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Recap: Nuggets defeat Mavericks 96-86 as Mudiay scores 17

The Nuggets youth overcame a battered Mavericks team to win their first preseason game handily, showcasing some of Denver's young talent along the way.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets won 96-86 over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night in Denver's second preseason game. Denver posted an even assist-to-turnover ratio at 22:22, notched 11 steals, and had double-doubles from both Kenneth Faried and Joffrey Lauvergne.  The Nuggets leading scorer was Emmanuel Mudiay with 17 points to go with his 5 assists and 7 turnovers.  The Nuggets led for most of the game, and every time the Mavericks would pull it to 6 or 7 they would bounce the lead back to double digits.

The Mavericks were short handed with several starters out of action, including most of their probable starting five. However, at this point in the preseason the Nuggets are more concerned with how they are playing rather than who they are playing.  They are working on their communication and principles on both offense and defense, as well as getting all the young talent acclimated to the NBA game.  On that front it was a productive night.

Unfortunately it was a game that most people had trouble watching, since it was not on any television broadcast in the Denver area.  With that in mind, this recap will be a little different: it will be more play-by-play in an effort to give you the flow of the game you most likely missed, and talk more in-depth about the Nuggets' second effort of the 2015 preseason.

The starting lineup for the Nuggets featured Emanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, and Joffrey Lauvergne. This lineup very well may be our Opening Night lineup, especially if Jusuf Nurkic is not available for the start of the season.

First Quarter:

  • Denver controlled the opening tip but Faried promptly got an offensive foul on the opening possession.
  • It was a layup drill on the first two possessions for the Mavericks but the Nuggets answered with some nice passes and a dunk. Harris played some nice defense early.
  • The shots Denver took in the opening moments were fine, they're just didn't fall.
  • Lauvergne hit a nice outside bucket but Mudiay turned the ball over three times in the first three minutes. He can't keep starting games this way.
  • On the other end of the spectrum it was great to see Gallo on the court in Nuggets blue again. He brought the ball up a few times and drew a foul with nifty handling.
  • The refs were whistle-happy with the young Nuggets, but it didn't seem to deter them. Harris missed his first three but nearly stole the ball the next time down the court. He got blocked inside though when he tries to go in gently - too many layups.
  • Faried took an elbow in the head from Zaza that could have been called intentional as the big man was swinging his arms behind his back. Fortunately, Kenneth was all right.
  • The Nuggets made some nice quick passes up the court off of defensive rebounds and Gallo found Joffrey open for the three.
  • Mudiay drew the D and passed for a dunk that put the Nuggets up 11-9 at the halfway point of the first quarter.
  • Gallo and Lauvergne both played well together, and Danilo found Joffrey on a couple of nice passes for good looks.
  • Mudiay notched a steal and went coast to coast for the bucket.
  • Lauvergne follows that up with another hoop. The big Frenchman has 11 of the first 17 points for the Nuggets.
  • A beautiful dish from Mudiay goes unpaid, unfortunately, as Faried loses a guaranteed dunk out of bounds.  Just slips right out of his hands.
  • Mudiay and Gallo took a break and headed to the bench with a little over 3 minutes left in the first.  Gallo took an elbow to the face while defending a shot but ilaughed it off on the bench. The second rotation for the Nuggets was Jameer Nelson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, J.J Hickson, and Nikola Jokic.   At least Faried and JJ weren't out there together.
  • Foye entered the game and immediately nailed a three to put the Nuggets up 10, 23-13 with 2 minutes left.
  • Jokic defended out to the 3-point line pretty well.  Jameer followed with another 3.  Mavs were 1-for-10 on 3s in the first quarter but the Nuggets started to sink them after a slow shooting start.  The defense was fun to watch throughout the first quarter, especially when the team forced a turnover after 23 seconds of good half-court defense.
  • Jokic defended guard JJ Barea decently and denied him the entry he wanted, forcing a turnover on the pass. Seeing our effort on D has been one of the best surprises of the preseason so far.
  • Hickson got blocked to end the first quarter, but the Nuggs finished with a 30-16 lead as the shots began to fall for them at the end.

2nd quarter:

  • Hickson bookended his terrible end to the first quarter with botched defense on the first play of the second.  He was totally faked out by Dalembert on an easy dunk for the Mavs to start the first.
  • Dallas hit a 3 and get a pair of turnovers to start off on a 7-0 run to begin the second.  See what happens when you put JJ in?
  • With Faried on the bench offensive rebounding suffered and the Mavs turned rebounds into threes.
  • Chandler hit a couple of free throws to stem the bleeding with 9:30 to go before halftime.  The Nuggets started playing with more aggressiveness once Gallo came back in, jumping some passing lanes and hustling for rebounds.
  • A steal by Jameer led to a drive by Nelson with a kick out to Jameer for a three and the Nuggets were back up by double digits, 37-26.
  • Denver's defensive rotations were determined. The Nuggets hustled on the defensive end, aware of where they're supposed to be, which was impressive in preseason game #2.
  • Mudiay, Harris and Faried come back in just before the 6 minute mark.  The Nuggets still had trouble protecting the paint, however. That's where Nurkic would come in handy.
  • More turnovers by the Nuggets were troublesome, but Lauvergne took a Gallo pass off a drive and hit a 3 to put the Nuggets up 42-30.
  • Even with the lead Malone was visibly upset at the sloppy play that kept the Mavericks hanging around. Mudiay airmailed a lob a foot over a leaping Faried, and Malone called a timeout to talk it over.
  • After the timeout, Mudiay used the rim to protect his left-handed layup, but ANOTHER turnover led to a drive-and-dunk by the Mavericks' Evans and the Nuggets were up only 44-37.  Boxing out was a lost art in the second quarter.
  • A beautiful drive by Harris along the baseline for a reverse layup stemmed the tide. Gallo finally decides to take some more shots in the last minute, but the last shot goes to Mudiay off the in-bounds, a curl and a long 2 to end the half with the Nuggets up 7, 53-46 at the half.

Halftime notes:

  • Lauvergne: 14 points and 6 boards at halftime.  Both teams made 19 shots, but the Mavs missed 4 more. 44 vs 48 total.
  • Gallo: 5 points, 5 boards, 5 assists in the first half
  • Thirty: the number of points Denver scored in the first quarter - and that Dallas scored in the second.
  • Twelve: the number of turnovers in the first half for Denver.

Third quarter:

  • The Mavericks came out cutting Denver up on layups in the paint again to start the second half. Mudiay took another tough two and missed, but Faried cleaned it up.
  • Faried ripped a Gallo 3-point carom right out of  Zaza's hands and put it home, and Gary Harris snagged another steal and then drove the court and got fouled.  Lots of young guys showed their promise in this one.
  • Gallo shot a couple of threes early in the 3rd but he didn't make any of them. Harris hit a long 2 though and the Nuggets stretched the lead to 63-48.
  • Again, not enough boxing out and our paint defense suffered. Malone will have nice tape to work with after this game when he makes his improvements with the big guys.
  • Mudiay's beautiful spin to cut through the defense and a pass out for a 3 by Gallo was a thing of beauty.
  • The Mavericks hit a couple of shots, finishing their little run with a 3 by Villanueva and the lead dropped to 7, 65-58.
  • Joffrey had both a lob and a reverse layup stuffed by Evans on the same possession. Some of the young Mavs look like they'll bring some fun to the West in the coming years too. A Denver turnover and a Mavs dunk and it's a 13-2 run by Dallas.
  • Gallo got really cold from deep, but kept shooting - as shooters do.
  • Jameer hit a 3 to slow the Mavericks, but a one-on-three offensive rebound by Zaza showed the Mavs were just hustling better than the Nuggets (again) with Faried out of the game.
  • Wilson Chandler turned his ankle down the other end, but walked it off. Barton hit a two out of a timeout with 2 minutes left in the 3rd, and Chandler could still get enough air to dunk an in-bounds and push the lead back to 8, 71-63.
  • A block with a recovery by Jameer and a missed 3 as time expired in the third leaves it at 71-65 Denver after 3.
  • Faried had a double-double at 10-10 through 3 (really through two-and-a-half), and would have more if they'd called some fouls when he was shooting.  He was done for the night at this point.

Fourth Quarter:

  • A great steal by Will Barton opened the first minute of the 4th, but he could only get one on the stripe.
  • The Nuggets were still letting the Mavs rebound on the offensive end without Faried on the court as Barea got his own miss back and put it in.
  • Another steal for Denver, this time by Foye, and his pass to Jokic for a bunny puts the Nuggets back up by 9, 78-69.  The Nuggets were VERY active with hands and in passing lanes, cutting off the court.
  • The Mavericks went to their third line of reserves with 9:30 remaining in the ballgame.
  • Another strip by Foye led to a Jokic running dunk, but the Mavs answered with a 3.
  • Chandler responded with a terrible airball but his pass to Harris the next time down leads to a three.  The Mavericks kept hitting shots though and it's 83-77 Nuggets.
  • Mudiay lost the ball out of bounds and then committed the charge on back-to-back possessions, but fought back with an ugly shot in the paint that he sank and almost got a steal on the next possession. It was a pretty even mix of rough and smooth for the kid, who then recovered a missed dunk by Ndour of the Mavericks and went the length of the floor for the layup to push the lead back to 10, 87-77.
  • The Mavs hit a couple of buckets after another turnover by Mudiay (his 7th against 5 assists) and a bad 3 from Harris and Malone called timeout.  It's nice to have a coach who is willing to use his timeouts to adjust his the approach of his players immediately when he doesn't like it.
  • Mudiay nailed a 3 out of the time out.
  • Joffrey jumped another passing lane for a steal but then goaltende a shot by Mudiay that was going in anyway.  Rookie growing pains.
  • Will Barton got a steal and took it to the hoop to boost the Nuggets back to a 9 point lead, and Jokic replaced Joffrey.
  • Nick Johnson made a brief appearance and bricked a 3 but Will Barton had the pretty look-off touch rebound to Jokic for the dunk.
  • Mudiay hit another tough jumper in the paint after bodying up his defender, and those were the last points of the game.  Final score, 96-86, Denver defeats the Mavericks.

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Takeaways:

1) Gallo is going to be crucial for our offense. His ability to distribute and handle the rock will probably be just as useful to this team as his scoring prowess (which was not on display in this game, but still).  Malone has already talked to him about being a stretch-forward, but playing a point-forward is also going to pay dividends for us.  Mudiay likes to pass - sometimes too much - but Gallo can help with the distribution plan.

2) Our bigs aren't in sync yet, but they are dangerous. The lack of offensive rebounding on even easy boards was apparent whenever Faried went to the bench, and for all of Joffrey's gifts he's not a rim protector or paint intimidator.  The gifts he does have were apparent in his practically-lackadaisical 14 points and 12 rebounds, with outside shots complimenting tough paint play. Jokic is a smooth passer and willing defender, and he was ready for a bunch of pick-and-rolls that never actually happened.  When they do, he'll be perfectly positioned to have an impact. I don't know how it'll all work out when Nurkic returns, but I'm practically giddy thinking about it.  Hickson never returning to the game after 6 minutes of poor play might mean that Malone's getting giddy about the kids as well.

3) Mudiay's work-in-progress is shaping up to be impressive. There were several times during the Mavericks broadcast where you could see just how impressed they were with the flashes of greatness from the young man.  He makes mistakes but is not afraid.  He comes on strong as the game progresses, and once he learns to limit his turnovers and figures out which cross-court passes he can get away with and which he can't, he'll take leaps and bounds forward.

4) Malone was not kidding about defense being a priority, and he's getting plenty of buy-in. The vast part of having a successful defense is effort.  We are showing the effort. Guys are switching and recovering on defense better than I have seen them do in quite some time, and they are all buying in to owning their part.  They are missing assignments for sure (the layup line was atrocious at times) but those are errors of knowledge and comfort, not of attitude and desire.  Give that time.  We're also running off of those rebounds which is nice to see, and our secondary breaks will get better as our ball-handlers adjust accordingly.

I leave you with a parting gift: A video of Mudiay's game highlights from tonight for those who missed it:


The future is now, ladies and gentlemen, and the flashes of the team we could be when it all comes together are bringing a smile to my face.