The Dallas Mavericks just didn’t measure up in this measuring stick game. The advanced stats will tell you the same story as the ones in the box score after Friday’s 125-114 loss against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena.
Both teams had reason for optimism coming into the In-Season Tournament opener, but at the end of the night, it was clear: The Nuggets are a well-oiled machine, and the Mavericks are getting better, but still searching for ways to become that team.
After building a 16-point lead in the first quarter, Denver put it in cruise control against Dallas and held off a late, half-cooked Mavericks comeback attempt in the fourth quarter.
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 33 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Luka Dončić led all scorers with 34 points, 10 boards and eight assists, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Dončić and the Mavs in Denver. See below for more on all that.
A grab-bag of first-quarter stats
There are a few simple, straight-forward first-quarter stats that tell you all you need to know about how the Nuggets set the tone early against the Mavs, and conversely, how early on the Mavs started digging their own graves in this one.
The Mavs committed six turnovers in the opening quarter, halting any momentum the offense might have otherwise been able to generate. Meanwhile, the Nuggets shot 70% percent from the field as a team. Denver also nailed six 3-pointers in the first quarter — the most they had hit in any quarter to date this season.
And just like that, Denver’s lead was 40-24 after one. The Mavs were only able to whittle the lead down to single digits in the game’s waning minutes when the effort was too little and too late.
6: Luka Dončić first-half turnovers
Dončić had a real problem with careless, errant passes in the first half against Denver. His tendency to get hung up off the dribble in between passing and shooting was unfortunately on full display. He threw it out of bounds. He threw it into the waiting arms of defenders. He threw it off his intended target’s leg. It was ugly.
His sixth turnover came on the Mavs’ final possession of the first half. His ill-advised pass led to a fast-break leak that ended with a deflection out of bounds — until Jokic nailed a 3-pointer off the inbound pass at the half-time buzzer that put the Nuggets up 70-55 at the break.
Dončić cleaned it up and only committed three turnovers in the second half, ending the night with nine. The rest of the Mavericks roster combined for six turnovers on the night.
87.5%: Jokic’s percentage from the field
Jokic was predictably filthy against the Mavericks. He scored his team-leading 33 points on 14-of-16 shooting. Yeah, that’s 87.5% from the field. He is truly remarkable, and the chess match his presence creates on the floor makes the game even more fascinating to watch.
And while we’re here, let’s take a look at Denver’s top two scorers on the night. Jokic netted his 33 and forward Michael Porter Jr. scored 24 on 10-of-18 shooting and grabbed nine boards as well. These numbers, as well as the eye test for anyone who watched, indicated that the Mavericks struggled Friday, and will likely continue to struggle, against teams with really big and skilled frontcourts.
+9: The Nuggets advantage in offensive rebounds
Speaking of their really big and skilled frontcourt, the Nuggets (19) nearly doubled the Mavericks (10) up on the offensive boards Friday. That led to their huge 20-8 advantage in second-chance points.
Overall, the Nuggets out-rebounded the Mavs, 51-34.