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3 things to watch as the Mavericks battle the Nuggets in Denver

This is the beginning of a very tough seven-game stretch for the Mavericks.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been over a month now since the Dallas Mavericks beat down a depleted Denver Nuggets team, 122-105, on “Seats for Soldiers” night at AAC. Although the Mavericks will be the road team tonight, they’ll be hoping for the same result. Paul Millsap remains out after having wrist surgery, but the Nuggets will have Nikola Jokic to help them this time around. We’ll see if Dallas can get enough shots to fall to pull out a good road win in Denver, a notoriously hard place to play because of the high altitude.

Here are three things to watch for tonight.

The Mavericks really need to score 100 points or more

The Nuggets are struggling as of late, losing four out of their last five games. In those four losses, Denver gave up over 100 points to its opponents. The lone win in that stretch came against the Memphis Grizzlies with a final score of 87-78. So far this season, the Nuggets have a record of 10-19 when allowing opponents to put up 100 points or more. So, yeah, it seems pretty clear what the biggest key to the game is tonight. Somebody should notify Rick Carlisle of my deep analysis.

The last time these teams played, the Nuggets were sitting as the four seed in the Western Conference standings. Losing Millsap to that wrist injury has really hurt them though, as they’re barely holding on to that final playoff spot.

Dennis Smith Jr. playing his first game at the Pepsi Center

Last time, Smith Jr. put up a pretty nice stat line, scoring 20 points, five rebounds and three assists against the Nuggets.

It may be a little more difficult for him this time around though, given the high altitude in Denver. Although Smith Jr. is well-conditioned, he’s still a rookie that hasn’t been in this tough environment before. But as we’ve seen so far this season, Smith Jr. isn’t one to back down from a challenge, so we’ll see how he tackles this one tonight.

It’s been a long time since the Mavericks haven’t been in a “clutch game”

Entering this game tonight, the Mavs have now played in twelve consecutive “clutch games,” games that are within five points with under five minutes remaining in the game. The Mavs record during that stretch is 6-6. So not bad, but not great either. It would really be nice if Dallas could get off to a fast start in this one, like they did the last time they played the Nuggets (Mavs led 39-23 after the first quarter). Don’t get me wrong, these close games have been very fun to watch, but it’d be nice to give my blood pressure a rest every now and then.

If Dallas can get 20-plus points from Harrison Barnes and Smith Jr. again, along with double-digit scoring nights from a lot of the bench guys, I really like the Mavs’ chances in this one. A win would be nice to start out this tough seven-game stretch against current playoff teams. Including the game tonight, the Mavs’ schedule looks like this:

It won’t be easy, but as weird as this season has been so far, would we really be surprised if the Mavs came out of that with at least four wins?

How to watch

The Mavericks and Nuggets will tip off in the Pepsi Center at 8:00 p.m. Central. The game can be watched on FSSW and NBA League Pass.