DENVER – The gang that couldn’t shoot straight for the longest time now is full of sharpshooters that are carrying the Mavericks to a new level.
So much so, that even after a missed shot, Luka Dončić had the confidence to run back the same play two possessions later for the same shooter — Dorian Finney-Smith.
The outcome was a game-winning three-pointer from Finney-Smith with 17 seconds left. He took a pass from Luka just beyond the arc at the top of the key. The bull’s-eye put the Mavericks up by two and they held on in the final seconds for a 116-115 victory over the Denver Nuggets Tuesday night at Ball Arena.
The Mavericks did what they’ve done a lot of lately – made a bunch of three-pointers.
And for a team that struggled in clutch situations earlier, this was the sort of win that was worth celebrating.
“We’ve been involved in a lot of close games and we’ve come up on the other end,” coach Jason Kidd said. “And this is hopefully where the tide is turning a little bit in close games. Doe had a great look. The trust from Luka, believing that Doe was going to make that shot — a lot of great things happened.”
Finney-Smith, who finished with 19 points and hit five of his 10 three-pointers, explained the game-turning play.
“I’d gotten that shot two possessions before that and LD told me to shoot it again,” Finney-Smith said. “So that feels good when the best player on the team – you know they’re going to trap him – but for him to give me confidence, that means a lot.”
After Denver had gone on a 11-0 run to lead 112-111, Finney-Smith’s bucket put the Mavericks up 114-112. And when two-time MVP Nikola Jokic missed the first of two free throws, Spencer Dinwiddie hit two from the stripe with 10.9 seconds to go.
After Jamal Murray made two foul shots, the Mavericks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a couple of them. But Murray’s half-court prayer went unanswered and the Mavericks had a precious road victory. They now have won two of them in a row for the first time this season.
They also have won three in a row overall in getting to 13-11 for the season.
Hardaway heated up in the third quarter and Luka Dončić registered the 52nd triple-double of his career. Hardaway had a season-best 29 points and was deadly from beyond the arc. Dončić had 22 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, his sixth triple-double this season.
Overall, the Mavericks hit 47 percent from three-point range (17-of-36).
The Mavericks have made at least 15 three-pointers in six consecutive games. They had reached 15 makes only five times in the first 18 games of the season.
“That was an amazing play. Apparently, Luka told him before because they had played the same play and missed it,” said Maxi Kleber, who had nine points, seven of them in the telltale fourth quarter. “He said you’re going to get it again, shoot it again. that just shows that Luka trusts his teammates and made the right play.
“Doe-Doe made a big-time shot that won us the game.”
The Mavericks hit 17-of-36 against the Nuggets, who now have lost three in a row and fell to 14-10.
They were only up 97-96 when Luka returned to the game with 7:57 to go in the fourth quarter.
Maxi Kleber quickly scored five points to push the lead to six and after a Bones Hyland three-pointer, the Mavericks got a bucket from Finney-Smith and another three-pointer from Hardaway.
Then the Nuggets made their comeback, but the Mavericks hung on.
Going into the game, the Mavericks had all sorts of reasons to worry about how this game would evolve.
The Mavericks beat Phoenix handily 24 hours earlier, but it was still a game that required playing, then traveling, plus getting acclimated to the mile-high air.
Jason Kidd put it best before the game.
“We’re not here very long to adapt to the altitude,” he said. “That’s just the nature here. We’ll keep our eye on those guys who start, maybe get those guys out a little earlier, not just because of score but understanding that playing last night and thinking about the 48 minutes.
“But that being said, we got to make sure we don’t get knocked out in the first quarter.”
Though they fell behind 8-0, there was no early knockout. The Mavericks spent the rest of the first half taking care of business and led 64-58 at the break.
Math class: Before Tuesday’s game, Jason Kidd gave fans a little lesson in numbers. More specifically, how challenging the job of dividing playing time is as a head coach.
With everybody intrigued about the recent play of Josh Green and Jaden Hardy, the question of who should be playing more is on a lot of people’s minds.
So Kidd was asked about whether fans and media members actually appreciate the fact that there are only 240 minutes to go around in four NBA quarters. And a lot of them are already accounted for.
“Mathematically, they probably haven’t thought about that side,” Kidd said. “They just feel they should play. Well, that’s good and we all want them to play.
“We’ve been healthy (knocks on wood). And those minutes are spoken for. When you talk about Luka (Dončić) at 40. Someone’s only going to be able to play eight. You have Spencer (Dinwiddie) at 30. Those are spoken for. So it’s hard. When you’re healthy, you just have to be patient. And I know society isn’t patient. Or Twitter isn’t patient, because they want it now.”
And, speaking of Twitter.
“My job is to put those guys in a position to be successful,” Kidd said. “And right now, we got a good thing going. Hardy has to wait. Ask Josh.
“Twitter isn’t the coach, or the player. It’s just a platform to express your opinion and that’s as far as it goes. Everyone’s going to get an opportunity. It’s just the nature of the game. Someone’s going to be hurt or sick. Someone has to step up.”