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Preview: Nuggets host underrated shit team in Mavericks

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A loss to Dallas in December prompted the birth of the current starting lineup for Denver, and both teams are in contention for the 8-seed in the Western Conference now.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Twas two weeks before Christmas when the Mavericks and the Nuggets first played each other this season, and for Denver fans, it was a nightmare of a game.

The Mavericks walloped the Nuggets, winning in a blowout that was so bad, head coach Michael Malone was forced to swap Jusuf Nurkic for Nikola Jokic in the starting lineup. It’s been a decision that seems completely justified now, as the Nuggets have only had one of the best offenses in the league since that loss to the Mavericks, and are currently 8th in the Western Conference with a 22-28 record.

The Mavericks on a four-game winning streak, having won 10 of their last 16 games to pull within two games of the Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have wins over San Antonio, Cleveland, and Portland in their current stretch, which prompted their head coach Rick Carlisle to say the following about his squad:

The Mavericks have found lightning in a bottle with rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell, who is averaging 17.8 points, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 52 percent of 3-point attempts in his four games with the Mavericks. The former Indiana guard even hit the Trail Blazers with a Jordan shrug after a made 3-pointer, one of his nine makes in that game.

Both teams have 32 games left in the season - a win for either team could go a long way when or if tiebreakers come into play at the end of the year.

The Basics

Who: Dallas Mavericks (20-30) vs Denver Nuggets (22-28)

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

When: 7:00 PM MT

How to watch: Altitude, 950 AM, NBA League Pass

Bad guys: Mavs Moneyball

Position Mavericks Nuggets Edge
PG Yogi Ferrell Jameer Nelson Nuggets
SG Seth Curry Gary Harris Nuggets
SF Wesley Matthews Jr Wilson Chandler Nuggets
PF Harrison Barnes Kenneth Faried Even
C Dirk Nowitzki Nikola Jokic Even
BENCH Dorian Finney-Smith, Salah Mejri, Dwight Powell, Justin Anderson Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur, Jusuf Nurkic Nuggets

Injury report: JJ Barea (out - calf), Deron Williams (out - toe), Andrew Bogut (out - hamstring), Devin Harris (probable - illness), Danilo Gallinari (out - groin)

Matchup to watch

Nikola Jokic vs Dirk Nowitzki. Let’s be honest for a minute - Dirk Nowitzki is my hands down, favorite player in the league. I’m a Colorado native, but I previously lived in the Dallas area, and man, Dirk is a legend. He’s an A plus human being, and he’s one of the best basketball players of all time.

But Nowitzki is also in his 18th season, and those slow legs that were part of his game earlier in his career have gotten even slower.

Jokic is an amazing offensive center. The last time he played in Pepsi Center he messed around and got put up a triple-double, helping the Nuggets to a win over the Bucks. It’s incredible that the Mavericks have gotten to this point, but Jokic may need to approach a triple-double again for the Nuggets to pick up a win.

No Gallinari, and minutes restrictions on a few other players for Denver, they’re going to need all the help they can get. If Jokic can avoid foul trouble while guarding one of the greatest scoring big men of all time, the Nuggets should be able to get and keep a lead.

Video analysis

They made a Yogi Bear movie a few years ago? How many people even watched it?

Anyways, here’s what Yogi Ferrell did to Portland. He’s been playing some amazing basketball.

Prediction

I will gush over Dirk’s awesomeness. I don’t care if you hate on me, I’m not going to read the comments today. Nuggets win by 12 over the Mavericks, and they’ll score 120 points to get there too.