The Denver Nuggets took advantage of an undermanned Dallas Maverick team tonight at Pepsi Center. The Mavs sat Dirk Nowitzki, Rajon Rondo, and Tyson Chandler. In their place they started Raymond Felton, Richard Jefferson, and Greg Smith. The Nuggets accepted the Dallas offering and turned it into a 114-107 victory. But not without drama. Denver had a 19-point 3rd quarter lead reduced to 3 in the final three minutes of the game.
Kenneth Faried had a monster block against rookie Dwight Powell late in the fourth quarter, swinging momentum in their favor. He followed with two clutch free throws, then a pick and roll finger roll, and the Nuggets never looked back.
Denver started the game sloppily, committing 10 turnovers in the first half. They were able to regain their composure and pull away in the third quarter. Turnovers reared their ugly head in the fourth quarter, leading to a Maverick comeback.
The highlight of the first half was Danilo Gallinari providing color commentary on Altitude alongside Chris Marlowe and Scott Hastings. He provided valuable insight into life as a young international player, agreed with a charging call against the Nuggets (I was worried Scott Hastings' head would explode), and closed the final minute of the second quarter with Italian play-by-play. A JJ Hickson slam dunk is elevated to another level when called in a romance language.
Neither team shot well from three, both under 25%, but Denver still managed to shoot 50% from the field. The Nuggs got to the line 35 times and made Dallas pay by shooting 80% from the charity stripe. Manimal was especially impressive finishing 8-8 from the line.
Ty Lawson was forced into 44 minutes of playing time without a back up point guard. Nate Robinson was traded and Jameer Nelson won't join the team until Friday's rematch in Dallas. Lawson finished with a team high 29 points and 12 assists. Manimal added 22 points and 14 rebounds. Wilson Chandler tallied 15 points and 10 boards as well.
Dallas had eight players score in double figures. J.J. Barea lead the Mavs with 17 points. Richard Jefferson scored 16.
Denver came up with big defensive stops late in the game to secure the win. It wasn't pretty, but they have now won 5 games in a row and will travel to Texas to battle a Mavericks team at full strength this Friday.
Kenneth Faried was able to man-handle Richard Jefferson in the post. Faried isn't taller, but his bigger frame allowed him to impose his will.
JJ Hickson, he found himself guarding JJ Barea on multiple occasions. Barea knocked down a corner three while Hickson fell to the floor at one point. In the battle of J.J. v J.J., Barea was the victor.
The Interior Defense for the Nuggets was night and day with Nurkic on and off the court. Denver does not have the size to protect the rim when opposing guards drive past the perimeter defenders. Nurkic's team best +13 reflects as much.
Jusuf Nurkic's father was in attendance. If there was any questions as to where he acquired his size, it was put to rest tonight. His pops is 7 feet tall and 400 pounds. He is a police officer in Bosnia-Herzegovina.