The Dallas Mavericks (9-6) and the Denver Nuggets (9-6) square off this weekend at the American Airlines Center for the second time. With a 6:30 pm tip-off, the Mavericks are hoping to repeat the performance of the win on Friday night, 127-99.
Luka Doncic entertained the home fans and frustrated the Nuggets’ defense on the way to his 50th career triple-double. Without reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and star guard Jamal Murray, the Nuggets struggled to keep up with the Mavericks’ blistering offense in the second quarter. 44 points marked a season-high output for any single quarter and showed the best version of this current Dallas roster with a rested Luka Doncic pairing with a volcanic scoring eruption from sixth-man of the year candidate Christian Wood.
Christian Wood has justified swagger
Christian Wood is listed as a Center, has the height and post moves of a Power Forward, and the skill set of a slashing shooting guard with a deft touch from distance. In other words, he is a problem for opposing defenses. While he was languishing in Houston, teams could afford to weather his onslaught since the Rockets had little else by way of efficient scoring. Coming off the Mavericks' bench with the greenest of lights, Wood is creating points in bunches. In the final 4:50 of the first quarter, Wood contributed a quick 13 points. His night concluded with 28 points in 26 minutes as the Nuggets had no matchup answers for Wood.
This is not a luxury for the Mavericks. Dallas needs this production from Wood to create separation from their opponent on the scoreboard. As the bilateral trust between Wood and the coaching staff firms up, will his minutes expand from 25 minutes a game presently to the low 30s?
Keep an eye on the Nuggets' approach to guarding Wood. Without an obvious stopper, will they send a double his way in a bid to keep the Mavs’ microwave scorer from heating up?
The Nuggets need more from Michael Porter Jr.
After missing all but nine games last year, Michael Porter Jr has returned to the Nuggets this season and played well out of the gate - averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in October. However, in three of his last four games, he has underperformed when the Nuggets need him most - including his 4-for-15 showing Friday against Dallas. Outside of Jokic and Murray, Porter Jr. is the most likely candidate to have the sort of performance Denver needs to compete with Dallas. Will he step up in the rematch?
Glimmer of hope for McGee
Mavericks center JaVale McGee had a nice game Friday - going 5-6 from the field with 10 points and a plus/minus of +11. After several disappointing showings early in the season in the starting role contributing to the Mavericks falling behind in the first quarter, McGee has come off the bench recently.
Since there are no mulligans in free agency outside of the trade market, McGee is going to be here for a good long while. If he can find his way in the Mavericks system by facing second units, it is within the realm of possibility that his effectiveness as a rotation player will manifest as the season progresses. Keep an eye on his minutes against Denver tonight as there should be plenty of room to operate with Jokic sidelined.
Where to watch
Catch the Mavericks and Nuggets tonight at 6:30 pm on Bally Sports Southwest.