The Denver Nuggets were in Dallas to face the Mavericks in what was the first game of the season that had no bearing on them making the playoffs. That meant heavy minutes for Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley and they did not disappoint. Beasley had what was by far his best performance of the season and the Nuggets delivered an even team effort overall to put away the Mavericks early and never look back. Despite enlisting the services of Tony Romo, the Mavs were no match and would lose this one 109-91.
The Nuggets got off to a hot start to the game using a team effort to build a 7-2 lead, but the Mavericks would quickly bounce back and seize the lead on a Dirk Nowitzki three. Denver started to cool off and Nikola Jokic picked up a pair of quick fouls in the midst of a 7-0 run by Dallas which gave them a ten point lead right around the 5 minute mark. In what was turning out to be a see-saw game Wilson Chandler and Mason Plumlee led a Nuggets run that would trim Dallas’ advantage to one with about two minutes to go. Coach Malone pulled out all the stops as the quarter ended, inserting Beasley and then Mike Miller into the game. When the first closed, Dallas led by three 23-26.
We got treated so some nice old man ball to start the second with Miller and Nowitzki trading baskets but it quickly turned into a young man’s game for Denver. They were going through Beasley, Gary Harris and Hernangomez and finding great success. Their run was highlighted by Beasley finishing an alley-oop pass from Harris on a break away. The kid’s got ups. That sequence would prompt a timeout from Rick Carlisle, but Beasley would come right back from that and go en fuego, nailing a pair of threes and fitting in a putback as well. Nowitzki kept the Mavericks in it with a pair of threes but Denver had grown their lead to seven. Both teams started to go cold as the quarter was in its final minutes before Jokic hit a layup which Murray followed with a three. Denver closed the half on a steal by Plumlee which he ran down the court and made a nice pass to Harris who wound up cashing in free throws which gave the Nuggets a 57-44 lead.
The teams traded a pair of scoring plays to open the second half. Harris was the player driving the scoring for Denver whereas Dirk was doing work for Dallas. Hernangomez didn’t want to miss out on the fun either so he buried a couple of threes and then Plumlee came in with a big dunk and quickly Denver was up by 16. Dallas would stop the bleeding with an unreal alley oop finish from Nerlens Noel. That put the pep back in the Mavericks step and they went on a run to get back within eight at 69-77. Beasley checked back in and made a nice driving layup to continue his impressive showing. Denver would finish out the quarter the same way they started it, by trading baskets back and forth with Dallas and that would keep the lead at 8.
The fourth quarter started with a twist, this time the teams were trading misses instead of makes. Beasley got the energy up with a big slam and Hernangomez backed that up with a three pointer. Harris and Beasley kept up the energy for Denver which pushed them back into a double digit lead. Miller hit a three and the Mavericks answered back but Miller came right back and buried another. The Nuggets mixture of really young and really old guys was cooking and the Mavericks had to call timeout. Dallas kept fighting as the game closed in on the final two minutes but they didn’t have the energy or enough scoring to get it done. Once Carlisle jokingly pretended to get Romo up off the bench you knew it was over. A Gary Harris slam put the exclamation point on it and the Nuggets leave Dallas with a win.
Best match up: Nikola Jokic vs Dirk Nowitzki
Nikola got himself into foul trouble early and didn’t have his best night but it was still a bunch of fun to watch him and Dirk go at it. Dirk had a nice game with 21 and 8, leaving little doubt that he could still play next season and beyond. You couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the two and the way they play the game. Altitude even flashed up a graphic comparing their sophomore seasons and they were very similar, you could even argue Jokic’s line was a bit more impressive. The Nuggets of course would be ecstatic if Jokic’s career ever compared to Nowitzki’s who is a sure fire hall of famer and its definitely very unfair to put those kind of expectations on him. Still, the similarities are pretty apparent.
Main thing I noticed: youth, youth, youth
I know we can sound like a broken record around here but man do the Nuggets have a lot of exciting young talent on this roster. Beasley should have erased any doubt tonight about whether or not he can play. Granted, he’s got a long ways to go in showing he can consistently put up this type of production but don’t sell him short, he was a big part of the win tonight. When most people from an outside perspective look at this team they point to guys like Jokic, Murray and Harris when they talk about the young core, but tonight was a perfect example of why you can’t forget about guys like Beasley and Hernangomez as well. Throw in the fact that all hope is not lost with Emmanuel Mudiay as well as Denver has another lottery pick in the upcoming draft and the brightness of this team’s future is nearly blinding.
Closing thought: I can’t say enough about Gary Harris
I really think Harris’ year has been a bit overlooked because of the rise of Jokic but he has been absolutely outstanding. With Barton out and Mudiay a late scratch a lot of the point guard duties would fall in the lap of Harris and he sowed once again that he was up to the task. Not only that but you could see him leading tonight, running the offense, keeping guys motivated etc. He’s also had an incredible year shooting to boot. If he can just manage to improve on defense and capitalize on his athleticism and instincts on that end then there’s a good chance we will be seeing him in many all star games in the years to come.