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Preview: Nuggets host Mavericks on Friday night, with or without Nikola Jokic

The MVP is listed as questionable on the injury report following his knee contusion in Utah

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

After starting the season with two wins, the Nuggets fell short in their back-to-back games earlier this week against Cleveland and Utah. Tonight, they are back home to kick off yet another back-to-back set by hosting Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks before flying to Minnesota for a Saturday night date with the Timberwolves.

Dallas is coming into Denver on the second night of a back-to-back of its own after taking down the Spurs last night. New coach Jason Kidd was a skeptical hire but the Mavs have won three straight now, albeit against subpar competition. Doncic is always a tough play

There biggest question facing the Nuggets of course is Nikola Jokic’s health after the big man knocked knees with Rudy Gobert on Tuesday. Jokic is offically listed as questionable with knee soreness but whether or not he will play is yet to be determined.

The Basics

Who: Dallas Mavericks (3-1) at Denver Nuggets (2-2)

Where: Ball Arena, Denver, CO

When: 8:00pm MT

How to Watch: ESPN

Rival Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Three Things to Watch

Nikola Jokic’s Status. While thankfully Jokic’s injury was not as bad as it could have been, his status is questionable. It’s very early in the season and as such there is no urgency to bring him back other than to try and avoid a three-game losing streak. If Jokic doesn’t play, it’s likely one of the J. Greens would get the nod at center and the Nuggets would be forced to go small. Not having a legit backup center bit Denver against Utah but they might be able to succeed against the Mavericks (unless Boban enters the game...)

Will Malone finally pull the plug on the bench? Look up any synonym for the word “awful” and it will accurately describe the five-man bench lineup that Malone has been rolling out for the Nuggets. With each passing game, the sample size incriminating that unit becomes bigger and bigger - will tonight be the night a change is made? Staggering Barton with that group worked wonders in the season opener, and occasionally we have seen MPJ out there as well. Bones Hyland seems like a reasonable option to mix things up, but overall it makes the most sense to stagger a starter or two with the bench players.

Which version of MPJ will show up? Michael Porter Jr. has all the talent in the world but he is off to an abysmal start to the season, shooting just 34.6% from the field and 32.1% from three, career lows by a mile. Porter’s 11.5 points per game are far too low for a team that will rely on his scoring ability night in and night out for years to come. If Jokic is out, the weight on Porter’s shoulder becomes a bit heavier. Will we see the Porter we know to be or will the shooting slump continue?