Recap: Nuggets spoil Dirk's home debut, send Mavs to 5th straight L
Earl K. Sneed recaps the Dallas Mavericks' loss to the Denver Nuggets Friday night for an eighth defeat in the last nine games, after the Nuggets ruined the home debut of Dirk Nowitzki.
Recap: Nuggets 106 at Mavericks 85
Nuggets spoil Dirk's home debut, send Mavs to 5th straight L
Meanwhile, the Dallas fans got their first up-close look at 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki as the 7-footer made his home debut following his first two appearances of the season on the road in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. And with the Mavericks looking to bounce back on the second night of a back-to-back, the hometown crowd tried to carry the team to a much-needed victory.
But not even the festive vibe surrounding Nowitzki’s home debut would be enough to light a fire under the stagnant Mavs. And while they continued to slide to a fifth straight defeat, the Mavericks (12-18) followed up their disappointment in Oklahoma City with a sluggish performance en route to a 106-85 demise on their home floor.
“It’s not pretty right now obviously,” Nowitzki said. “Not pretty defensively, not pretty offensively, not pretty on the glass, so we’ve got to keep on working and keep on plugging. Eventually we’ll work ourselves out of it. … This is not the time to go separate ways. When it’s tough, you’ve got to pull together. And hopefully we can pull through.”
For a third straight game, Nowitzki started the night on the bench while watching his teammates fall into an early double-digit hole. Nowitzki then entered the game to a standing ovation with 5:27 left in the opening period, while the Mavs found themselves at a 21-8 disadvantage.
And despite a quick start for Nowitzki and leading scorer O.J. Mayo, the Mavericks would find themselves down 29-18 at the end of the first 12 minutes of play as Denver big man Kenneth Faried tallied up nine points and 11 rebounds in the period.
Fans would get their first look at recently called-up swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts in the second period as the former Memphis standout made his third appearance of the season since signing with the Mavs on Sunday. Meanwhile, Mayo shook off his recent four-game struggles while leading a 10-0 Dallas run to get the home team back into the game.
Mayo then got a helping hand from sixth man and eight-time All-Star Vince Carter with a long-range bomb as the Mavs inched within two. But after Danilo Gallinari’s 3-pointer and tip-in to close the half, the Mavs went into the intermission down by a score of 55-47.
“It’s just small things add up right now,” Nowitzki added. “You know, making little mistakes and that’s just the way this tough stretch has been going, turning little mistakes into big mistakes and the other team capitalizes on it. That kind of sums up the stretch unfortunately, but we’ve got to keep plugging.”
Despite Mayo’s 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting after just 10-of-40 from the field combined in the previous four games, the Mavericks still found themselves down on the scoreboard while Denver’s 44.2 percent from the floor at the midway mark bettered Dallas’ 37.5 percent. And led by Faried’s 14 rebounds, the Nuggets used a 34-22 advantage on the glass and 32-14 margin in points in the paint to take the lead into the second half.
Looking for a spark on the defensive end as well as on the glass, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle began the second half with rookie Jae Crowder in place of Dahntay Jones in the first unit at small forward. The strategy would work as the versatile first-year pro immediately stepped in and drained a 3-pointer from the wing to keep the Nuggets from pulling away.
The Mavs then tried to ignite their fast-break offense by upping the tempo, before Gallinari and Andre Iguodala drained back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the Denver lead to 14. And with Gallinari taking advantage of Nowitzki’s lack of conditioning, the Nuggets (17-14) entered the fourth period with their largest lead through three quarters at 17, 87-70.
“Look, they hit some tough shots. I mean, Gallinari’s a guy that’s 6-10 and he hit a couple of step-back threes. Iguodala rose up and hit a few and we couldn’t match their shotmaking with solid play at the other end,” Carlisle admitted.
“It seemed like we never could get over that hump again tonight and then they just opened it back up,” four-time All-Star Shawn Marion added. “I think when we’re making strides we just have a big stumble back. It’s frustrating.”
With Nowitzki on the bench after going just 2-of-10 in 17 minutes of action through the first three quarters, Carlisle chose to keep his superstar out the rest of the way.
“It was too much tonight,” Carlisle said after seeing his go-to player struggle. “That was my decision. That was back-to-back, and he’s not limping or anything like that, he just can’t give us what everybody expects him to give. So we had to get a different guy in there and this process is going to be ongoing. It’s tough but we’ve got to hang in there. In the big picture, we’ve got to work towards his total health and sometimes that’s going to mean pulling the plug.”
“I’m going to work myself into better shape obviously and can help a little more, but right now I’m not helping that much,” Nowitzki added. “I was a step slow. That was obvious. I had really no lift on my jumper, so everything was in and out, but that last little thing is missing. This was my first back-to-back and really was my first games. I didn’t even play a preseason game besides that one in Berlin, so these are my first games in a long, long time, so it’s ugly but I’ve got to keep fighting, got to keep working hard on practice days and eventually I’ll be able to come back.”
The Mavericks then attempted to stage a rally as the final period got underway. But with the Nuggets up 93-78 and 6:04 remaining on the clock, Carlisle was forced to burn his final timeout. Gallinari then put the finishing touches on the win for the visiting team – which would up the lead to as much as 24 – while eclipsing his previous career high of 37 points with a 3-pointer to give him 39 on the night before exiting the game with 2:20 left.
Leading four Mavs in double figures in a losing cause was Mayo, who broke out of his shooting slump to score 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting despite just a 1-of-5 night from behind the arc. Meanwhile, center Chris Kaman added 12 points and eight rebounds inside, Carter pitched in 10 points off the bench and point guard Darren Collison followed up a season-high 32 points in Oklahoma City with 10 points in the first unit.
Gallinari’s big night came on 14-of-23 shooting and 7-of-11 from 3, leading five Nuggets in double figures as Denver’s 45.7 percent bettered Dallas’ 37.5 percent on the night, in addition to a 60-43 rebounding advantage and a 52-34 separation in points in the paint.
“Obviously we’re all frustrated and we all want to win, but right now it’s been tough. We can turn it around, we’re gonna turn it around, but it takes small steps. We can’t get it all back in one game or one practice, but I think every little thing holding each other accountable definitely can make a change,” Mayo concluded.
Note: The Mavericks will return to action at home on Sunday against Southwest Division rival San Antonio while trying to avenge a season-worst 129-91 road loss to the Spurs on Dec. 23. The game will air locally at 6:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Southwest. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.