The Dallas Mavericks suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers and are looking to right the ship against the 3-0 Denver Nuggets. A Western Conference favorite, the Nuggets are deep and led by MVP candidate Nikola Jokic who is a walking triple-double threat.
The Nuggets are nearly dominant at the Pepsi Center where they won 34 games and lost only seven last season. When these two teams faced off last season, Doncic threw down one of his most memorable plays before Jokic saved the Nuggets at the buzzer.
LUKA THROWS IT DOWN WITH 5.8 SECONDS LEFT! pic.twitter.com/FhGOPULetO— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) March 15, 2019
The last two games have posed tough challenges for Dallas, but tonight’s bout is the stiffest yet and a fantastic barometer for the upstart Mavericks.
Here’s what to watch for when the Mavericks visit the Nuggets:
Slowing down Jokic
Jokic earned his first all-star berth last season on a herculean 20 points, 11 rebound and seven assists per night, and the Serbian has picked up right where he left off averaging 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
Like most teams, Dallas is hardly equipped to handle the Nuggets superstar who can score from all areas, handle the ball and facilitate as one of the league’s top playmakers. Maxi Kleber will surely get the first crack, but he’ll likely have a tough time staying on the floor as he’s collected four fouls in two of the Mavericks’ three games. Jokic is especially troubling for Kristaps Porzingis, who uses his length to make up for his slight frame, since Jokic can leverage his fuller frame to mitigate Porzingis’ length.
Defending the three-point line
While the Mavericks have struggled to find their range, the Nuggets are on the opposite end of the spectrum, connecting on a league high 42 percent from deep as a team on 30 attempts per game. Denver boasts six players who have canned 36 percent of their threes or better through the first two games with Monte Morris and Malik Beasley both splashing in at least 46 percent of their attempts. Dallas kept Washington and New Orleans at bay behind the arc, but allowed Portland to shoot 41 percent from three. Dallas must contest Denver’s snipers to steal one on the road.
Rick Carlisle, noted tinkerer of lineups, seemed to have found something that worked starting Jalen Brunson and Delon Wright and bringing Seth Curry off the bench early as the Mavericks scored 40 points in the first quarter. Carlisle went even further to play Curry with Doncic for long stretches in the first half, and the offense hummed against a good Trail Blazers team.
I won’t go as far to say Carlisle’s going to settle now, because he won’t, and he’s still going to to see what sticks, but he found a recipe for success starting another creator like Brunson and keeping Curry, the best shooter on the team, on the floor with gravity-pulling players like Doncic and Porzingis. The Nuggets can play big with Jokic or small with the versatile Millsap and Jerami Grant, so Carlisle will have his work cut out for him figuring out what lineup works best.
How to watch
The game tips off at 8 p.m. and can be watched on Fox Sports Southwest or NBA League Pass.