Jokić Buzzer Beater Lifts Nuggets Over Mavericks
With five seconds remaining and the game in the balance, the Nuggets turned to Nikola Jokić as they have done time and time again this season. Jokić drove from the 3-point line before pulling up around the free throw line. After several turns, Denver’s All-Star big man threw up a hook shot while fading to his right. Swish. As a result, the Nuggets escaped with a 100-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Pepsi Center Thursday night.
"Coach and the players trusted me and got my back. They were cheering for me, so this was for them,” Jokic revealed just minutes after hitting the game-winning shot.
The Mavericks (27-41) got off to a quick start in the first quarter, jumping out to an 8-2 lead. However, the Nuggets (43-22) quickly responded with an 8-0 run of their own, spearheaded by Paul Millsap, who scored 10 of the team’s first 12 points. While Luka Dončić was able to make his mark on the game in the first quarter, he received plenty of help from his supporting cast along the way. Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. each had seven points in the first, as the Mavericks used the 3-pointer to jump out to a 29-26 lead after one. Dallas finished the quarter 4-of-12 from beyond the arc and shot 54.5 percent from the field overall.
Denver closed the gap in the opening minutes of the second quarter, using a quick 5-0 scoring run from Jamal Murray and some strong 3-point shooting to grab a 42-37 lead midway through the quarter. The Nuggets weren’t able to build on their lead throughout the rest of the quarter, as the Mavericks continued to fire away from beyond the arc. Dallas eventually tied the game at 49 apiece as a result of 3-pointers from Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber. The Mavericks’ supporting cast continued to stand out, as Hardaway Jr. finished the half with 13 points while Jalen Brunson contributed nine points and four assists. The Nuggets struggled with taking care of the ball in the second quarter and finished the half with eight turnovers. Despite 20 points from Paul Millsap, the Nuggets found themselves down 57-51 at the half.
"Paul's been really good as of late. He was by-far our best player in the first half.” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone pointed out. “With 33 points, rebounding, defending, I thought Paul had a great impact on both ends of the floor tonight."
The Mavericks withstood Denver’s initial comeback attempt to start the third quarter, as Dallas was able to extend the lead to 71-63 after four minutes. Dirk Nowitzki, playing in what could be his last game against the Nuggets, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Dallas momentum early in the quarter. Despite a Millsap-led comeback attempt from the Nuggets throughout the middle stages of the quarter, Dallas used a barrage of 3-pointers to extend the lead to double-digits. Millsap scored 11 points in the quarter, but the Mavericks shot 5-for-7 from beyond the arc in the quarter to take an 89-79 advantage into the final quarter.
After the two teams battled to a draw to open the final frame, 3-pointers from Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley brought Denver within four points with just over eight minutes remaining in the game. The Nuggets continued to chip away at the lead, getting within two points with just over four minutes remaining. The Mavericks went cold from beyond the arc, missing the first five 3-pointers they attempted in the quarter, allowing Denver to battle back into the game. Fittingly, Millsap tied the game at 95 with just under three minutes to go. After the teams battled to a near draw down the stretch of the game, the Nuggets held a one-point lead with 20 seconds remaining. Dončić drove the lane and finished with a strong dunk while being fouled, but he would miss the ensuing free throw, widening the door for a Nuggets victory.
"In the NBA, if you want to be a good team you have to win games in different ways.” Michael Malone said following the win. “We didn't play our best game tonight but down the stretch we got stops, rebounds and Nikola bailed us out with an unbelievable finish."
Millsap led the Nuggets with 33 points on 14-of-19 shooting from the field. Murray (12 points), Malik Beasley (12) and Will Barton (11) were the other Nuggets in double-figures.
The Mavericks were led by Dončić, who scored 24 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out nine assists. Jalen Brunson (20 points), Hardaway Jr. (17) and Dwight Powell (16 points) were the other players in double-figures for the Mavericks.
The Nuggets wrap up their home stand against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. That game will tip-off at 7 p.m. MT and will be aired on Altitude TV.