DENVER – Anyone contemplating jumping off the Dallas Mavericks’ ship just because they’ve lost three straight games, DeAndre Jordan offered a profound message about the losing streak.
“We not worried,” the Mavs’ center said following Tuesday’s 126-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. “We had a (six-game) losing streak earlier in the season.
“You (media) guys talked (negative) about us and then we won (13 of 17) games. The season is like that. It’s up and down.”
Tuesday was obviously one of those “down’ nights for the Mavs as their third straight loss dropped their record to 15-14 and got this rugged four-game road trip off to a rocky start. It also dropped the Mavs’ road record to just 2-11.
There were numerous times Tuesday when the Mavs were able to get some sustained traction against the Nuggets. But Denver just had too much in its arsenal down the stretch for the Mavs to contend with.
Mainly, the Mavs had a difficult time trying to contain Nuggets enter Nikola Jokic, who used his 7-foot, 260-pound frame to score 32 points, grab 16 rebounds and take up a massive amount of space in the paint.
“He’s a talented player,” said center DeAndre Jordan, who finished with 11 points and 12 boards. “He takes advantage of space and angles, and he’s a real skilled big man.
“He also takes advantage of the new NBA and how soft it is, so you have to give him credit. It’s hard to guard players when you can’t touch them.”
And when Jordan fouled out with 6:29 remaining in the game and the Mavs only behind 110-106, that was the meal ticket the Nuggets used to chew away at the Mavs and eventually put this game on ice.
“We missed some shots and they made some shots,” coach Rick Carlisle said in explaining what happened after Jordan fouled out. “Going smaller was tough to deal with Jokic.
“He was a real problem for both our first and second units. He causes a lot of problems because he creates calls — he’s very good at it. DJ was a huge factor in the game and not having him certainly hurt us.”
The Mavs were still hanging around until a 3-pointer by Jamal Murray increased Denver’s lead to 124-114 with 1:19 remaining in the game.
This was a night where the Nuggets shot a sizzling 55.6 percent from the field, made 12 of their 29 shots from 3-point territory, and out-rebounded the Mavs, 47-33, including 12-6 on the offensive end of the floor.
“Defensively, we obviously could have been better,” Carlisle said. “Some of it was great shot-making by them, some of it was some untimely mistakes by us.
“We’ve got to build on the positives and we’ve got to pick up the defensive rebounding. We can’t get beat by 14 boards on the road and give yourself a chance.”
Things started well for the Mavs as Harrison Barnes opened the game by burying a 3-pointer. It was one of a season-high tying five 3-pointers Barnes converted en route to matching his season-high point total of 30 points.
“The most important thing is to go out and get a win,” said Barnes, who was 10-of-16 from the field. “Playing on the road this year has been a struggle for us, and we just got to be better and it starts on the defensive end.”
Meanwhile, rookie Luka Doncic took stock of what was happening and simply shifted all of his incredible talents into another gear. After having no free throw attempts in the first half, a more aggressive-minded Doncic was 8-of-10 from the charity stripe in the third quarter.
In fact, when the Mavs went from being down 74-69 at intermission to assuming a 95-91 lead with 3:55 left
in the third quarter, Doncic amazingly accounted for all 25 of the Mavs’ points during that stretch except for one point. And that one point was a free throw Barnes made after Nuggets coach Michael Malone was whistled for a technical foul.
During this Doncic-led comeback that gave the Mavs new life, it was vintage Doncic as he scored 11 points and assisted on five other baskets, including a pair of 3-pointers each by Wesley Matthews and Barnes.
“I was just being more aggressive,” Doncic said. “We shared the ball a lot this game.”
Doncic finished with 23 points, six rebounds, a season-high 12 assists and only one turnover in one of his best all-around games of the year.
“He did a great job from the beginning of the game until the end of moving it to open people,” Carlisle said. “He has great vision and he took advantage of it tonight.”
Matthews scored 14 points for the Mavs, J. J. Barea returned after a two-game absence while dealing with a sprained left ankle and tallied 10 points. And in his third game of the season, Dirk Nowitzki played seven minutes and 13 seconds – all in the first half – and finished with three points on 1-of-2 shots while making his first 3-pointer of the season.
“I thought so, but we scraped that at halftime,” said Nowitzki, when asked if was going to play in the second half. “Definitely everything is better than the Phoenix game (last Thursday), so everything else is working towards the right way.”
In the meantime, the Mavs can’t get too discouraged by the way they played on the offensive end of the court. They shot a respectable 46.5 percent from the field, converted 15 of the 37 shots they attempted from 3-point land, dispensed 26 assists and only committed eight turnovers.
Now it’s on to Los Angeles for the Mavs, who will play a nationally televised TNT game on Thursday night against the Clippers. And they hope to leave the sad memories of another hiccup on the road behind them.
“If somebody thought we were going 82-0, they’re crazy,” Jordan said. “That’s not how the NBA is. You’re going to lose games, you’re going to win games in a row.
“You’re going to lose, but I don’t think this is a time for us to panic like we panicked early on in the season, the first month of the season. You’ve got to be realistic. You’re going to win some nights, and come out and play great and still lose. And that’s just how the game is.”