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Recap: Nuggets ride defense to big win over Mavericks

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The Nuggets hold the Mavericks to 87 points, while Will Barton set a new season high for points in the victory.

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

It wasn’t always pretty, but it was effective, and the Nuggets wound up on top of the dogpile after 48 minutes with a 110-87 victory over the Mavericks Monday night.

Will Barton set a new season high with 31 points, taking 18 shots to get there, while Wilson Chandler messed around and got a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds in a game-high 40 minutes of action.

The Mavericks had five players finish in double figures, with Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry each scoring 15 points, but shot just 43 percent on the evening as a team.

The Nuggets were without Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari for the game tonight, but Michael Malone went with a small lineup to counter the Mavericks small lineup. That meant that Will Barton started alongside Jameer Nelson and Gary Harris, with Wilson Chandler at the 4 with Jokic at the 5.

The Mavericks got the first basket of the game, but it would be their only lead, as Jokic scored the next four points. After that, the starters traded baskets back and forth, until Jamal Murray checked into the game with the Nuggets up 19-17.

Once the reserves checked in, the defense went berserk. The Murray-Harris-Barton-Hernangomez-Arthur lineup tore up the Mavericks, and the Nuggets pushed their lead to nine by the time Murray checked out. Murray had three blocks, and was more than adequate at running the point against the defensively-challenged Mavericks.

We even got to see the return of Jurkic, and the combination produced an alley-oop in transition!

The Mavericks would score only 13 points in the second quarter, with 40 points in total for the first half. The Nuggets had 28 points in the paint, almost half of their 59 points in the half. Barton was feeling it, and was the leading scorer at the break with 19 points on 12 shots.

The Nuggets third quarter was the opposite of good. The starters were complaining too often to the referees, who were letting the teams play physical with each other (basketball is a contact sport y’all). The Mavericks went of a 16-4 run, finishing the quarter with 30 points to the Nuggets 23. The good guys would have been in real trouble if it wasn’t for Wilson Chandler and Will Barton, who scored enough to keep the Nuggets well ahead.

The fourth quarter was a rough 12 minutes for both teams, with the Nuggets struggling with turnovers while the Mavericks struggled with making baskets. Will Barton continued his assault on the Dallas defense, getting bucket after bucket on his way to a new season-high of 31 points.

Johnny O’Bryant got a bucket, Malik Beasley got a bucket, and the Nuggets closed out with their end-of-bench-guys for a 110-87 win, easily their best defensive performance of late.

Three Thoughts

The Nuggets switched their defensive scheme. Considering that the Nuggets really haven’t had any practice time to implement a new defensive scheme, how on earth did they have such a good night against the Mavericks? While the Nuggets normally have their center float just outside the key (sit back on the pick and roll), tonight they had the center give a strong hedge (attack the ballhandler on the pick and roll).

This helped the Nuggets force the Mavericks to pass the ball around instead of taking open jump shots. Maybe part of that is taking advantage of Nowitzki’s age at center, because Jokic is no speedster himself. But it’s a defensive scheme that requires a lot of know-how, because the rotations need to be outstanding. So far, so good though.

Big win without two of their vets (and12 Mudiay). The Nuggets were without Faried and Gallo, and the Mavericks are always going to be a well-coached unit as long as Rick Carlisle has the head coaching job. Barton was money on offense in the place of Gallinari, and Jamal Murray stepped up with Mudiay out. The Nuggets could have played a more complete game and put up over 120, but with three starters all playing 37 minutes or more, a few mental mistakes are to be expected.

Jokic got too frustrated tonight. The referees were letting the Mavericks assault Jokic, and he was not happy about that. Look, the kid is really good, and teams are going to start trying different things to take him out of the game. He only played 24 minutes, and still nearly picked up a double-double with 13 points and 9 assists. He also had five fouls, many of which he could have avoided.

He’s in the big leagues now, and against a savvy team, he’s going to have to be mentally stronger than he was tonight. Hopefully it’s a learning opportunity, and he can improve going forward. Still had a good game, but if the Nuggets want to be above .500 someday, he’ll need to have more consistent better games.

Box Score

ESPN.com