Despite a sizzling hot start from Paul Millsap, the Dallas Mavericks were able to pull out a huge victory against Western Conference rival, the Denver Nuggets. After losing six straight in Denver, the Mavericks showed a massive amount of composure in being able to ride out a great team win. Denver is a tough place to play, and the Nuggets showed why they are viewed as one of the stronger teams in the league. After riding Paul Millsap to a double digit lead in the early part of the first quarter, Dallas was able to pull the game back within striking distance, ending the quarter down by a manageable 4 points. Dallas would then spend half of the second quarter battling back to take the lead, which they finally did about halfway through, only to lose it again a few minutes later. They wouldn’t see the lead again until a few minutes into the 4th quarter, but they wouldn’t relent after that – eventually closing out the Nuggets to win the game 109 – 106. Denver relied on a plethora of play-makers to keep the Mavs off-balance through most of the game but unfortunately for the Nuggets, Dallas was able to match their play-makers with a few of their own off the bench. Ultimately it was the Mavericks depth and the Nuggets lack of such that made the difference in this one.
The Dallas starters were outplayed in this game. Luka Doncic had his worst game of the young season, and though Porzingis recorded his first double-double of the season he also had his worst game offensively. It’s not too common that every starter on a team can put up a negative plus-minus and a team still be able to pull out a win, but that is quickly negated when a team is able to post double digit scoring numbers from every bench player and nine players in all (only the second time that Dallas has EVER been able to pull off such a feat, thank you FSSW broadcast team for that golden statistic). It seemed like whenever the game would start swinging in the Mavs favor, the starters would start trickling back into the game causing the momentum to swing the other way. This is definitely one of those games that would have been overly painful to lose, but exponentially exciting to win. To have your two cornerstones put up offensive duds, and still be able to pull off a victory against a team that many are considering to be a top team in the West will be a great game to look back on when trying to define the identity of this team moving forward.
A Few Thoughts
- This was Dwight Powell’s first game back and he was immediately inserted into the starting line-up. He only played the first half, totaling only 13 minutes, but all-in-all I thought he looked pretty good. Two of the first three plays of the game were pick-and-rolls involving Powell and it was obvious that Denver was looking out for his ability to roll toward the basket. He only ended up with 4 points and 4 rebounds but I thought he looked comfortable in both the offense and the defense and should only continue to grow from here.
- Seth Curry was inserted into the starting line-up for the first time. At this point I think it is pretty obvious what Mavs fans can expect from Seth. He is a wizard at scoring in bunches and being able to knock down the open shot, which is exactly what he provided tonight. At times Seth will be the only one scoring the ball, 8 of the team’s first 12 points were from Curry tonight. His contribution was perfect for this game considering Luka and KP both struggled, but I wonder if that type of role wouldn’t be best fit for the bench. Being able to score in bunches and put the offense on his back is a nice attribute to have when you want to give your main scoring options some rest. For tonight, though, his insertion into the starting line-up was perfect.
- Luka and Porzingis struggled tonight. They couldn’t get into rhythm and it just seemed like one of those games where the shots that usually go in simply couldn’t find the bottom of the net. KP still looks like he’s getting his legs under him, coming up short on a lot of shots and lacking the explosion that he had with the Knicks a few years ago. Denver obviously had their defensive game-plan built around shutting the two down, and were able to execute that plan well, but for Mavs fans it is still a little concerning to see their two All-Star hopefuls go a combined 7/26 from the field and shoot a combined 9 free throws. It’s simply inexcusable for Kristaps to only go to the line 1 time in a game where he plays 30+ minutes. My hope is that as he gets his explosion back his free throw attempts will increase as he catches the defense in bad position a little bit more than he did tonight.
- To put the last thought in a positive light though, the Mavs still won the game, and they were able to do that game because of the depth this team offers. Going into the season, one of the biggest question marks for this team was if they would be deep enough to be a serious playoff contender. After tonight, I think it is safe to assume that they have more than enough talent after their starting 5 to not only match, but beat any team in the league. Dallas has an abundance of “5th best players” and at first I think this was looked at as a fault of theirs, but I’m not so sure that it isn’t actually a strength. We are only four games into the season and the Maverick’s bench looks ready to take on any bench in the league. They can score in bunches, as Justin Jackson showed in the second quarter tonight going 4/4 and making 10 points look easy. They can provide leadership, as Jalen Brunson showed in his ability to get to the line play after play, and by consistently putting his teammates in great position to score – ending with 8 assists. They can play lock down defense, as Delon Wright and Maxi Kleber showed tonight with timely steals and blocks. One of those blocks, in fact, coming with 65 seconds left in the game and the Mavs leading by only a single point. Finally, they can bring all of those pieces together, as Tim Hardaway Jr. showed with his best overall game of the year putting up 14 points on 5/9 from the field, 4/6 from deep, adding in 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a great steal off of Jokic in the 3rd quarter when he was able to dig the ball out of the post on a timely double-team.
Going into the season, most of the country knew this would be a fun team to watch. The youth, the two stars, the potential long-term future that this core of players hold all being reasons to tune in on any given night. The identity, though, had yet to be solidified. This will be a game the team can look back on and point to when wondering who they are. For tonight they were a complete unit, and for tonight that unit was able to match their potential with results against one of the better teams in the league.