Strong start, late burst fuel Nuggets against Mavericks

Denver ends losing streak by beating Dallas for third time this season
by Aaron Lopez

NBA coaches are constantly reminding players that it’s not how you start – it’s how you finish.

For the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, it was all about how they started and how they finished.

The Nuggets scored 41 points in the first quarter and then delivered the knockout blow early in the fourth to secure a 115-110 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Pepsi Center.

Ty Lawson scored 17 of his 20 points in the first quarter, while J.J. Hickson added 12 of his 16 in the fourth as Denver snapped its six-game losing streak.

“It’s a sigh of relief,” Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said. “We’ve been in this big slump and couldn’t get a win. We came out and played hard. The first quarter really put us ahead. We usually get jumped on in the first quarter, but tonight we did the jumping. It felt good to hit first.”

Behind its strong start, Denver led by 17 at halftime before the Mavericks closed to within six at the end of the third quarter. On the strength of their reserves, the Nuggets responded with a 16-2 run to start the fourth, and Dallas never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

“They ran into an angry team,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of his players. “They ran into a team that was sick of getting beat up. You have to give them credit. But we were too casual to start the game and got knocked back on our heels and butts.

“We were close to getting things back on track after the third quarter, but they hit some untimely shots in the fourth and kept us at bay. You have to play the full 48 minutes.”

After going nearly two weeks without a victory, the Nuggets spent Tuesday trying to streamline their defensive sets. Though they still surrendered 110 points, they did a good job making it difficult for Dallas for extended stretches. The Mavericks managed just 39 points in the second and third quarters combined.

Hickson was among the defensive standouts for Denver, tying his career-high with five blocked shots.

“I just wanted to take it upon myself to make a statement defensively,” he said. “I didn’t start the game, so I saw how the game was going and how the first unit was playing defense, so I wanted to come in and continue to play hard and make a statement on defense.”

The Nuggets also had 12 steals as they beat the Mavericks for the third time this season. Dallas is one game ahead of Memphis for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“That’s a team that’s in the playoffs and we’re 3-0 against them,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “It just goes to show when we have healthy bodies and we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can play with anybody.”

The Nuggets wrap up their three-game homestand Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.