe want to play as far as pushing the ball. That wasn’t always Andre’s mentality or makeup, but from what I have seen over the last couple of years, he has done a very good job. He advances the ball with the pass and on the dribble and consequently, has some firepower to get the ball to, in particular Carmelo Anthony. They are a very dangerous offensive team because of their ability to get those steals, force turnovers, and get the blocked shots from Camby, which really puts teams on their heels defensively.

Dallas has been on a roll this year. Ever since Avery Johnson became the coach late last year, the Mavs have basically changed their personality as a team. They’ve cut down on a lot of their possessions and in doing that they have cut down on bad shots. Better shot selection plus very good offensive rebounding has helped their overall defensive look. They’re not taking as many bad shots which in the past led to fast breaks for their opponents, so that helps their transition defense. Dallas is also right near the top of the league in getting to the foul line at 29 times a game. They’ve always taken good care of the ball, going back to the Steve Nash days. By making smart, sensible passes, they don’t beat themselves, which also helps their overall efficiency.

SPURS-NETS
The Spurs, winners of seven straight, will visit the Nets, winners of 12 straight at home, in the first game of ESPN's Friday night double header (8 p.m. ET). The Nets know they're in for a challenge...

Vince Carter:
"This is a big test for us. We've played well at home. This is a chance for us to play one of the best teams in the NBA. It's a great test.

"No pressure. We just come out there and play basketball and let the hard work that we've put in as a unit pay off on the court. Just because they're one of the best teams in the league, it doesn't change the way we approach the game."

Jason Kidd:
"It's always a test anytime you play the champs. San Antonio's playing at a high level. They went into Toronto without Tim Duncan and scored 125 points. That shows you how deep and how good they are, so we're gonna have our hands full tonight.

"We gotta play our A game and we gotta protect home if we're gonna have a chance to play with a team like San Antonio.

"They have so many talented players, both starting and coming off the bench, that you have to prepare for 12 guys."

Lawrence Frank on Tony Parker:
"Tony's so good. 12 of his 20 are in the paint. We'll have a bunch of people on him. We may throw some length at him as well. He was unreal against Toronto. 32 and 13. He's pretty special."

Dallas has been very successful trying to implement a defensive mentality. Avery Johnson has been around for a while and his days in San Antonio, where they have made it a point to play defense, no doubt has influenced his coaching. Everybody thinks that you press a button and all of a sudden now everybody is a good individual defender and you defend the pick and roll and the other individual situations. It starts with your offense. It was impossible for Dallas to be a good defense team statistically in the past because they were such a high powered, up-tempo offensive team, which meant more possessions. Now by slowing it down offensively, their defensive numbers certainly look a lot better. They do some good things defensively and they have some good individual defenders in Josh Howard and Jason Terry. Terry is better than a lot of people thought he would be when he came over from Atlanta and DeSagana Diop makes a difference.

Diop has turned out to be a terrific pickup for them. He’s gotten himself in top condition, giving them another defensive element through his shotblocking which they did not have before. Any time you have a shot blocker, it gets into the heads of other teams. Guys don’t want to get their shots blocked, so they’re not just waltzing through the lane and coming to the basket because he will swat them out of there. They get their share of steals, which leads to easy baskets, and they’re the third best rebounding team in the league. The Mavs defend the three-point shot very well. Overall they play very intelligent, conservative defense. Plus they are a deep team, they have a nice bench, and they’re well coached.

X-FACTORS

When you’re playing up in Denver, you have to control the tempo. You can’t get in a helter-skelter game with them. I’m sure Dallas is going to do everything they can to cut that down. Normally you would do that with the low post game, but Dallas doesn’t have much of a low post game with Dirk Nowitzki being the centerpiece of their offense. He pretty much has the green light to take outside shots and do his thing. What happens with Denver scrambling around, though, is you have to make your share of three-point shots. Jason Terry is the Mavs x-factor. When he plays a good solid game, takes care of the ball, distributes it, makes his outside shots, and scores some buckets at the end of the shot clock, generally Dallas is in good shape. Even though Nowitzki and Howard are their big guns right now, Terry is an important factor.

For the Nuggets, a good performance by Camby is integral. With Kenyon Martin possibly unavailable, Camby is a guy they need some scoring punch from. He is not going to do it in the low post. He is taking more and more jump shots from that top of the key area. He’s also putting the ball on the floor and scoring from there. So they need a certain amount of offense from him and of course they need his shot blocking and his rebounding and intimidation on the inside. When he plays well, Denver seems to be in good shape.

BOTTOM LINE

Despite it being the middle of the season and the last week before the All-Star break, this is one of those games that fans will want to tune in to watch. This is a good game that is featuring two teams that figure to be in the playoffs and may even see each other.

Any time a team has a winning streak, the target on its back just gets bigger and brighter and everybody wants to be that team to end that streak and knock him off. Despite the fact that Denver lost to Chicago on its home floor in a close game, they’re still a quality team. They’re going to come out a little feistier and a little bit more revved up to try and knock Dallas off. I have a feeling they’ll do it.

-- Matt Guokas appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association.