Denver Nuggets 101, Dallas Mavericks 111: Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

The grind of an NBA regular season can be difficult to navigate at times. For the Denver Nuggets, a 111-101 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back Monday night snapped a five-game winning streak. Despite a season-high 35 points for Nikola Jokić, the Nuggets couldn’t overcome cold 3-point shooting and some struggles on the second unit.

The Nuggets had a 16-13 advantage midway through the first quarter as they hit seven of their first 11 shot attempts. Despite 17 combined points from Jokić and Monte Morris, Denver fell behind 35-32 after the first 12 minutes. Both teams shot 63.6 percent from the field in the opening frame.

Seven points from Bol Bol early in the second quarter helped Denver’s second unit as both teams traded buckets throughout the second quarter. The Nuggets gained momentum to end the half and ultimately secured a 58-49 advantage heading into the break. Jokić finished the half with a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds).

Denver opened up its largest lead of the game at 13 early in the second half, but Dallas was able to slowly chip away at the deficit in the ensuing minutes. The Mavericks cut the lead down to 79-75 with a little under three minutes remaining in the quarter as Jokić and Kristaps Porzingis battled it out, with both big men dropping 12 points in the frame. Denver ultimately took an 83-79 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Dallas continued to shoot well from beyond the arc to open the fourth quarter and quickly took an 85-83 lead, prompting a timeout from Nuggets head coach Michael Malone within the first minute of the final frame. Denver’s second unit went cold, which allowed the Mavericks to capitalize. As Denver’s starters checked back in, the Nuggets made one final comeback push, but it wasn’t enough as Dallas made too many timely baskets to secure the victory.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s loss.

Starters thrived

Denver’s new-look starting unit thrived Monday night. With Austin Rivers replacing Will Barton in the opening group, the Nuggets were able to consistently build an advantage when their starters were on the floor.

Led by Jokić (35 points, 16 rebounds, six assists), Morris (17 points, eight assists), and Aaron Gordon (14 points, seven rebounds), Denver’s starters found success throughout the first three quarters before the reigning MVP took over down the stretch. Despite several injuries throughout the season to starters, the Nuggets continue to have success with the starting lineup, mainly a result of the team’s system built around the reigning MVP.

Bol makes the most of the opportunity

One day before his birthday, Bol Bol received early playing time Monday night to the surprise and delight of many in Nuggets Nation. The 7-foot-2 big man impressed in the first half, dropping seven points in eight minutes while he also protected the rim with a big block.

Although the young big man didn’t make his presence felt as much in the second half, on a night in which Denver was also without Zeke Nnaji, Bol’s ability to make an impact should give Denver’s coaching staff more confidence when facing similar situations in the future.

Second unit struggles

How quickly things can change in the NBA. On Sunday night, Denver’s second unit combined for 63 points in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. However, that group struggled to find a rhythm 24 hours later in Dallas, finishing with 16 points.

As Dallas made a run towards the end of the third quarter and to open the fourth, Denver’s offense struggled to get quality looks on offense without a starter on the floor. It certainly didn’t help that Bones Hyland appeared to roll an ankle in the first half, potentially hampering his ability to generate offense with the ball in his hands. Dallas finished with 27 bench points as the Mavericks tied the season series.

Denver returns to action Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers (7 p.m. MT).

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