Final: Nuggets 116, Mavs 114
Box Score | Highlights
Behind the Box Score
How’s this for a lineup? Dirk Nowitzki, Raymond Felton, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, and J.J. Barea. That’s the unit the Mavs rolled out to start the fourth quarter, and the club scored 11 points in less than three minutes as Dallas surged out to a 90-81 lead before Denver finally called timeout. I can promise you the Mavericks won’t rely on the four-point-guard lineup too often the rest of the season, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch that group spread the floor and sling it around the arc.
The Mavericks launched an offensive blitz in the third quarter, scoring 29 points on 1.261 points per possession. Dallas shot only 41.7 percent in the frame, but the team heated up from beyond the arc so that obviously translates to a higher PPP average. In the second quarter, the Mavs scored a solid 1.192 points per possession on 57.9 percent shooting, but the team turned it over four times, lowering its efficiency and giving the Nuggets some easy looks.
Playing small and spreading the floor usually generates a high volume of open jumpers, and that was the case in this game. Of the 61 jumpers Dallas took, 29 were what the team considers “open.” That’s a hugely positive ratio for the Mavericks, and that’s one big reason why the team was sizzling from beyond the arc. Generally, the team hovers around about 35 percent open, so the closer you can get to 50 percent, the better.
The Mavs are now 7-4 in overtime games this season.
Deron Williams, too, was smoking from deep, especially in the fourth quarter. He hit three three-pointers late in that frame alone as the teams traded haymakers down the stretch. He scored 13 consecutive points for the Mavericks in the closing minutes, although he began the day in very quiet fashion. Dirk Nowitzki, too, had one of his best shooting performances of the season in this game, scoring 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting. His shot was smooth as silk from the opening tip as the Mavs played through him for prolonged stretches of the afternoon, especially in the pick-and-pop game once Dallas went super small in the second half.
Early in the second half after Denver took a nine-point lead, Rick Carlisle turned to a familiar strategy against the Nuggets, replacing Zaza Pachulia with Raymond Felton in an attempt to go super small with Nowitzki at the center spot. He did the same thing when these two teams faced off a couple weeks ago, and that move keyed a huge Mavs comeback win. Similarly, the move helped Dallas get immediately back into this game, as the Mavs took the lead before the end of the third quarter. Pachulia has been phenomenal this season to be sure, but he struggles in matchups with more athletic big men like Denver’s Kenneth Faried, who made some big plays in the first half on the offensive end. By going very small, however, the Mavs force the Nuggets (and all teams) to play small as well or else surrendering to a ton of mismatches in the Mavs’ favor. Going small spreads the floor and speeds up the game, which you might not think would work against Denver, but the Mavericks have found plenty of success by following that strategy.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed, either, that Chandler Parsons has done an excellent job defending bigger players all season. He did well against Jahlil Okafor and has defended other bigs like Karl-Anthony Towns and, in this game, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, one of the better up-and-coming centers in the league. Parsons has good size and strength, of course, but he doesn’t immediately appear to be a guy with the physicality required to bang with the bigs down low. His ability to perform in those situations, though, makes small-ball possible for the Mavericks, as they can take advantage of mismatches on offense while not giving too much up on the defensive end. Parsons has been playing more and more power forward as the season has worn on, and I don’t necessarily see that trend ending any time soon, so if he can continue to excel in that regard, it can only enhance his value as a player in this league.
The Mavs trailed 22-19 after the opening quarter, as both teams struggled from the field and had to find creative ways to score, particularly from offensive rebounds and put-backs. Nowitzki and David Lee led the way for Dallas in the first, scoring 17 of the team’s 19 points. Nowitzki had a rare tip-in and an and-1 on a mid-range jumper, both plays we haven’t seen very often this season. Dirk was very dynamic in the first quarter, a welcome sign after a bumpy game against Sacramento on Thursday night. He’s not sixth on the all-time scoring list on accident.
The Mavs (33-30) play the Los Angeles Clippers (40-21) Monday at American Airlines Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. Central.