Downsized Nuggets present Mavs issues

DALLAS -- Nene, the Denver Nuggets post player who seems to like to play against the Dallas Mavericks, did not play Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, so the Nuggets could again be missing three valuable front-court pieces when they visit the American Airlines Center tonight.

For large chunks of the game played in Denver on Wednesday, a one-point Mavs victory, the Nuggets ran with a super-small lineup much of the time that presented matchup issues for Rick Carlisle.

"It’s a tough challenge for us because they go small, what do you try to do?" Jason Terry said. "You try to counter that and go small with them? Or do you go big and punish them? I think you have to find a good mix, which we did last game."

Dirk Nowitzki certainly took advantage without the injured Kenyon Martin and Chris "Birdman" Andersen to try and fluster him, going for 35 points and 12 boards in 39 minutes. The Mavs' two-headed center, though, combined for 11 points and 13 rebounds. Starter Tyson Chandler (nine points, nine rebounds) logged nearly 29 minutes, but because of Denver's undersized lineup, Brendan Haywood saw just 15:46, about five minutes off his usual court time, and had just one bucket and four rebounds.

The Nuggets didn't start anyone taller than 6-foot-9.

"We have to try to keep our length in the game as much as we can. That’s one of our real defining attributes," Carlisle said. "But, there are times when sizing down makes sense. We looked at it a little bit the first game. Anything’s in play. It’s an important game for both teams."

Carlisle said the Mavs' key to winning the rematch on their home floor is to keep the Nuggets' free throw attempts low, as they did in the first meeting with Denver getting to the line just 12 times.

"When they go small, they’ve got some dynamic athletes and some really good skill guys that can drive it, shoot it, so it’s tough," Carlisle said. "You really got to be a in a stance defensively, and it’s hard to keep them off the free throw line. Somehow we kept them to a low number of free throws. I just believe coming back in here they’re going to make a more concerted effort to just put that ball down and drive it and try to get to the line more, and we’re going to really have to be ready for that."