Denver Nuggets 117, Dallas Mavericks 124 OT: Three takeaways
The Nuggets led by as many as 12 and would eventually force overtime against the Mavericks, but it wasn’t enough as they suffered a 124-117 defeat at Ball Arena.
Nikola Jokić continued his magnificent start to the season, powering Denver with 38 points, 11 rebounds and four dimes. Luka Dončić also scored 38 points and helped lead Dallas to the win, adding 13 assists, nine boards and four steals.
After holding Dallas to just 43 points on 33.3 percent in the first half, Denver couldn’t sustain the same effort in the final 24 minutes. The Mavs shot 62.2 percent in the final two quarters of the game, including 10 of 14 from three.
"It never should have gone to overtime," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game. "Bottom line is, I thought our first half defense was great. I thought our fly-around mentality was great. In the second half, we had none of that."
The Nuggets will now aim to get back on track when they travel East to start a four-game road trip that begins Saturday (1 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE) at the Eastern Conference-leading Sixers (7-2).
Here are the takeaways:
Defense falls apart after the first half
The Nuggets put on a defensive clinic in the first half and only allowed the Mavs to convert on four of their 21 attempts from downtown. This was a group that was locked in and was relentless. They got after it in the passing lanes, stealing the ball six times and shut down any shooter not named Dončić.
In the second half, there were several lapses and the overall energy of the unit dissipated as the game progressed. Denver had just two takeaways and allowed Dallas to not only beat it from the perimeter but also score 24 points in the paint as well. In overtime, the Mavericks continued their hot hand as they hit five of eight shots and outscored the Nuggets 15-8.
"Second half, we had too many breakdowns. Just a lack of discipline," Malone explained. "Coming out of a timeout, [we] give up a big three to Maxi Kleber. End of the game, up one, we overhelp and give up another three to Maxi Kleber. I would say a lack of discipline at times, as well as a lack of multiple effort. We had tremendous examples of that in the first half, but we just weren’t able to sustain it. "
"A tough game. I think they made some adjustments which messed up us a little bit," Jamal Murray added in explaining the team's second-half performance. "They got some good looks with the single side tags. Just trying to manipulate our low man. They’re a good team. They have a lot of shooters. Luka [Doncic] made some perfect passes. It’s tough, but it’s going to be better. Just a tough game. Long game, overtime. The ball was in our hands, we could have won the game a few times. [It] just didn’t happen.”
Inconsistent effort continues
A recurring storyline of the 2020-21 Nuggets is their inability to put together a full 48-minute game. Even in their back-to-back sweep of the Timberwolves, the Nuggets would look sharp in spells only to allow their opponent back into the game. That inconsistency will be continued to be punished by good teams unless the Nuggets figure out a way to solve it.
"We have been all season long, a two-quarter team, a three-quarter team; we have yet to be a four-quarter team. That is definitely biting us in the ass right now,” Malone said.
Although the Nuggets shot the ball better in the second half, it was largely off the back of a dominant second 24-minute spell from Jokić. Outside of Gary Harris, who had nine in that span, no other player scored more than seven points in the final two quarters and overtime. The Nuggets have built success on their depth and need to get back to sharing the rock more effectively. The team had 25 assists to 13 turnovers in the overtime loss.
“We just got to fly around more like we were doing in the first half," Harris said. "Got to keep that up for four quarters.”
Jokic’s dominant fourth
It might not have led to a win, but Nikola Jokić continues to find ways to take over games in the second half.
Jokić shot 3-of-12 for 10 points and five boards in the opening 24 minutes. He would more than respond in the second half and overtime, scoring 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting. It was his dramatic shot off the left corner with 2.4 seconds remaining that led to Denver forcing overtime.