The Denver Nuggets are getting back on track. After opening the season 1-4, a pair of games against the Minnesota Timberwolves is just what the doctor ordered. Now coming off of back to back victories the Nuggets look to keep the good vibes going by securing a win against a more talented opponent: the Dallas Mavericks. The Nuggets have not played the Mavericks since the fateful day in March when the league was being shut down while the teams played what would be the last NBA contest before they re-convened in the bubble five months later.

Dallas has had a similar up and down start. They were considered a dark horse finals contender coming into the season and Luka Doncic was the popular bet for MVP but stumbled a bit out of the gate. They’ve dealt with some injuries early on as well that contributed to their 3-4 record. Doncic missed a game with a quad while Kristaps Porzingis is still yet to play as he comes back from a torn meniscus. Otherwise they’ve been pretty healthy but those two guys are essentially all Dallas has in terms of consistent production. Tim Hardaway Jr. remains a shooter who can go off for 30 points or go 1-11 from the field on any given night, Jalen Brunson is a quick point guard who can give a team like Denver trouble. Outside of that there’s not a ton to speak of other than role players which is not a bad thing, Dallas has a great bench.

The Essentials

Who: Dallas Mavericks (3-4) at Denver Nuggets (3-4)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: Ball Arena. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. TNT, League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Convince Ball Arena security your Stan Kroenke’s new German Shepherd handler. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival blog: Mavs Moneyball

Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
PG Monte Morris Malcolm Brogdon Pacers
SG Jamal Murray Justin Holiday Nuggets
SF Will Barton Doug McDermott Even
PF Michael Porter Jr. Domantas Sabonis Pacers
C Nikola Jokic Myles turner Nuggets
Bench P.J. Dozier, Zeke Nnaji, Isaiah Hartenstein, Vlatko Cancar T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, Aaron Holiday Pacers

Player availability: Michael Porter Jr. – questionable (health and safety protocol), Greg Whittington – out (knee), Kristaps Porzingis – out (knee), Trey Burke – out (illness).

Three things to watch for

Key matchup: Tim Hardaway Jr. vs the Nuggets perimeter defense

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Luka is going to score, we know that. Yes the Nuggets have Gary Harris and yes in the past he’s shown some skill at slowing down Luka but Gary’s faced a slew of good to elite perimeter players this year and he hasn’t slowed any of them. Suffice to say if you think the Nuggets are going to hold Luka under twenty points then you’re probably going to have a bad time. That’s ok if they don’t let someone join him in a scoring barrage. Hardaway is the guy who could do that to Denver. While he comes off the bench as the sixth man he still gets 30+ minutes a game and is going to shoot a bunch of threes. Denver has to close out and has to make it difficult for him. If Hardaway goes off for 20+ points as well the Nuggets likely are looking at a loss.

Main point: hopefully Carlisle continues not playing Boban

There is one major Nuggets kryptonite on the Mavericks roster we haven’t spoken about: Boban Marjanovic. We all remember Boban destroying the Nuggets when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers and still have nightmares about him dunking the basketball while his feet still touched the floor. For whatever reason, the Nuggets can’t seem to stop him. In that fateful March game last year Boban put up a monster 31 point, 17 rebound game. Maybe it’s his familiarity with Nikola Jokic, maybe he loves altitude, maybe he once lost a poker hand to Michael Malone when Malone backdoored his way to a flush on the river. Who knows. What we do know is he is the Mavericks resident Nugget destroyer but has not been part of their regular rotation. Let’s hope the latter stays true tonight.

Opening thought: can’t ruin the good vibes

The back to back wins against the Wolves were just what Denver needed but a lot of those good feelings could be spoiled by a loss tonight. The Nuggets are supposed to beat Minnesota, they’re a better team than them. The Nuggets are a better team than the Mavericks as well, but not by much. A loss tonight certainly isn’t a deal breaker, this isn’t any sort of must win type of game, but it will be a punch to the gut. Dallas sans Kristaps is a team Denver is supposed to beat, especially on their home floor. Losing to Dallas tonight will only continue to raise questions that have come up with the slow start. Beating Dallas on the other hand, even without Kristaps, goes a long way to ease the minds of Nuggets Nation.