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Preview: Nuggets close longest road trip of the season against Dallas Mavericks

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Denver’s six-game road swing comes to an end tonight in Dallas

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets conclude their six-game road trip tonight, and after going just 2-3 over the past week they will be looking to finish on a high note. This trip has highlighted some glaring weaknesses with this Denver team, but through it all the Nuggets have managed to stay afloat and head into tonight’s contest just 2.5 games out of the eighth playoff spot.

Dallas, winners of just two of its last seven games, has been decimated by injuries this season and as a result possesses the worst record in the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki has played in just five games this year, while other veterans J.J. Barea and Andrew Bogut are also out with injuries of their own. Despite having to start some unknown players and a pretty weak bench unit, the Mavs still bolster some power in Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and the aging Deron Williams.

A win over the struggling Mavericks would keep what little momentum the Nuggets have going; a loss would give them a reason to take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about making some serious changes.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (9-15) at Dallas Mavericks (5-18)

When: 6:30 PM MST

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas TX

How to watch: Altitude

Rival Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Position Denver Dallas Advantage
PG Emmanuel Mudiay Deron Williams Mavericks
SG Will Barton Wesley Matthews Mavericks
SF Danilo Gallinari Harrison Barnes Even
PF Darrell Arthur Dorian Finney-Smith Nuggets
C Jusuf Nurkic Salah Mejri Nuggets
Bench Jamal Murray, Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez, Alonzo Gee Seth Curry, Dwight Powell, Jonathan Gibson, Justin Anderson Nuggets

Injury Report: Wilson Chandler - probable (hip), Darrell Arthur - questionable (knee), Gary Harris - out (foot); Dirk Nowitzki - out (Achilles), J.J. Barea - out (calf), Andrew Bogut - out (knee)

Key Matchup: Will Barton vs. Wesley Matthews

After suffering a terrible ACL injury at the end of last season, Matthews has returned to form early this year. He’s shooting nearly 53 percent from deep in the past six games, and has turned into one of Dallas’ premier scoring threats alongside Harrison Barnes. Barton, on the other hand, has struggled a bit since coming back from an ankle injury that has kept him out of 12 games this season. The Thrill is only shooting 26 percent from three in his return and is looking to get his groove back in the starting lineup. These two former teammates are both capable of exploding at any moment and should make for a good battle at shooting guard.

Spotlight On: Juancho Hernangomez

With Wilson Chandler sidelined for a sore hip on Saturday night, Juancho put up a career high 14 points on some caliente three-point shooting, going 4 for 5 from downtown against the Magic. The rookie Spaniard has impressed in his limited minutes all season long, and even if the questionable Chandler returns to the lineup tonight, Hernangomez has made a case for earning more playing time.

Opening Thought: Let’s play a complete game, please

In the two games since Michael Malone replaced Kenneth Faried in the starting lineup with Darrell Arthur, the first quarter woes have all but slipped away. The second half meltdowns, however, have not. The Nuggets did successfully close out the Magic, but gave up a huge lead to the Wizards down the stretch in the loss Thursday night. Turnovers were less of an issue in Orlando (12) as they were in Washington (29), but Dallas is one of the best teams in the league in forcing opponent turnovers. To win, Denver will need to play strong out of the gate, keep up the defensive effort in the second and third quarters, and take care of the ball throughout the entire game.