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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to extend winning streak against Dallas Mavericks

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (9-4) were in an early slump to start the season, but they’ve ripped off four straight wins. They’ll be looking to make it a clean six in a row tonight against the Dallas Mavericks (8-4) on the road. Denver won the lone matchup between these two squads last season, and you have to go back to the 2018-19 season to find a matchup between these two squads where Denver won multiple games in a row in the series.

Due to injuries across the board, it’s going to continue to be the Nikola Jokić show. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are out indefinitely with knee and back injuries respectively while Will Barton and Austin Rivers are dealing with ailments of their own. Luckily for Denver, Jokic has been up to the task so far as he’s averaging 25.3 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game with a slashline of .595/.392/.767.

For Dallas, unlike Denver, they’re largely healthy, but everyone outside of Luka Dončić has struggled with consistency. Luka is averaging 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game while shooting a career-high 21.3 attempts per game. Players like Kristaps Porzingis and Dorian Finney-Smith have flashed this year, but they haven’t brought the consistency Dallas needs to support their young superstar.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (9-4, 2-3 away) @ Dallas Mavericks (8-4, 5-1 home)

When: 6:00 p.m. MST

Where: American Airlines Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Dallas. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Expected Starting Lineups:

DAL: PG Luka Dončić, SG Tim Hardaway Jr., SF Dorian Finney-Smith, PF Kristaps Porzingis, C Dwight Powell

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokić

Injuries: Vlatko Čančar (hip), Michael Porter Jr. (back), Will Barton (back), Austin Rivers (undisclosed), Maxi Kleber (oblique)

Three Things to Watch

Boban Marjanović

Yep, the backup center that has played in only six games this season for a total of 39 minutes is one of your three things to watch. For one, Boban has had good games against Denver in the past. In his last two games against Denver, he’s shot 18-of-28 and put up 45 points. He’s one of the very few players in the league that has a size advantage on Jokić, and he’s been able to win that matchup in the past. If Dallas elects to go big, Boban can do enough to at least make Jokić work on that end of the floor.

Guarding Luka

This is obviously the primary task of the Nuggets in this game. If you’re able to effectively slow him down, it dramatically alters the way Dallas plays offense. Denver’s best answer to him might be putting Aaron Gordon on him as Luka has too much size for Monte Morris to effectively slow down when he decides to play big. If Denver is able to effectively guard Dončić, this matchup gets a lot easier for them.

Can the Bench Maintain Their Play?

Through the first several games of the season, Denver’s bench was absolutely horrid, but they’ve turned around their play the last week or so. They peaked last night against the Portland Trail Blazers as they shot 15-of-27 from 3-point range. They’re unlikely to shoot that well again, but Denver’s starting unit needs at least competent play from them to keep from getting too worn out from not getting enough rest.