The Mavericks almost survived flight delays and a Bomb Cyclone, but they have been helpless in opposition to Nikola Jokic’s game-winner.
Jokic awoke from a three-quarter slumber, poured in his solely 4 baskets of the sport, and the Nuggets survived 100-99 on an unbelievable, fading one-handed turnaround on the buzzer.
Denver entered the fourth quarter down 10 factors earlier than they slowly chipped away, first on the defensive finish after which with Jokic within the publish. The Nuggets held the Mavericks to only 10 fourth-quarter factors and received a season-high 33 from veteran ahead Paul Millsap. A ferocious dunk from Dallas’ sensational rookie Luka Doncic almost gave the Mavericks the sport, placing them up 99-98 with solely seconds remaining.
Backup guard Monte Morris was very important on each ends of the ground, ending with seven factors and 4 assists and a number of other enormous defensive stops.
The win improved the Nuggets’ file to 45-22 and moved them to only one recreation again of first-place Golden State. Maybe extra importantly, it gave them a Three and ½ recreation lead over the Rockets for the No. 2 seed with 15 video games remaining.
The Mavericks, who entered having misplaced 11 of their final 12 video games, landed in Denver Thursday morning after Wednesday’s snowstorm.
“Within the trendy period of personal planes and charters, I’ve by no means been with a workforce the place this has occurred,” mentioned Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “Look, the NBA is wild and loopy at occasions. … I’m not large into excuses. I definitely don’t need to make an excuse earlier than we throw the ball up.”
A lackluster first half gave method to an equally confounding third quarter that noticed the Mavericks prolong their result in 89-79. Jokic was uncharacteristically passive, content material to facilitate as an alternative of hunt for his photographs, and the Nuggets concurrently went chilly from the 3-point line. Mavericks level guard Jalen Brunson buried 11 factors within the quarter, exposing a collection of defensive breakdowns each on the perimeter and within the paint.
Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, a 14-time all-star, earned the beginning Thursday in what is perhaps his ultimate go to to Denver. If it was, the longer term Corridor of Famer has laid a great blueprint for the Nuggets’ franchise cornerstone to comply with even when Jokic was hardly as impactful as ordinary.
“On this day in age, with gamers transferring in every single place and demanding trades, making an attempt to play with this man or that man, the truth that Dirk has stayed in Dallas your entire profession has been nice for him and nice for the Mavericks and that metropolis,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone mentioned. “If Nikola can sort of, one other international import, come right here and be a franchise participant for a few years and assist lead this workforce to a world championship, I feel it might be a terrific journey and find yourself in a Corridor of Fame for Nikola as effectively.”
Malone mentioned his favourite reminiscence of Nowitzki got here whereas taking part within the NBA’s Basketball With out Borders in South Africa a couple of summers in the past.
“Whether or not we went to an orphanage or we went to assist construct homes, and seeing that aspect of him,” Malone recounted. “Right here’s a Corridor of Famer, a man who has had an incredible impression on the sport, and to see how selfless, he has no ego and would do something he might to deliver a smile to a younger boy or lady’s face, that to me was extra particular than watching him rating all of the factors that he scored.”
Malone might’ve simply been describing Jokic, who usually engages and teases children on his means again to the locker room after video games.
All the nice vibes from Tuesday’s rousing win over Minnesota disappeared throughout an underwhelming first half for the Nuggets. The Mavericks, regardless of their nightmare journey schedule, took a 57-51 lead into halftime with three totally different gamers logging double figures.
Most of Denver’s offense stemmed from Millsap’s 20-point first half, an important increase whereas Jokic struggled from the sphere. The Nuggets’ greatest participant managed simply two photographs to go together with seven rebounds and 5 assists within the first half.
Denver loved a Morris-fueled 25-Eight run over the primary and second quarters and momentarily took an eight-point lead earlier than the Mavericks stormed again to shut the half.