After an expected, but disappointing loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Nuggets face them for the second straight game tonight. The Nuggets were ran off the court without Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, or Aaron Gordon to help lead the charge against what is a very good team in the Dallas Mavericks. It was the first time the Nuggets had scored less than 100 points in a game this season — and a lot of that struggle started with the Nuggets not having the firepower they typically do, but it also didn’t help that Michael Porter Jr. heavily struggled.

Michael Porter Jr. had what was arguably his worst game of the season when the Nuggets needed him most. He’s had a good season so far, but in games without Nikola Jokic he looks significantly worse than when he’s able to play alongside the two-time MVP. His lack of shot creation for himself often comes to the forefront without Joker, and it especially did against the Mavericks. He shot just 4/15 from the field and 1/5 from beyond the arc — an uncharacteristically inefficient night from what is often one of the league’s most efficient players. With Jokic and Jamal still slated to be out, and Aaron Gordon still being questionable — the Nuggets will need all he can give, and will hope that he can bounce back like he did against Chicago.

The Essentials:

Who: Denver Nuggets (9-6, 5-5 away) @ Dallas Mavericks (9-6, 8-2 home)

When: 5:30 p.m. MST

Where: American Airlines Center

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass and AltitudeTV for non-Denver markets. 92.5 FM Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Mavs Moneyball

Expected Starting Lineups:

DAL: PG Luka Doncic, SG Spencer Dinwiddie, SF Reggie Bullock, PF Dorian Finney-Smith, C Dwight Powell

DEN: PG Bruce Brown, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C DeAndre Jordan

Injuries: Nikola Jokić (H & S Protocols), Jamal Murray (H & S Protocols), Aaron Gordon (Illness), Collin Gillespie (leg), Ish Smith (calf), Maxi Kleber (back)

Three Things to Watch

Michael Porter Jr. Bounce Back Game

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As mentioned earlier, Michael Porter Jr. did not perform to his usual standards against the Mavericks on Friday night. However, fans should expect a better performance from Denver’s third max player. He shot the ball poorly, but that is rarely the case for him. He gets easier shots with Nikola Jokic active, but he often anchors bench units and thrives in lineups without Jokic. Hopefully he can channel some of what makes him successful in those lineups into tonight’s game.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s Contributions

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KCP has been electric for the Nuggets this season — coming through especially when the Nuggets need him most. He kicked off the comeback win against the Pacers, and has been essential in nearly every Nuggets win. He continued this Friday night by being tied for the team’s leading scorer with Bruce Brown; having 18 points on 13 shots. His two-way contributions will be integral to any positive outcome for the Nuggets.

Who will step up in Jokic and Murray’s absences?

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With Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray out, that leaves a lot of room for different players to step up. Bruce Brown and KCP were the two standouts Friday night — giving by far the most productive efforts of anyone on the team. They’ve both been excellent additions and have helped sure up a lot of Denver’s issues. However, it would be beneficial if someone else could also step up with them — be it MPJ, Bones, or someone else. The two of them being the only efficient scorers won’t cut it against a team with the likes of Luka Doncic if Joker and Jamal aren’t suiting up.