In a game that will long be remembered for its surreal connotations, the NBA announced Wednesday night that it has suspended the 2019-20 season “until further notice” because of the coronavirus.
But before the season came to a premature halt, the Dallas Mavericks got a monster game from Boban Marjanovic and beat the Denver Nuggets, 113-97, before a sellout crowd of 20,302 at American Airlines Center.
Matched mostly against Nikola Jokic, Marjanovic took the Nuggets’ All-Star center to school. Marjanovic poured in a career-high 31 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as the Mavs snapped a two-game losing streak and remained the only team that has not lost three straight games this season.
Besides the top-shelf game from Marjanovic, Luka Doncic collected 28 points, six rebounds and nine assists for the Mavs, Maxi Kleber tallied 15 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 14 points and five boards, and Delon Wright had 10 points and nine rebounds.
But the game paled in comparison to the news that rocked the NBA and sports world after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We’ve been informed that the season for right now, games have been suspended,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “This is because of the league being concerned about the health of fans, players and arena personnel.
“There’s going to be more meetings and more talks (Thursday) about what the next steps are. There’s no timetable, and that’s what we know for right now.”
Marjanovic tallied 16 of his points in the fourth quarter — four more points than the 12 points the entire Denver team scored — when the Mavs ran away from the Nuggets. It was as if Marjanvoic wanted the Mavs to hop on his back and he would carry them to the winner’s circle, which he did.
Meanwhile, the Mavs were already slated to be off on Thursday because they played in San Antonio on Tuesday. And Carlisle said he told his players not to leave town.
“There really hasn’t been much time to get into a lot of stuff, but we’ve laid down the basics as we know them,” Carlisle said. “Everyone is to stay in town — that’s one thing we told our guys.
“Games are suspended, team activities are not. I absolutely believe we’ll have more information tomorrow and we may be able to share some of it Friday, or perhaps there may be more announcements, or perhaps not. I’m not sure.”
On the game itself, Dallas toted a 57-50 lead into the dressing room at the half. The Nuggets put up a fight in the third quarter, only to get punched out by the Mavs in the fourth.
As far as the heavy concern about the coronavirus, before the game Wright said: “I’ll just try to follow what they’re telling us to do, wash my hands as much as possible and try to stay as safe as possible.
“I feel like I’m pretty informed on it. I see what’s going on in the world, so I just try to stay as informed as possible and just stay as safe as possible.”
Marjanovic played a season-high 31 minutes and was playing in place of Kristaps Porzingis, who was on the injury recovery list and usually doesn’t play both ends of a back-to-back. The Mavs also were without guards Seth Curry (ankle) and Jalen Brunson (shoulder).
“Marjanovic was spectacular, (J, J.) Barea was great, Willie Cauley-Stein missed a couple of days because he wasn’t feeling well – he was back in here and he contributed in a big way,” Carlisle said. “Doncic was phenomenal, Hardaway, and the bench was into it the whole night.
“Real proud of our guys. This was one of the best regular season wins I’ve ever been a part of. You’re talking about mid-March, down a bunch of guys, a bunch of guys stepped up that really hadn’t been playing very much.”
The Nuggets were slated to fly to San Antonio after Wednesday’s game where they were going to play the Spurs on Friday. Instead, they flew back to Denver after losing to the Mavs.
“We support the league’s decision,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Obviously, putting the players, officials, the fans, the coaches, the staffs’ best interest at heart (is important).
“We have to try to get our minds wrapped around what this coronavirus is doing, so we support their decision and we’ll wait to hear word on them as to what this means moving forward because honest to God, I have no idea. And I just hope that we can figure this out and get back to playing basketball in a timely manner when it’s deemed safe.”
Carlisle said he got word during the third quarter that the season would be suspended, and that news played an integral role in his strategy the rest of the game.
“That certainly was good information to have for this game,” Carlisle said. “We played guys longer than we probably would have otherwise, but it’s a game we wanted to get, it’s a game our guys really wanted to get and so they fought to get it.”
J. J. Barea said focusing on the task at hand was not a problem after he and the Mavs discovered the dreadful news of the season being suspended.
“For us NBA players, it comes natural,” Barea said. “You get to the latter part of the season and it’s a routine. It’s our job. You got out there, you got to play hard. For me personally, I love the game. I won’t let anything keep me from enjoying it and having fun out there and trying to make my team win.”
Malone doesn’t know if the news of the season being suspended affected his players.
“I can’t really answer that and the reason I say that is I don’t really know when and if the players even found out,” he said. “It would be my hope that we were playing hard because we got off to a good start.
“We got rolling in that third quarter.”
But then, Marjanovic got rolling in the fourth quarter when he added eight rebounds to the 16 points he tallied in that quarter while keeping a foot firmly planted on the Nuggets’ throat.
“I can’t say enough about Boban and how he hung in there from start to finish,” Carlisle said. “And after (Tuesday) night, which was really disappointing in San Antonio, we stayed together, we came out and the guys fought their butts off and earned a very important win.”