Denver Nuggets 117, Dallas Mavericks 113: Three takeaways
The Nuggets wouldn’t let the loss of two key players impact their chance to extend their season-long win streak to four as they powered through to secure a 117-113 victory against the Mavericks in Dallas.
Despite losing PJ Dozier to a right hamstring injury and Jamal Murray to a third quarter ejection, Denver rallied behind the efforts of Nikola Jokić, Michael Porter Jr., and the rest of its reserves.
Porter Jr. came off the bench and tied his season-high with 30 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with eight boards and two steals. Jokić had his 17th consecutive double-double, putting up 20 points and 10 rebounds and added four dimes and two steals. Denver’s bench would outscore its counterparts with a sizable 63-29 margin. Luka Dončić was a man possessed for Dallas, dropping an unreal stat line of 35 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds.
"This was a [test] of character," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "Coming here off two overtime games and come here and a lot of things are happening and we found a way to get the win."
The Nuggets have been at their best during this road trip, going 3-0 against some of the Western Conference’s top teams in Phoenix and Dallas. They will travel east to take on the Miami Heat Wednesday night (5:30 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).
Here are the takeaways:
MPJ provides spark
The third time was the charm for Michael Porter Jr, who had his first dominant performance since his return from a three-week absence due to the health and safety protocols.
The second-year forward overcame a slow start in the first quarter, where he had just one point to get cooking in the second. Porter Jr. scored 11 on 4-of-6 shooting, including 2 of 3 from downtown.
"My whole mindset since I started playing [again] is to just contribute in any way I can," Porter Jr. said. "I just wanted to come in and give a spark off the bench. Now, me and those guys have really developed chemistry.
Porter Jr. remained sizzling in the second half, picking up the slack following Murray’s ejection in the third quarter. He even showed some progression on defense, making two key stops late in the fourth quarter – including one on the Mavs’ all-world star Dončić.
"Just my attentiveness," Porter Jr. said of his improvement on the defensive end. "Just trying to anticipate actions before [they happen] and not just react to what the offense is doing. That's been helping me a lot lately."
Porter Jr. also played a part of the Nuggets’ 7-0 run late in the fourth with a slam at the 2:49 mark thanks to an assist from Gary Harris. It was Porter Jr.’s three-pointer with 41.3 seconds remaining that would ice the game for Malone’s team. Porter Jr. set a new career-high in made threes, notching six on the night. His previous high was five, set against the Spurs in the Bubble on Aug. 5, 2020.
"He was tremendous tonight," Malone said. "We don't win the game without Michael Porter Jr. having the game he had."
JaMychal Green powers bench
There was a play at the 6:12 mark in the fourth quarter where JaMychal Green penetrated into the lane and scored despite contact. After the play, the reserve curled his biceps in celebration. That is the much-advertised toughness and grit that made Green a top target for the Nuggets this past offseason.
Green poured in a season-high 17 points to go along with eight rebounds in just 23 minutes. His chemistry with Porter Jr. has been impressive so far as their ability to space the floor and get to the rim are forcing opposing defenses to pick their poison.
"I just love the energy he plays with," Porter Jr. said of Green. "He can shoot it, I can shoot it. We're pretty much interchangeable on the court...He's way better than I thought he was and I'm really excited to have him on the team."
The bench, overall, was a game-changer. Facundo Campazzo was a game-high +12 despite not scoring due to his impact on defense and playmaking. Monte Morris had a team-high six assists. Even R.J. Hampton played a role, getting six minutes in the win.
Nuggets’ fourth quarter defensive clinic
Dallas entered the fourth quarter having a two-point lead thanks to scoring 94 points on 54.8 percent shooting. The team’s hot hand wouldn’t carry over into the fourth quarter and the Nuggets’ defense deserves credit for holding the group to under 20 points in the final 12 minutes of the game.
Denver held Dallas to just 31.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, including just 3 of 10 from downtown. Although Dončić remained nearly unguardable, adding nine points in the final 12 minutes, the Nuggets were stingy with the rest of his teammates. The rest of Mavs’ starters put up a combined two points on 0-of-9 shooting.