The Dallas Mavericks must be wondering what hit them. The last time they faced the Nuggets they were 33-29 and in good shape to make the playoffs. Their loss to Denver was one near the beginning of a long string, as the Mavericks have lost 10 of 12 to drop out of the current playoff seedings and put their post-season hopes in jeopardy. Injuries to Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams among others haven’t helped matters, but this sort of fade is disappointing to say the least. Sunday’s 133-111 blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings was just the latest humiliation.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, blew the Lakers away with some good bench play, found the L.A. nightlife while they hung around to face the Clippers, and promptly shot like they were eight drinks into a game of beer pong, getting flattened by the Clips 105-90 in a game that wasn’t that close. The starters couldn’t shoot their way out of a wet paper bag, something the Nuggets will need to correct if they want to win in front of the home crowd and help the Rockets out (since Denver would lose Houston’s first rounder if Dallas beats the Rockets out for the last playoff spot).

The Basics:

Who: Dallas Mavericks (35-38) at Denver Nuggets (31-42)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KRWZ AM 950

Rival blog: Mavs Moneyball

Dallas Mavericks Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Raymond Felton Emmanuel Mudiay Even
SG J.J. Barea Gary Harris Even
SF Wesley Matthews JaKarr Sampson Mavericks
PF Dirk Nowitzki Darrell Arthur Mavericks
C Zaza Pachulia Nikola Jokic Nuggets
Bench Devin Harris, J.J. Barea, David Lee, Salah Mejri, Charlie Villanueva, Dwight Powell, Justin Anderson Will Barton, D.J. Augustin, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jusuf Nurkic, Jameer Nelson, Axel Toupane Nuggets

Injured players: Wilson Chandler – out (hip), Danilo Gallinari – out (ankle), Kenneth Faried – questionable (back), Chandler Parsons – out (knee), Deron Williams – out (abdominal strain).

Key Matchup: Nuggets starters vs. the hoop. Emmanuel Mudiay and Darrell Arthur combined to go 4-of-28 from the field in 46 minutes against the Clippers, while the starters as a whole made just 11 baskets. The Lakers game wasn’t a lot better against a terrible team; Denver starters sank 18 buckets compared to the bench’s 27. The starters need to pick it back up.

Three young starters are logging the biggest minutes of their lives by far, but it’s hard to win if the young kids can’t score and the vets are either non-shooters or ice-cold. Denver needs to go inside often against a Dallas team that is the worst shot-blocking club in the league – so there shouldn’t be a triple-rejection threat like Mudiay suffered through last night:

Be brave, young fellas!

Thing to watch for: whose bench wants it more. With the injuries both teams have suffered the benches are being required to do more. Denver’s has stepped up with the additions of D.J. Augustin and Jusuf Nurkic to the full-time rotation, while Dallas is still looking for the magic combination. Against the Kings, Dallas played six bench players for 13+ minutes (including old friend JaVale McGee) but never found a combo that could play defense. Dallas is giving up 112+ points per game since the first week of February, while the Nuggets have scored 108+ per game in March.

On paper, that looks good for Denver, but finding energy on a back-to-back is always a challenge. Both teams will be fighting the same fatigue but the desperation of Dallas as they watch their playoff hopes dwindle will have to be matched by both of Denver’s units. If Faried can go (he’s a game-time decision according to Malone) that energy might be the difference.

Prediction: Denver 109, Dallas 101 with a return from the Manimal.