One thing we know about the Dallas Mavericks is that they are a bad basketball team away from home. But seeing them hang 69 points and keep pace with the Denver Nuggets in the first half was a terrific development. The Nuggets were rolling coming off three consecutive wins against the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors, so the Mavericks keeping it competitive is nothing to scoff at, even though the Nuggets took a 74-69 lead after two quarters.
The fireworks continued in the second half as neither team seemed interested in playing any defense. For the Mavericks the third quarter was all about Luka Doncic, but the Nuggets almost put the game away for good by closing the third frame on 14-0 run. However Dallas didn’t roll over and raced out of the fourth quarter gates on a 9-2 run to stay within striking distance. The Nuggets’ firepower proved to be too much in the end as Jamal Murray was able to close the door on any Mavericks’ upset attempts. The 126-118 loss dropped the Mavericks to 15-14 and 2-11 on the road.
Luka Doncic’s career high assists
With each passing game Doncic gets better and better, and tonight he was reading the floor like a 10-year veteran as he recorded a career-high 12 assists. It’s been surprising how Doncic has transitioned to the NBA. His calling card in Europe was his premier passing and court vision which seemed like it would transition seamlessly. But so far Doncic has looked like a bonafide go-to scorer while his playmaking took a back seat.
Tonight those two qualities seemed to reach an equilibrium as Doncic continually set up teammates in the first half and did much of his scoring damage in the second half. Doncic was throwing cross court passes out of the pick and roll that hit teammates camped out in the corner right in the shooting pocket. This pass is absurd. Not many players can do this, but Doncic is slinging it against the top Western Conference team in his 28th NBA game.
Just an outstanding read, and a great shot by Barnes pic.twitter.com/9ArIUU3nY7— Luka-Industrial Complex, Chief Lobbyist (@KirkSeriousFace) December 19, 2018
He was surgical in the half court, but most importantly his passing was contagious. As a team the Mavericks recorded 26 assists which is an uptick from their 22 per game average. When players know they can get the ball at any moment it’s much easier for them to give it up. That’s the impact Doncic had for the Mavericks’ offense. On the game he had 23 points, 12 assists and six rebounds and earned 12 trips to the free throw line. It’s evident the game is slowing down for the rookie and the future is bright.
Nikola Jokic was dominant
Jokic has been ascending toward the NBA’s elite for a few seasons now and tonight was a perfect example why. The Mavericks were sensational on offense but the Nuggets were better in almost every category because of Jokic. For the game the Nuggets’ big man pumped in 32 points and pulled down 16 rebounds including six offensive boards. Looking at the team stats, the Nuggets dominated the Mavericks on the boards 47-33. The Nuggets dished seven more assists. And most notably Denver abused Dallas in the paint scoring 64 points compared to the Mavericks’ 44.
The Mavericks just didn’t have an answer for Jokic and it trickled down into all facets of the game. Early in the game when the Mavericks were switching, the Nuggets matched up smaller guards on Jokic and he proceeded to feast. Other times the Mavs tried to double and Jokic found open players (which is why Denver shot 57 percent from the field). The Serbian had his way when he played against the Dallas bench unit and was simply dominant the whole night.
This Harrison Barnes is very valuable
Barnes has been playing quality basketball as of late, and tonight he played the perfect role for his future in Dallas. With Doncic being the primary initiator and shot creator, Barnes was able to let the game and shots come to him and benefit from Doncic’s presence. Barnes finished with 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting while making 5-of-8 from deep. After he buried a handful of triples, the Nuggets closed harder. Barnes responded by attacking hard on the close out which resulted in several buckets at the rim, especially since Jokic was playing in foul trouble for most of the second half. It’s still quite alarming that Barnes failed to register one assist even though the Mavericks scored 118 points, but if he’s going to shoot 63 percent from three, then we can wait to discuss that another time.