Game Preview: What to Watch for in the Nuggets Game Against Dallas

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

Eleven days ago, the Nuggets beat the Dallas Mavericks, 105-102, at the Pepsi Center.

Yet, in some ways, it didn’t feel as good as a win should.

There was a big 23-point Nuggets lead – and then a big Mavericks rally. The fourth quarter, which could have been a relaxing affair as the Nuggets cruised to a win in the first of a back-to-back set, instead turned into a nail-biter. The Nuggets prevailed. But they vowed not to follow that same thriller script this time around.

“We jumped on them pretty good,” guard Will Barton said. “And they made a big run, especially in that fourth quarter. They made the game closer than what it really was. So, we’ve got to make sure if we jump on them early this time, we put them away. But you never know, it’s the NBA, it could be a close game or it might not but as long as we get the win, that’s the only thing.”

So how to do the Nuggets get a win against the Mavericks in the third meeting between the two teams? Start with these things…

Close it out: We’ll just continue the theme right here. The Mavericks are a high energy team that doesn’t fold in the face of big deficits. In their last two games, the Nuggets have closed out games in different ways – making critical plays down the stretch in a win over Portland; and then stretching a lead out at the start of the fourth quarter to win comfortably against the New York Knicks. And it doesn’t just apply to the end of the game. Closing out quarters is extremely important and will be a key against a Dallas team used to rallying.

Run Matthews off the arc: Yes, the Mavericks have lost eight of their last 11 games. But no, it does not mean there aren’t plenty of things to worry about. Wesley Matthews is one of them. He’s been a problem for opposing defenses to handle, shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line in that span and taking 7.0 per game. He’s averaging 16.8 points in that span. The Nuggets must keep track of him when on defense. They did a great job of slowing him down in the last meeting, holding Matthews to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting overall, including 2-of-8 from the 3-point line.

Clog the lane: Dallas puts a ton of guards on the court who are capable of getting into the lane and finishing or creating plays for others. Dribble penetration a problem for the Nuggets back on Jan. 16, especially in the fourth quarter. They must shut off driving lines and contain ball handlers coming off screens.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.