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3 things as the Dallas Mavericks take first L of the season against the Denver Nuggets, 125-114

Dallas is a work in progress, Denver is working on a repeat.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets handed the Dallas Mavericks their first loss of the season Friday night, 125-114.

The Nuggets so thoroughly handled the Mavericks that one must assume Denver’s 21-point loss in Minnesota was some kind of strange, post-championship performance art about the imperfection of man. Dallas was on their heels seemingly the whole game, having to play in comeback mode after giving up a 40-point first quarter.

Luka Doncic led the way for Dallas, scoring 34, but also coughed up nine turnovers, tying his career high. All of Denver’s starting five had solid games and most had double-digit plus-minuses, but it was Jokic filling up the box score with 33/14/9 who did the most damage.

It was Dallas’ first loss of the season and it’s all the proof I need to see that this whole In-Season Tournament thing is a sham.

Held back on the boards

Dallas was largely on the outside looking in from start to finish, but there were a few key possessions in the fourth where they had cut the lead to under 10. Then, with a chance to put the pressure on Denver, they’d give up a brutal offensive board that the Nuggets would convert into an easy two points and stretch the lead back out.

In their four wins to start the season, they haven’t always won the rebounding battle, but it’s always been close. Not so tonight. Denver bullied Dallas on the boards, offensive and defensive, grabbing 51 to Dallas’ 34. Denver had 20 second chance points to Dallas’ eight.

Outpaced

Denver, somewhat famously, is a slow, methodical team. For years, they’ve been among the slowest-paced teams in the league, and they remain so this season. Still, The Nuggets got out and running against Dallas, putting up 21 fast break points to the Mavs’ nine. With Dallas fighting and clawing for every inch to get back into this game, giving up easy transition points was not helping.

Pieces coming together

The 4-0 start was promising, but this game showed just how big a gap there is between a Championship team like Denver and Dallas. The Nuggets, already a fantastic home team that lost just seven games at home last season, were a well-oiled machine. A tight nine-man rotation with high-quality role players up and down the roster. Dallas has some bright spots but is clearly still tinkering. Twelve players saw the floor for Dallas – among them, Seth Curry saw five minutes, and Dante Exum and Oliver Maxence-Prosper both had just one. Not to mention, Dallas was down a head coach.

There’s still plenty of season for this team to gel and figure out how all these new pieces fit, but it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It was nice to see Dallas didn’t simply lay down and roll over to a 20 or 30-point loss, but they just didn’t have the cohesion to push Denver tonight.