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Preview: Denver Nuggets play second to last game of season at the Dallas Mavericks

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With nothing left to play for but pride, what will this Nuggets team look like tonight?

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

The Denver Nuggets got caught up in the hooplah of Russell Westbrook breaking Oscar Robertson’s single season record for triple doubles. In the excitement they lost track of the task at hand which allowed Westbrook to shatter the Nuggets playoff dreams with one buzzer beating 40’ three point shot. Now eliminated, Denver heads out on a two game road swing to finish up an exciting and successful, but also disappointing season. First up is the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks likewise are wrapping up a season that fell short of the post season. However, unlike Denver who has a young core in place and is every national writer’s pick for exciting team on the rise, Dallas is in something of a crossroads. Legend Dirk Nowitzki is in the twilight of his career and has been hampered by injuries in what has been arguably the worst season he’s had since he was a rookie. Though Dirk appears to be ready to go again next season, he will be 39 years old and no longer can be looked upon to carry the team like he has for so many years. Surrounding him is an odd mixture of solid but perhaps underwhelming vets, a living up to expectations Harrison Barnes (who saw that coming?) and a couple young players who look like solid rotation pieces, but no one that screams star. If it’s a game in February, Denver looks like the clear favorite, but with nothing left to play for this game is up for grabs. The funny part? It’s better for each team to lose than it is to win.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (38-42) at Dallas Mavericks (32-48)

When: 6:30PM MDT

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas TX

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and Altitude Radio KKSE AM950

Rival blog: Mavs Moneyball

Position Nuggets Mavericks Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Yogi Ferrell Even
SG Gary Harris Wesley Matthews Even
SF Juancho Hernangomez Dorian Finney-Smith Even
PF Wilson Chandler Dirk Nowitzki Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Nerlens Noel Nuggets
Bench Emmanuel Mudiay, Mason Plumlee, Malik Beasley, Darell Arthur Dwight Powell, Jeremy Grant, Jarrod Uthoff, Nicolas Brussino, AJ Hammons, Tony Romo Nuggets...because their bench features actual basketball players in its entirety

Injured players: Emmanuel Mudiay - questionable (ankle), Will Barton - out (foot), Danilo Gallinari - out (rest), Kenneth Faried - out (back), Jameer Nelson - out (calf), Seth Curry - out (shoulder).

Key Match up: Jamal Murray vs Yogi Ferrell

I actually homered the match up advantage in the table above when it comes to Murray/Ferrell. Strictly going by the advanced stats, it’s Ferrell who has had the better season of the two. Still, we all know what Murray is capable of and he’s just two games removed from putting up 30 on the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s really a tale of two paths. Murray is a one and done out of Kentucky, the MVP of the Rising Stars challenge and was widely touted as one of the best prospects coming out of college. Meanwhile, Ferrell likewise came from a highly regarded basketball school in Indiana, but stayed for all four years, went undrafted and actually first caught on with the Mavericks via a 10 day contract which he would parlay into a 2 year deal and what looks like a solid start to a good career in the NBA. Which one gets the best of the other tonight? My money would be on Jamal, but only because I think the training wheels are fully off.

Key thing to watch for: Malik the bees kneesly

The most significant action Malik Beasley has gotten this season was on November 10th, just the 9th game of the season when the Nuggets got shelled by the Golden State Warriors. Beasley got 14 minutes that night, almost all of it garbage time, so tonight will truly be the first time Beasley will get meaningful minutes (somewhat meaningful) and I would imagine he should eclipse the 20 minute mark for the first time in his NBA career as well. Beasley by all accounts has been a good trooper this season, he’s had multiple trips back and forth between the D-league, where he always shined, and as we’ve said, he really hasn’t got any playing time at the NBA level to speak of. Nonethless the word out of the Pepsi Center is he’s an incredibly hard worker, incredibly humble and an all around stand up guy. From my few brief conversations with him I would agree and I’m pulling for him tonight

Opening thought: fine...I’ll talk about Tony Romo

So Tony Romo will be an honorary Mav tonight, he’s been “practicing” with the team this morning and will be fully suited up and on the bench. Before you ask, no, he can not actually play in the game. This is nothing more than the publicity stunt the Mavs are pulling for their fan appreciation night. I get it, Romo just retired after spending a long and fairly successful career entirely with the Dallas Cowboys, he’s a leader, a professional, all good things for the fans and players alike. However, it still rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because of the whispers that Romo is kind of a self obsessed jerk, maybe it’s because he would have rather played for the Houston Texans than the Denver Broncos. Maybe I’m a buzzkill. Whatever it is, count me among those who are rolling their eyes as hard as they can at this whole charade.