Photo Credit: @dallasmavs twitter
On Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks played the Denver Nuggets in the final stretch of their three game road trip. The Mavericks are coming off a impressive 113-100 win over the Houston Rockets to improve their record to 3-4 and are looking to garner a winning streak for the first time this season. Carlisle and company are looking to remain “above water” in the Western Conference as Kristaps Porzingis is inching closer to a return back to the court. The Mavericks were a fix able to fix their rebounding woes by going with a lineup change that saw Willie Cauley-Stein being the starter in place of Dwight Powell. We will see if that remains consistent going forward with this upcoming matchup against the Nuggets.
On Monday, the Mavericks played the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back. Luka Doncic returned from a quad contusion and bounced back with a triple-double of 33 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The always dangerous 3-point shooting Rockets struggled massively by making just 11 of 40 (27.5%) 3-pointers with James Harden making only 3 of his 11 attempts. DeMarcus Cousins was ejected from the game by arguing with an official due to not getting a foul called after a layup, it would be his second technical foul in three minutes of playing time and was immediately ejected. The officials were not afraid of using their whistles in this one as there were a combined 7 technical fouls called on both teams, including a flagrant foul on James Johnson of the Mavericks. Tim Hardaway went off in his first game coming off the bench in quite a while by scoring 30 points with making 8 three’s. The Mavericks went on a 14-3 run in the fourth quarter in what would turned out to be pivotal in sealing the deal for a 113-100 victory. The Mavericks out rebounded the Rockets 57-41 as they saw improvement putting Willie Cauley-Stein in the starting lineup which is a good sign as they were coming into this game being ranked 27th in the NBA in rebounds.
The Denver Nuggets are coming into this game with a record of 3-4 with back-to-back wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Nuggets are always a dangerous team to face when you have to deal with containing Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray for 48 minutes. The Nuggets are coming into this season after having an impressive run in the NBA playoff bubble that saw them coming back from a 3-1 series lead twice versus the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in the first two rounds. The Nuggets made some changes to their roster that saw them draft RJ Hampton with the 24th overall pick in the NBA draft while also signing JaMychal Green in free agency. The team said say goodbye to Jerami Grant as part of a sign-and-trade with the Detroit Pistons. The Nuggets are looking to build off last season by trying to make another deep playoff run this season.
Entering this game versus the Nuggets, the Mavericks took two out of three matchups in the regular season series last season with claiming the most recent win on March 11th, 2020 in what would be the final home game at the American Airlines Center as the NBA would pause the season due to Covid-19. These teams will meet one more time in the first half of the NBA season on January 27th in Dallas. The home team has taken 20 of the last 27 matchups with the Nuggets claiming 7 of the last 10 matchups. Luka Doncic averaged 22.3 points per game while Nikola Jokic averaged 19 points per game in their three matchups against each other last season. Overall, the Mavericks lead the all-time series lead with a record of 90-86.
The Mavericks began this game sticking to their lineup with Willie Cauley-Stein and Maxi Kleber that saw success from the defensive end and are riding that momentum. Right on cue, Willie Caulie-Stein scored the first basket for the Mavericks as both teams tried to get in a rhythm. The Nuggets got things going by forcing a couple of turnovers leading to fast break points on the offensive end as a result of an 8-2 run in the early stages of the first quarter. There was snow in the area and maybe the Mavericks were slow to warming up as Rick Carlisle called timeout with 8:15 left. Coming off the timeout, the Mavericks finally saw a basket go in by Luka Doncic to end the 11-0 scoring run by the Nuggets. The Mavericks were able to come back to tie the game at 14-14 after being down 11-2 with Luka Doncic hitting a 27-foot three pointer in the later stages of the quarter. Boban Marjanovic gave the Mavericks their first lead to this slow starting game by completing the three point play at the free-throw line with 2:37 left. In the final minutes, Jamal Murray, Tim Hardaway Jr and JaMychal Green each traded three point field goals that resulted in the Nuggets retaking the lead. The Mavericks thought they were getting free-throws in the final seconds of the quarter but the Nuggets decided to challenge the play and it be deemed a successful challenge. The successful challenge resulted in Jamal Murray hitting a buzzer beating 36-foot three point jumper to take a 28-22 lead heading into the second quarter. The Mavericks had trouble protecting the ball as they had 5 costly turnovers that gave the Nuggets a chance to find their rhythm.
The Nuggets started out the second quarter with the way the first quarter ended with a Jamal Murray hitting a basket, giving him with 15 points to this point. The Mavericks found themselves late in the shot clock in the first couple possessions in the quarter ultimately resulting in bad shots being taken. The Mavericks were able to be in the bonus with 8:30 left in the quarter hoping to use that to their advantage. The Nuggets were able to increase their lead to 11 points thanks to a 7-2 run to begin this quarter that resulted in Rick Carlisle calling a timeout in an effort to kill the run. Turnovers seem to be an issue in the early goings in this game as the Mavericks better protect the rock or else this will be a blowout soon. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks got things going on offense as they were able to create a 6-2 run to get within 6 points of the Nuggets midway through the second quarter. In the final 2:00 minutes of the quarter, Doran Finney-Smith had a put back thunderous slam trying to give the Mavericks some energy to finish the quarter. The quarter would end with both teams trading three point shots with the Nuggets increasing their lead to 9 points in what would be a 52-43 lead in a low scoring first half. The Mavericks have got to shoot better from deep as they shot 4 of 21 (19%) as that will not cut it in bringing a victory out of this one. Luka Doncic put up 14 points in the first half but had 4 turnovers as the Nuggets used that to get things going. Jamal Murray had 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting from the field as he was able to get going in the first half. The Mavericks were able to go to the free-throw by making 11 of 15 as they were able to use that to maintain within reach of this game. Luka Doncic would need the rest of the supporting cast to pick up the slack as the starters only scored 14 points matching Doncic’s total of 14 points. The Mavericks have to know when to stop shooting threes and when to drive to the paint and get easy buckets as shooting 33% from the field is not a recipe for a win.
Coming out of the half, both teams were able to trade baskets but a turnover by Nuggets saw Luka Doncic making an easy layup off the fast break to try to spark a Mavericks run. With Dorian Finney-Smith hitting a 25-foot three point jumper that gave him 11 points as he would become just the second Maverick to reach double figures in points with 8:26 left in the third quarter. With a timeout on the floor, the Nuggets were able to draw up a 4-2 scoring run to increase their lead back to 9 points as the Mavericks were threatening to stage a comeback as Nikola Jokic took a page out of Dirk Nowitzki’s as book by hitting a one-legged fadeaway jumper. Coming off the timeout, Josh Richardson hit a badly needed three as Luka is looking for somebody to give him some support. The Nuggets were able to take the biggest lead in the game by Monte Morris hitting a 26-foot three point jumper increasing their lead to 12 points with 4:19 left in the third quarter that forced Rick Carlisle to take a timeout. The Mavericks desperately need to give Luka some help if they want any chance of coming out of this with a victory as 1 man can’t carry the whole team. Coming off the Carlisle timeout, the Mavericks were able to find themselves good looks as Tim Hardaway Jr was able to hit two quick threes to get himself going. The Nuggets were seeing the Mavericks in the rear view mirror as they saw their lead deteriorate to 4 points with Dwight Powell getting things going in the final minute of the quarter. The quarter would end with Tim Hardaway Jr drawing a loose ball foul to head to the free-throw line where he would drain both of his free-throws. The Mavericks found themselves right back in this game by coming back to within 2 points with the score ending 78-76 in favor of the Nuggets. Give the Mavericks credit by making this a game in what look like to be a long night. Luka Doncic got the support he needed with 3 Mavericks being in double figures to go along with himself. The Mavericks fixed their 3 point shooting woes by going 5 of 6 in the third quarter.
In the final quarter of this game, James Johnson gave the Mavericks the lead by hitting a 23-foot three point jumper but the Mavericks would only enjoy the lead for a couple of seconds as PJ Dozier would answer for the Nuggets. In the early stages of the quarter, James Johnson went on a mini 7-0 personal run as both teams would exchange time having the lead. Coming off a Mavericks full timeout, the Mavericks got production from their bench as it was Jalen Brunson’s turn to tie the game at 86-86 but Nikola Jokic was there to take it right back in a back-and-forth quarter. The team that would go cold next would find themselves in the losing end of this game. In a generous call by an official granted Jamal Murray a timeout that saw him on the floor near the baseline as it looked like the Mavericks were able to come away with a turnover with 7:58 left in the game. It wouldn’t hunt them as Jalen Brunson again was able to tie the game at 88-88 by hitting a one-handed floater. With a chance to go out in front, Josh Richardson couldn’t hit the pull-up shot for the Mavericks. Luka Doncic was able to find a wide open Boban Marjanovic in the paint for a dunk to tie the game once again but it would be Garry Harris giving the Nuggets the lead right back. Midway through the fourth quarter, Luka Doncic was able to draw a foul while shooting a three but couldn’t tie the game on free-throws. Thankfully a couple of Nikola Jokic miscues gave the Mavericks a 101-97 lead and ultimately a 7-0 run thanks to Maxi Kleber hitting a clutch 26-foot three point jumper with 3:56 left to play. You probably guessed it, Nikola Jokic would answer to retake the lead by hitting a huge 26-foot three point jumper to kill the Mavericks 7-0 run. With 2:00 minutes left in the game, both teams were answering each other shots in a back-and-forth quarter as the team with the ball last will most likely win this game. Nikola Jokic was able to draw himself a “cheapy” foul to get to the free-throw line where he would restore the Nuggets lead 107-106 with 50 seconds left. The Mavericks needed a crucial stop on defense and they got it by Jamal Murray missing the shot and Luka Doncic grabbing the rebound and Rick Carlisle calling timeout with 7.7 seconds left. In the final seconds, Rick Carlisle drew up a play for Luka Doncic where he would ultimately find a wide open Maxi Kleber to drain the 27-foot three point shot to give the Mavericks a 109-107 lead with the Nuggets calling a timeout with 2.4 seconds left. The Nuggets went to Nikola Jokic to try to tie this game to force overtime and he hit the 19-foot step back jumpshot as time expired. Honestly this game deserved to go to overtime due to both teams exchanging times with the lead in a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
In the overtime quarter, it started with both teams hitting three point shots to keep this game tied. Luka Doncic gave the Mavericks lead one more time by hitting a one handed floater with 3:49 left as the Mavericks were hanging tough in this game. After a couple of empty possessions from both teams, Will Barton was able to tie this game for the Nuggets by hitting a tip shot. In the final 2:00 minutes of the overtime quarter, it was Josh Richardson’s turn to give the Mavericks a 119-114 lead by going on a personal 5-0 run, hitting a crucial 24-foot three point jumper that forced the Nuggets to call a timeout with 1:25 left. Maxi Kleber picked a crucial Nuggets turnover with 1:00 left to drain some time. In the final minute, Luka Doncic hit a clutch step-back jumper to put this game away for the Mavericks as the Nuggets were forced to play the fouling game to send the Mavericks to the free-throw line.
This team looked rusty at first by starting this game slow and low energy. The Nuggets thought they would able to put the Mavericks away but the Mavericks had other plans by generating energy and competing with these Nuggets. Normally, this would be a game in which the Mavericks decide to not to make an effort to comeback but they did in this one as the Nuggets kept giving the Mavericks a shot. The Mavericks kept staying with the Nuggets in the “whatever you do I can do better” fourth quarter. The Mavericks were cold coming into this arena but with the arena being “room temperature” they were able to heat up and catch up with these Nuggets in a fantastic finish.
In the end, it was the Mavericks claiming victory in this one by beating the Nuggets 124-117 in overtime with clutch shots by Maxi Kleber to force overtime and ultimately gave the Mavericks the win in overtime with his effort. The Mavericks have found their first winning streak of the season and they had to go to overtime to grab it. Luka Doncic was M-V-P Doncic as he was able to find wide open guys and hit big shots in the 38 point scoring effort. Many of the Mavericks were able to step up to help Luka Doncic with a 44 point effort from the team bench. This was back-to-back good games from the Mavericks in a much needed win. The Mavericks are 2-0 when Willie Cauley-Stein and Maxi Kleber in the starting lineup. The Mavericks have found themselves back to .500 with a win in this one as they improve to 4-4 on the season
The Mavericks will fly back home after their three game road trip in which they went 2-1. They begin a two game home stand beginning with Orlando Magic on Saturday with Kristaps Porzingis around 1 week away from returning back to the court.