The Dallas Mavericks held off the Denver Nuggets, winning 116-115 Tuesday night on the road in Denver. It’s hard to imagine a more impressive road win for this Dallas team that’s managed just a 2-8 record away from home this season.
Luka Doncic had a “quiet” triple-double, his 52nd, with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists, but it wasn’t always pretty. His five turnovers, especially his two in the fourth as Dallas struggled to score and gave up a 10-point lead late in the frame, were uncharacteristic. It was Tim Hardaway Jr who lead the way scoring for Dallas with 29 points, continuing his hot shooting streak with a 6-of-8 night from deep. It’s just the fifth time this season that a Maverick not named Luka Doncic has led the team in scoring.
Denver’s scoring was typically egalitarian with all five starters scoring in double digits, but Aaron Gordon led the way with 27, and Bones Hyland contributed 20 points from the bench.
Despite leading by 10, 111-101 with just 4:07 to go, Dallas went cold, failing to score for nearly four full in-game minutes. Denver grabbed the lead late on a Bruce Brown three that gave the Nuggets a 112-111 advantage with just 37 seconds to go. It was a Dorian Finney-Smith above-the-break three-pointer to answer and break the Mavs cold shooting that re-established their lead. A couple of nervy exchanges of free throws and a missed heave from Jamal Murray cemented Dallas’ best win of the season.
Things were bleak after Dallas lost five out of six games, culminating in a sickening loss at the hands of the lowly Pistons. It left a bad taste even wins against the Knicks and Sun couldn’t eliminate entirely from the palette of Mavs fans.
However, this win on a back-to-back against a team with a strong home record gives the feeling that the Mavericks may have turned the page on the early-season funk they had found themselves in.
Bless this mess
The pretty shooting numbers from both teams mask what was a bit of an ugly game. Despite both squads topping 50% from the field and 40% from three, Dallas, typically one of the most ball-safe teams in the league, had a higher-than-average 17 turnovers. A spate of turnovers to start the third quarter saw Dallas lose the six point lead they built going into halftime and go down to Denver by two, but a 10-4 run leveled the ship.
The whistles were hard to ignore as well. Teams have been averaging about 20 fouls each so far this year, and both the Mavs and Nuggets topped that with 32 and 28 respectively, killing much of the flow teams typically develop on good shooting nights.
Hustle until the end
In the depth of their recent doldrums, Dallas has found itself on the wrong side of some lopsided rebounding battles.
To an extent, the Mavericks’ willingness to hustle is tied to their ability to make shots. It’s a good sign, then, that even when they were struggling down the stretch, tired legs leading to a lot of missed shots, they didn’t let it keep them off the boards.
Dallas won the rebounding battle in the fourth quarter 10-8.
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