The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Denver Nuggets by a score of 130-104. Dallas was competitive for a while, but the game really got away from them in the third quarter, as their offense stagnated while Denver continued to score at will.
Given how shorthanded the Mavericks are, a road game against the reigning champions was always going to be a severe uphill battle. It would have taken a borderline miracle to pull this one off tonight. Alas, no such luck! Here are three numbers that tell the story of this ugly defeat.
4: rotation players out
The NBA is a next-man-up league, but Dallas never stood a chance with Kyrie Irving, Dereck Lively II, Josh Green, and Maxi Kleber all missing tonight’s game. Though the Mavericks have been weathering the storm and winning without Irving and company lately, losing Lively against a juggernaut like the Nuggets proved too much to overcome.
Denver had their way with the Maverick defense, scoring 60 points in the paint and hitting 14 threes on 53.8% shooting. Lively is the linchpin of what the Mavericks want to do defensively, and though they struggle even with him in the lineup, everything falls apart when he’s not on the floor. Overall, the Mavericks did not have the horses to compete tonight.
1: Non-Luka Mavericks in double figures
Only Luka Doncic (38 points) and Dante Exum (11 points on 5-of-5 shooting) were able to crack 10-plus points tonight. Down so many rotation pieces, you need others to step up and shoulder the load. The rest of the Maverick supporting cast was completely incapable of doing this. Tim Hardaway Jr. had a stinker, going 3-of-12 from the floor for just eight points. Grant Williams continued to struggle. And no one else hit open threes or found other ways to manufacture offense.
To be clear, Dallas lost this game on the defensive end — but without Lively, you’re going to have to turn games into shootouts, and Dallas was not up to the task tonight.
36: Minutes played by Luka Doncic
It was a superstar performance from the should-be MVP frontrunner tonight, scoring 38 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out eight assists. He shot 13-of-24 from the field and 6-of-12 from three. But, in a game that was basically decided by the midway point of the third quarter, Doncic played too many minutes. He played nearly the entire second and third quarters, only coming out for one minute during the second. He started the fourth quarter and played four more minutes despite the game being all but over. I know he probably wanted to stat pad a bit, but coach Jason Kidd can’t allow it in situations like this.
Doncic came into tonight averaging 40 minutes per game over the last 10 contests. I know there’s really no way around this given all the injuries, but the coaching staff needs to be smarter and find rest for Doncic when it’s available. I wouldn’t have even been upset if Doncic took tonight off; the Mavericks have another three-games-in-four-nights stretch immediately following this one. He’s going to get hurt or run out of gas if they keep him at this pace.