The Mavericks brought the fire on a cold night in Denver, scorching the nets from the 3-point line to easily dispatch the Nuggets on Saturday night.
Luka Doncic had a double-double with 21 points and 12 assists, and Kristaps Porzingis had a huge night shooting with 25 points, including a dagger 36-foot 3-pointer to clinch the game.
Nikola Jokic had another double-double with 26 points and 11 assists, but the rest of the team looked like they had eaten a double-double burger with a large fry and milkshake before the game as the offense and defense struggled with energy on the second night of a back-to-back immediately following the All-Star break. Jamal Murray had another terrible game, unable to get his shot to fall and anchoring the bench lineup with his play in the second quarter.
MPJ had 23 points on nine shots, but struggled with foul trouble in the first half that limited his impact in the game when it mattered.
Paul Millsap was reinserted into the starting lineup with his recovery from his injury, with Monte Morris unavailable with a quad injury. Will Barton had a nice start to the game, knocking down a 3-pointer from the left wing and then getting the ball into Jokic in the post for an easy basket against Kristaps Porzingis. MPJ picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, and PJ Dozier got the early call from Coach Malone. Dozier immediately picked up a steal, hammering home an uncontested two-handed dunk. Porzingis scored five quick points, but a 3-pointer from Millsap helped keep the Nuggets in the lead. Jokic was able to draw a double-team after pushing Porzingis around in the post, kicking the ball out to Barton for a triple, and repeated the same pattern on the next possession for a midrange jumper.
Murray continued to struggle to convert shot attempts into baskets, badly missing his two shot attempts, and the Mavericks were able to close the quarter on a 10-2 run with the score at 29-28, advantage Denver. Vlatko Cancar was just a hair too slow on a scramble layup to beat the buzzer, which would have given Denver a three point lead.
The Mavericks momentum continued on into the second quarter, as they scored the first two baskets, but JaMychal Green was able to answer with a 3-pointer to keep things close. The Nuggets bench struggled to get points with Murray’s slow start, missing jumpers and committing turnovers. MPJ checked back in, fouled Dwight Powell trying to break up an alley-oop attempt, and went straight back to the bench for Paul Millsap. Doncic tossed in a 3-pointer to put Dallas up by eight points, and the game started to feel like it was slipping away.
Jokic checked back in with about seven minutes left in the second quarter, shortly after Murray broke his shooting slump at 17 consecutive missed shots with a putback. Jokic went to work quickly in the post, spinning past Porzingis for a bucket in the paint. Will Barton would get the game within six points with a layup, but Denver wouldn’t cut the gap down any further that quarter.
The Mavericks opened the third quarter with five 3-pointers, torching the Nuggets from long range to Malone’s chagrin. Doncic got called for a technical for verbally going after a referee, but that was the only stop the Nuggets could get early as they fell behind by double digits. Jamal Murray threw the ball away, leading to a transition 3-pointer, and another missed shot lead to a Brunson layup to push the Mavericks lead to 20 points. They finally decided to start going back to Jokic, who was able to score and draw a foul against Porzingis, giving the team a quick shot of energy. They found themselves on the wrong side of a 93-73 score at the end of the third quarter.
They didn’t outscore the Mavericks by 20 points in the fourth quarter. Not enough energy, fatigue lead to turnovers and missed shots, didn’t have enough skill players off the bench to hang with a talented team. On to Indiana.
The Mavericks kind of let their foot off the gas in the first half of the fourth quarter, and Michael Porter Jr was more than willing to take advantage of that loss of focus. The Nuggets forward had 15 points in the first six minutes of the quarter, with a green light from the 3-point line to try to cut the lead to single digits before the clock showed zeroes. Denver won a challenge on a block by Facu Campazzo on Doncic, and a Jokic 3-pointer cut the lead to 12 points. A couple bad offensive possessions however, and the game was quickly back firmly in favor of the Mavericks with three minutes remaining. Porzingis saved an ugly possession with a 36-foot 3-pointer with about three minutes left, and both teams emptied their benches to finish out the game.