The Dallas Mavericks overcame an uncharacteristically poor performance from Luka Doncic to secure a 109-106 win on the road in Denver.
Luka Doncic didn’t look right. Kristaps Porzingis‘ jumper just wasn’t falling. The Dallas Mavericks were facing an undefeated Denver Nuggets team in Denver. Despite all of these obstacles, Dallas pulled off an unlikely upset behind a bench mob that poured in 61 of the team’s 109 points.
The Dallas Mavericks once again rolled out a new starting lineup tonight for the fourth time in as many games. Dwight Powell made his season debut as the starter after missing all of preseason and the previous three regular season games with a hamstring injury. His rebounding, presence as a roller, and his constant hustle was sorely missed this season.
Rick Carlisle made sure to get Dwight Powell involved early with a pick-and-roll play involving Powell and Seth Curry. Curry delivered a nice bounce pass to Powell who then got fouled by Paul Millsap on the dunk attempt—going on to convert one of two from the line.
The Mavs were sluggish out the gate. Paul Millsap hit a couple of open threes thanks to some lazy contests by Kristaps Porzingis. Millsap would tie his previous season high of 11 points in under 4 minutes.
Luka Doncic took a scary hit to the chest with 5:07 left in the first quarter. Thankfully he just got the wind knocked out of him and was able to remain in the game after a timeout. Unfortunately, his game never quite recovered. Doncic would go on to finish with 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists all of which are well below his season averages.
The Nuggets were able to dictate the kinds of shots and opportunities they were getting on offense all quarter. Dallas has struggled this season with playing with physicality and force on defense. The team would ultimately fix that in the second half tonight but it is something to keep an eye on going forward.
The bench brought the Mavericks back in the 2nd quarter. Beautiful ball movement led to wide open shot opportunities. Delon Wright and Jalen Brunson were aggressive attacking the basket converting easy shots inside instead of settling for contested jumpers.
Justin Jackson got hot as well helping to ignite a spark that allowed for Dallas to capture a 47-45 lead with 5:44 left in the half. The rest of the quarter was back-and-forth ending with Denver holding a 61-60 advantage.
The first half was extremely balanced offensively. All 10 players who checked in went into the break with at least four points. Juston Jackson was the high point man with 10 points in just 11 minutes of action.
Denver began the 3rd quarter on a 7-0 run. Dallas’ offense seemed out of sorts and clunky. It was a bit of a reflection of Doncic and Porzingis. When they aren’t going, it can be difficult for the team to find a rhythm at times.
Things got worse for the the young star duo before they got better in that quarter. Once again, Dallas was kept alive by their supporting cast. Dorian Finney-Smith hit a pair of threes, Maxi Kleber knocked down a few short jumpers and flushed down a thunderous alley-oop from Doncic.
Delon Wright brought his typical defensive energy resulting in numerous deflections and a couple of steals. Brunson continued his great night leading a humming offense. The Mavericks entered the final period trailing 88-83.
The bench mob refused to be denied tonight. The first 16 points scored in the 4th quarter were poured in by guys off the bench. It wasn’t until a layup by Porzingis over 4 minutes in did a starter get into the action. That layup gave Dallas it’s largest lead of the night at the time making the score 100-92.
Everyone on the Mavericks bench scored in double digits for the first time since November 8th, 2016. Dallas had nine players score in double figures for the first time since 1986. It is impossible to overstate how important the role players were in Denver tonight.
When Doncic returned and the offense focused around him and Porzingis, the team struggled again. Denver slowly chipped away until a Millsap layup cut the deficit to four with 2:22 left.
A Doncic missed three and a Gary Harris converted three later and the score was 107-106 with 1:40 to play.
Maxi Kleber erased a Gary Harris layup attempt in dramatic fashion just barely getting his fingertips on the ball before it hit the backboard. Although called a goaltend on the floor, a review overturned the play.
Then, as he often does, Doncic rose to the pressure of the moment and hit an incredible acrobatic layup at the rim with 47 seconds on the clock. Some great defensive effort allowed them to ultimately hold on 109-106.
Carlisle has to feel great about how tonight went. Both of his stars struggled offensively and yet they got a road win against one of the best teams in the league. Doncic and Porzingis will bounce back, the story of the season is going to be how far these other guys can get you. Tonight was certainly an excellent sign of things to come.