The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Denver Nuggets 124-117 Thursday night to in the most exciting game of the young season to move to 4-4 on the season.
If you stayed awake into the dark, lonely night, the Mavericks didn’t necessarily reward you for your loyalty in the early goings. The Mavericks started Willie Cauley-Stein and Maxi Kleber again, but the team looked flat and sloppy for most of the first half. About midway through the second quarter, the Mavericks had more turnovers (10) than made field goals (8). At the half, the Nuggets led 52-43.
The third quarter was a different story as the Mavericks worked their way back into the game and carried that momentum through the rest of the second half (more on the third quarter below). As the two teams traded blows in the fourth, the Nuggets talent, with MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, began to shine. Right when it looked like Dallas was going to steal a road win on a Kleber triple, Jokic tied it up at the buzzer giving him 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Finally, if you stayed awake into the darker and lonelier night, the Mavericks rewarded you by closing out the Nuggets on the road in overtime. Doncic paved the way with 38 points and the team was able to outlast 38 points from Jokic and 21 points from Jamal Murray.
Here are some observations:
The Mavericks showed resolve in the third quarter
Dallas came out flat as can be in the opening two frames. The offensive struggles that have plagued the Mavericks in their disgusting losses stuck with them in the first 24 minutes as the team coughed the ball up, hovered around the perimeter, and missed open shots. The team made only four of their 21 triples with Josh Richardson missing all four of his attempts and Tim Hardaway Jr. connecting on only one of five.
However, the team turned the page in the third quarter. They registered only one turnover and splashed in five of their six threes. That’s the Mavericks’ recipe for success, and they certainly cooked in the third quarter going on a 17-7 run to make the game competitive again. It was a nice bounce-back response from a team that has lacked some fight in a few games this season.
The role players stepped up in a big way
The story of this young season was how the Maverick role players simply couldn’t make shots. That looked to be the case through the first half, but as outlined above, they flipped the script not only in the third but in the fourth quarter and overtime as well. For starters, Kleber (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks) hadn’t hit a shot the entire game but nailed three clutch triples and chased down one loose ball that generated an extra point on a free throw. Hardaway (11 points) bounced back in the third quarter and gave the team some much-needed juice with his jumper.
Richardson (14 points), who was having a terrible game up until the overtime, scored five quick points to push the Mavericks ahead for good. Finney-Smith also stepped up early and finished with a well-rounded 14 points, eight rebounds (three offensive), two assists, three steals, and two blocks.
If Doncic isn’t all the way back, he’s very, very close
After registering his first triple-double against the Rockets last game, Doncic followed up with a cool 38 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds on 13-of-22 shooting. He (and the whole team) was sloppy early, but he found his rhythm as the game progressed and controlled the game in the second half and overtime. He appeared a little gimpy early in the game, but he was fine. He’ll be more than fine this season. He’s an MVP candidate.
The Mavericks versatility was on display
There was one possession late in the game where the Mavericks switched and scrambled for almost the entirety of the 24-second shot clock forcing a tough shot from the Nuggets. The ball found it’s way to Jokic, but the Mavericks were able to force another stop. It was an impressive scramble drill where all players moved on a string playing team defense. That play was a microcosm of the Mavericks play down the stretch. With Kleber and Cauley-Stein, the Mavericks had enough size and length to make it tough on Jokic, and Richardson, Finney-Smith, and Kleber were all able to switch and play interchangeable roles on the defensive end.