Here are my 5 takeaways from the Dallas Mavericks’ 126-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center:
1. DONCIC IS VERY SPECIAL: How much more proof do you need before you realize how special Luka Doncic is? The rookie put on a clinic during the eight minutes and 59 seconds he played in the third quarter. Of the 26 points the Mavs scored during that time frame, Doncic had a hand in 25 of those points. The only point he wasn’t a part of came when Harrison Barnes made a free throw after Nuggets coach Michael Malone was whistled for a technical foul. Doncic scored 11 points and collected five assists in the third quarter, and also assisted on a pair of 3-point baskets apiece in the quarter from Wesley Matthews and Barnes. Doncic finished the game with 23 points, six rebounds and a career-high 12 assists.
2. MAVS KEPT THEIR TURNOVERS DOWN: For one of the rare times in recent weeks, the Mavs didn’t have to use the postgame interview session to discuss any catastrophic turnovers that cost them a ballgame. Against the Nuggets, the Mavs turned the ball over a season-low eight times. And that’s a considerably low number under any circumstances. But it’s especially low since Denver is a very good defensive team who plays an up-tempo game that forces opposing teams to push the pace where it lends itself to an inordinate amount of turnovers.
3. JORDAN’S FOUL PROBLEMS WERE AN ISSUE: From the time he picked up his second foul with 5:22 remaining in the first quarter, center DeAndre Jordan battled foul problems all night. And that was crucial, because the Mavs sorely needed Jordan to guard Denver center Nikola Jokic, who is just a beast around the basket and on the perimeter. Jordan eventually fouled out for the first time this season with 6:29 left in the game and the Mavs down 110-106. His departure weighed heavily on the Mavs as Jokic just created so many mismatch situations that kept Dallas off-balanced.
4. REBOUNDS WERE IN SHORT SUPPLY: The Nuggets won the board battle as they outrebounded the Mavs, 47-33. That includes a 12-6 advantage on the offensive end of the floor. However, it wasn’t just the 16 rebounds Denver’s Nikola Jokic plucked that were a problem for the Mavs. The Nuggets had three other players – Mason Plumlee, Jamal Murray and Juancho Hernangomez – who collected at least six rebounds apiece. By contrast, the only players who grabbed at least six rebounds for the Mavs were DeAndre Jordan with 12 and Luka Doncic with six.
5. BAREA MAKES SUCCESSFUL RETURN: After missing the previous two games with a sprained left ankle, guard J. J. Barea was back on the court and running the second unit with amazing aplomb. Barea played 21 minutes, scored 10 points, handed out five assists and was 4-of-11 from the field. Meanwhile, there are those within the Mavs’ organization who staunchly believe that Dallas would have beaten Phoenix and Sacramento in the previous two games if Barea had been healthy enough to play. That’s how much they believe in his value to the Mavs.