The Dallas Mavericks hit the road Saturday night to start a pivotal stretch facing playoff opponents, and the first meant facing the Denver Nuggets. While the game started a bit messy, the Mavericks quickly took hold and never looked back, grabbing an important 116-103 road victory.
At the tip you wouldn’t have known that the Nuggets were the team on the second night of a back-to-back, as they looked rather fresh and jumped out to a 10-0 lead. While much of the first quarter looked sloppy and chaotic from both teams, the Mavericks managed to even the playing field, only trailing by one after the first.
It was in the second quarter, led by Luka Doncic’s 16 first-half points and eight assists, that the Mavericks took control. They led on the glass (plus-eight on the half), and shot 42 percent from three, looking very comfortable on offense. The Mavericks led by 11 at the break.
It was the third quarter where the Mavericks truly locked in, getting physical with the Nuggets defensively and zipping the ball around on offense. They stretched the lead all the way to 20 heading to the final frame.
The Nuggets did their best to shake up a blowout loss and nearly cut it to single digits in the fourth. But the Mavericks did well to keep their distance and never let it get interesting. Here’s what jumped out from tonight’s win.
The ball was zipping
Once the Mavericks got their bearings and found a rhythm, ball movement became a weapon and the Mavericks were finding plenty of open looks. Yes, the Nuggets looked tired and their defense is weak. But the Mavericks didn’t settle. It showed in the team shooting 39 percent from three and scoring 38 points in the paint, while only having eight turnovers.
Doncic led the team with 12 of the team’s 26 assists. But much of the second and third quarters felt like the ball was never sticking and the Nuggets couldn’t keep up. This is the optimal version of the Mavericks’ offense — where the full burden doesn’t fall on Doncic. Speaking of...
Glimpses of pre-season Richardson
Josh Richardson, who scored 27 points in the Mavericks loss on Wednesday while Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis sat, has been very solid since the All-Star break. Tonight he carried some of that momentum earlier in the week and showed flashes of the shooting prowess displayed in the preseason, connecting on 4-of-5 three point attempts. Richardson has gone 9-of-15 from deep since the break and looks to be finding a new rhythm.
He’s did this while also slowing down Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray (10 points, 4-of-13 from the floor), slotting into the exact role the Mavericks need from him and why they traded for him in the first place. The Mavericks are going to be very hard to slow down if Richardson, or Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson, are clicking. Keep an eye on Richardson’s production in the game’s ahead.
Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis might be finding his spring rhythm, much like last season. He looks a little fresher, a little more comfortable with his shot, and it’s beginning to show. In his two appearances since the All-Star break Porzingis is 7-of-12 from three, after leading the team in scoring tonight (25 points, 5-of-7 from three).
He also managed to protect the rim while facing MVP-candidate Nikola Jokic, notching three blocks in the win. The Porzingis storyline is a rollercoaster ride. But it’s important to acknowledge when it’s clicking. Right now, he looks energetic and engaged. And when that happens there’s no doubt the Mavericks are better for it.