The Denver Nuggets (9-7) are preparing for a matchup with the Dallas Mavericks (8-8) as the two teams are looking to work some kinks out as they’re jostling in the middle of the Western Conference. In a conference that has three teams cooking at the top, you don’t want to be the one that ends up playing one of them in the first round of the playoffs because of early season stumbles. 

For Denver, they can’t let up. They won two tight games over the weekend against the Phoenix Suns, and they have the chance to keep this winning streak going and really challenge those teams up at the top. Outside of Michael Porter Jr., they’ve done a good job of staying clear of Covid-19, and they need to keep it that way while other teams, such as Dallas are struggling. 

For Dallas, it’s been a rough few weeks. Luka Dončić is cooking up everybody in sight, but his help is nowhere to be found because they’re all not allowed to play. Kristaps Porziņģis (knee) could be active for this game, but that’s not quite enough against a Denver team with their level of firepower. They need to weather this storm until their reinforcements can return.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (9-7, 5-2 away) vs Dallas Mavericks (8-8, 2-3 home)

When: 6:30 p.m. MST

Where: America Airlines Center

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

Rival Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Expected Starting Lineups:

DAL: PG Jalen Brunson, PG Luka Dončić, SF Tim Hardaway Jr., PF Kristaps Porziņģis, C Willie Cauley-Stein

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Gary Harris, SF Will Barton, PF Paul Millsap, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell, Josh Richardson, Greg Whittington

Three Things to Watch

Live or Die by Luka

With all of the injuries on this Mavericks’ roster, it’s the Luka show. Kristaps Porziņģis is being rested off and on to recover from surgery, and they’re missing multiple starters due to Covid-19 protocols. As a result, you have to either stop Luka or stop everyone else. Denver has run into similar matchups this season such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or James Harden when he was still with the Houston Rockets. 

Get Michael Porter Jr. involved

Since returning from his self-imposed Covid-19 protocols stint, Porter has been relatively quiet. He played 35 minutes in the 2OT win over the Phoenix Suns, but he only took nine shots. The Mavericks are missing several key wing players, and this is a matchup that he should try to exploit. Try to run the offense through Porter to really get him rolling to open this team up. 

Keep the run going

At this time last week, they were 6-7 with a tough stretch coming. They went 3-0, including back-to-back road wins over the Suns. Against a wounded Mavericks’ team, this is not the time to let off the throttle. Keep going to keep pace with the top teams in the conference. They trail the top three seeds by 3.0 & 3.5 games because of their slow starts, and they need to work on reeling them in for those late season games to really count.