Nuggets vs. Mavericks recap: Monta Ellis, Dirk Nowitzki take down defensively deficient Denver in Dallas

A rough second quarter led to a relatively easy victory for the Dallas Mavericks as the Denver Nuggets fail to complete the season sweep.

The Denver Nuggets came into this game looking to sweep the Dallas Mavericks for only the second time in franchise history. However, and stop me if you've heard this before, the defense simply wasn't up to the task as the Mavericks took care of business on their home court by defeating the Nuggets 122-106.

Things started off reasonably well, with the Nuggets securing a 29-26 lead after the first quarter thanks to their three-point shooting. Ty Lawson and Randy Foye had two apiece, and Anthony Randolph hit one as well. Overall, Denver was 5 for 9 from deep in the period.

The wheels soon fell off in the second quarter. The Mavericks, who were quiet from three-point range in the first quarter, started making it rain from all over the court. Jae Crowder was the main culprit, sinking all four of his three-point attempts en route to 12 points in 12 first-half minutes. Meanwhile, the Nuggets cooled off and started turning the ball over and committing too many fouls. Dallas ended up scoring 35 points in the quarter to just 24 for the Nuggets. Even though the Mavs only shot 44% in the first half, they were dominating in every other stat that mattered. They took a 61-53 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Foye tried to get the Nuggets going in the third by hitting a couple more three-pointers and the lead eventually was cut to five. But Monta Ellis started getting hot with seven straight points, and soon the lead ballooned to 15. The Nuggets tried to communicate with each other defensively but the messages were not sinking in. Dallas ended up increasing their halftime lead by four and after three quarters led 90-78.

The fourth quarter was much more interesting than it had any right to be. J.J. Hickson was battling down low and helped start a Nuggets comeback, but was injured and had to leave the game. Denver kept it up, as Darrell Arthur hit a three and then dunked it home on a backdoor cut after a nice feed from Lawson to cut the lead to three at 99-96. Unfortunately, Dirk Nowitzki knocked in a couple of his patented unguardable fadeaway shots and the Nuggets started turning it over again. Ellis was also getting to the rim with ease and Dallas ended the game on a 23-7 run that ended only on Quincy Miller's meaningless three near the end of the game.

Denver certainly had a chance to win this game, but again their poor defensive effort did them in. You're not going to win very many games when you give up 122 points, no matter how hot you're shooting it from three-point range.The defense has been suspect all season, and this team is never going to win consistently if it doesn't sharpen up.

Game Observations -

- In the respective history of each team, there have been three sweeps between the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. Denver did it most recently in the 2008-2009 season; Dallas did it for two straight seasons in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003.

- Dirk did his thing tonight, with 21 points on 9-15 shooting, but Ellis was insanely efficient. He had 26 points on 11-14 shooting and even chipped in 7 assists, much to Scott Hasting's chagrin, I'm sure.

- Speaking of Hastings, his observation that the Nuggets resembled an Xbox controller whose battery had died reminded me of this excellent hockey gif.

- Hickson was the leading scorer for Denver with 18 points off the bench. However, his free-throw shooting remains abysmal. He started the game 0-7 from the free-throw line and ended up 2-9. Hickson was still Denver's best front-court player, and the wind came out of the Nuggets' sails a bit when he left the game. We'll see if he ends up missing any time.

- The Manimal came back to earth, as Kenneth Faried finished his worst game in March with six points and five rebounds on 2-10 shooting. Faried looked out of sorts from the get-go, fumbling easy catches and missing shots he normally makes. Still, it's been a stellar month for the power forward.

- Lawson returned from injury and played well with 17 points and nine assists. The other player who returned from injury was Wilson Chandler, and he continued his dismal stretch of games with a mere six points in 31 minutes. Chandler hasn't scored more than 12 points in the last five games, and quite frankly the Nuggets need more from their second-leading scorer.

- Vince Carter dislocated his finger in the first quarter but had it taped it up and returned to the game. He finished with 13 points on 5-12 shooting.

- One last reminder - don't forget about Stiffs Night Out tomorrow! Watch your bracket implode at Jake's with your fellow Stiffs and Nuggets GM Tim Connelly!

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