Denver Nuggets 89, Dallas Mavericks 103: Three Takeaways

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There are several times throughout the course of an NBA regular season that a team is glad to have a short turnaround to cleanse themselves of a disappointing performance. It certainly feels like that will be the case for the Denver Nuggets following a 103-89 loss to the Dallas Mavericks Monday night in a game in which Denver committed 26 turnovers and shot 24 percent from beyond the arc.

The two teams battled to a near draw in the early portion of Monday’s contest, with Dallas holding a slim 11-10 lead at the first timeout. The Mavericks capitalized on a few Nuggets turnovers to pull away for an 18-12 lead, but Denver responded with an 8-0 run to take the lead late in the frame. As the back-and-forth quarter continued, Dallas eventually secured a 24-20 advantage after the first 12 minutes. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokić led the way for the Mile High squad with eight points apiece in the opening quarter, but the Nuggets committed seven turnovers in the opening frame.

The Mavericks pushed the lead to double-digits early in the second quarter as Denver’s offense continued to struggle. The Nuggets used defense to stay in the game, as they found themselves down seven points with six minutes remaining in the first half despite cold 3-point and free throw shooting and struggles to take care of the ball. However, the tough defense wasn’t enough to overcome those issues on the other end of the floor and Denver found itself down 46-37 at the halftime break.

Denver quickly got within five in the opening minutes of the second half but couldn’t cut the deficit any further than that as Dallas held a 59-49 lead midway through the third quarter. Although they continued to struggle with turnovers and fouls, the Nuggets got within three with just over two minutes remaining in the frame. Ultimately, Dallas took a 69-63 lead into the fourth quarter.

Several trips to the free throw line helped the Nuggets get within two points in the opening minutes of the final frame. However, as had been the case throughout the night, the Mavericks completely halted Denver’s momentum and built their lead back up to nine at 81-72 with just under seven minutes remaining. Denver’s 25th turnover of the night led to a Dallas 3-pointer that pushed the lead back up to double digits with 4:23 remaining. A late flurry from beyond the arc from the Mavericks put the game to bed with a few minutes remaining./p>

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s loss.

Denver dug themselves a hole

In what continued a concerning trend from Saturday’s game in Houston, the Mile High squad struggled mightily to value each possession, which dug a hole that was too deep to climb out of against the Mavericks.

Denver committed 18 turnovers against the Rockets Saturday, which carried into the first half of Monday’s contest, where the Nuggets coughed it up 14 times. Those 14 turnovers led to 15 points for the Mavericks, which was key in fueling their halftime lead.

It was more of the same for the Nuggets in the second half, and they eventually finished with 26 turnovers on the night, which Dallas converted into 28 points.

Cold shooting hurt Denver’s offense

Another trend that carried over from Saturday was Denver’s cold shooting from beyond the arc. It didn’t hold the Nuggets back much in Houston, but certainly limited their offense Monday night, especially as Dallas went to zone defense and frequent double-teams against Jokić (more on that later).

After a 2-of-10 first half from downtown, the Mile High squad finished 6-of-25 from deep, good for just 24 percent. A combination of cold shooting and plenty of turnovers certainly isn’t a good recipe for a road win against a tough Western Conference playoff contender.

Jokić was locked in

The Mavericks came into Monday’s game with a specific game plan to make life difficult for the reigning MVP. That plan focused on timely double teams as soon as the Serbian big man caught the ball in the post and also included some zone looks to try and throw off Denver’s offensive rhythm.

Although it wasn’t always pretty, Jokić was able to deliver in his role Monday night, finishing with 27 points and 16 rebounds in his 35 minutes of action. Unsurprisingly, Denver’s cold shooting limited Jokić to just three assists, but he still made his presence felt in the box score due to his activity on the boards and active hands-on defense that resulted in two steals.

Denver is back in action Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz (8 p.m. MT).