After a long, arduous, and telling preseason, the Nuggets wrap up the eight game stretch against the Dallas Mavericks. There have been highs. There have been lows. There has been some great basketball played by these young Nuggets, and then there was the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It looks like the Nuggets will have some inconsistencies again this season, but then again, four rotation players were out against OKC. Balkan Buddy Ball will most likely get its dress rehearsal before starting the regular season in New Orleans on October 26th, and it will be interesting to see how successful they are this time around.

Another point of emphasis going into the season will be the guard rotation while Gary Harris is out. Emmanuel Mudiay and Will Barton are the presumptive starters. Will Jameer Nelson and Jamal Murray be the backups? Who gets pushed from the rotation when Harris comes back? Will Malik Beasley see any meaningful time?

Finally, Danilo Gallinari has shot the lights out during the preseason. Is it possible he’s reached another level of efficiency within the confines of the offense? Is it an aberration? Is it just preseason hullabaloo?

Anyways, let’s get right into the final game before the games matter.

 The Basics

Who: Dallas Mavericks (2-4) at Denver Nuggets (3-4)

When: 7:00 pm MT

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to watch/listen: Listen on AM 950

Rival Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Dallas Denver Advantage
PG Deron Williams Jameer Nelson Mavericks
SG Wesley Matthews Will Barton Neutral
SF Harrison Barnes Danilo Gallinari Nuggets
PF Dirk Nowitzki Nikola Jokic Neutral
C Andrew Bogut Jusuf Nurkic Mavericks
Bench J.J. Barea, Devin Harris, Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, Quincy Acy, Dwight Powell Jamal Murray, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez Neutral

Injuries: Emmanuel Mudiay (questionable), Darrell Arthur (questionable), Gary Harris (out), J.J. Barea (out), Quincy Acy (doubtful)

Key matchup to watch: Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic vs Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut

It’s hard to talk about one of the big man matchups without talking about the other. Three are legitimate seven footers, and both tandems play with roles reversed. On offense, Bogut is the passer and Nowitzki is the finisher, and defensively, Bogut is the rim protector while Nowitzki chases around power forwards. Nurkic fills the Bogut role defensively and the Nowitzki role offensively, while Jokic plays the Nowitzki role defensively and the Bogut role offensively.

I know that’s confusing, but the Mavericks have found a way to apply the skill sets of their best offensive and defensive player, even though both are relatively immobile. It’s up to Michael Malone and the coaching staff to figure out how the versatile big men should play on the court together. This game should provide an interesting perspective to say the least.

Key Statistic: Perimeter shooting

It’s weird that both teams play with such an emphasis on big men and rely on spacing so much to be successful. Through seven games, the Nuggets shoot 29.1 percent from 3 point range, and the Mavericks have shot 35.0 percent through five games. 29.1 percent is unsustainably bad, and it’s allowed teams to collapse the paint on Balkan Buddy Ball. Conversely, the Mavericks have adequately spaced the floor so far, and it’s led to good interior and exterior offense, in spite of Harrison Barnes’ struggles.

Now, the Nuggets drafted three players to help fix these shooting issues: Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley. Throughout the preseason, all three have shown their skill shooting the basketball, but only Murray has converted at an adequate rate. Going into the dress rehearsal game before the regular season, it will be interesting to see how much each player plays. Emmanuel Mudiay, Jameer Nelson, Will Barton, and Nikola Jokic have all shot under 30 percent from the perimeter so far, but the insertion of Murray, Beasley, and Hernangomez could certainly help.

Spotlight on: Injuries

Frankly, I don’t care if the Nuggets win or lose this game. I would love to see them succeed and do certain things that are encouraging. Let’s just get out of this game with no new injuries to deal with. Eight preseason games is too long, and I would much rather see the main rotation players come out of the game early in this one.

There’s a possibility for Emmanuel Mudiay and Darrell Arthur to play tonight. If they can go 100 percent, then by all means, I want to see them out there. I doubt that either is 100 percent at this point though, so I would play it cautiously. The Nuggets have had bad juju with the injury bug the last few seasons. There’s no reason to play with fire here.

***Stiffs Night Out***

We will be hosting SNO on opening night (October 26) at our home sports bar, Jake's Sports & Spirits in Denver's vibrant RiNo neighborhood at 3800 Walnut Street, Denver CO. Located conveniently across the street from the new 38th and Blake Commuter Rail Station and just five minutes (by car) from Coors Field. Jake's will extend happy hour for all Stiffs attendees.

The event is free to attend and all ages are welcome. It's a great way to meet fellow Nuggets fans and Stiffs readers in a fun and friendly environment. We look forward to seeing you there!