DENVER, CO - JANUARY 27: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets looks on during the game against the Dallas Mavericks on January 27, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
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Nuggets Shake Off Cold-Shooting, Rally to Beat Mavs

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

The minute the Mavericks got Saturday night’s game into the fourth quarter, the chess match was on. The Nuggets had played themselves into a corner. Now, it was time to sort through the muck and find a way to win.

And the muck was more than just the Mavericks, who had put themselves in position to win. It was the Nuggets getting out of their own way seeing their way to a victory. They eventually did just that in a 91-89 win over the Mavericks at the Pepsi Center.

“We were down nine in the fourth quarter, and it seemed there was just a lot of negative energy on our bench and in our huddles,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “And what I liked was that we found a way to get past that and understand that we needed to win this game. Put all of the personal, petty stuff to the side and let’s remember what our collective goal is – to win this game and protect our home court.”

The Nuggets turned up the defense in the fourth quarter to accomplish that goal, outscoring the Mavericks 25-15 to rally from down nine early in the period to overtake the Mavericks. They also overcame nine personal foul calls, which resulted in seven free throw attempts for Dallas. The Mavericks only made three of those.

And then the Nuggets got a big fourth out of Jamal Murray, who did not start the game after a “violation of team rules,” Malone said. Murray scored 10 points in the fourth, and Gary Harris made every shot he took from anywhere on the court in the fourth to score seven in the period. Their offense, combined with the Nuggets defense, put them over the top.

This was the Nuggets’ third straight victory, moving them to 3-1 on the home stand. They improved to 26-23 overall and 19-6 at home.

Malone said Harris’s voice in huddles turned out to be vital in getting the Nuggets on track. Harris said he was just doing what he had to do.

“I was just trying to make sure everybody was locked in,” Harris said. “We had to get this win. If we were going to win, we all had to be on the same page. I was just trying to make sure we were all on the same page.”

When Wesley Matthews made a 3-pointer with 1:32 to play – his first of the night – the game was tied at 89. Nikola Jokic gave the Nuggets the lead with a jumper at 1:12, which proved to be the game-winning shot. The Nuggets got stops on the last three Mavericks possessions to seal the win.

Harris led the Nuggets with 24 points. Jokic collected the eighth triple-double of his career with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. Murray finished with 15 points in his reserve role. Trey Lyles recorded a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Neither team shot the ball well, but the Nuggets did make 12 3-pointers in the contest.

“It was a collective effort,” Malone said. “Everybody just kind of realized that ‘I can’t let this silly, personal stuff get in the way of what we are trying to accomplish.’ I’m not naïve. We’ve been together for a long time now. You’re not going to like me at times, and I’m not going to like you at times. But at the end of the day, we have to respect each other and find ways to come together and make sure these things don’t linger.

“That’s a challenge. You’re with these guys more than you’re with your own family. It’s not going to be perfect every day. I think our guys understand that. As long as we don’t lose sight of the greater cause, and that is to win as many games as we can.”

Christopher Dempsey: and @chrisadempsey on Twitter