Photo: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
The Denver Nuggets take on a young Dallas Mavericks in need of a win to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
Where: Pepsi Center-Denver, CO
When: 7 p.m. MST
Watch/Listen: Altitude Sports and Entertainment-Altitude Sports Radio AM 950
The Nuggets face off against the Dallas Mavericks for the second time in under two months after suffering a tough 122-105 road loss earlier in the season. The Mavericks led the entire time in the first game and had big nights from Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith Jr. That game was one of the earlier ones when the Nuggets were finally starting to find their identity without Paul Millsap, and gave the Nuggets a little bit of a wake up call. The Mavericks will bring to town their 15-29 record, which is good for third to last in the Western Conference, but can’t be a team the Nuggets can overlook as evidence from beginning in the year.
Barnes and Smith Jr. destroyed the Nuggets in the first match up and are guys that Denver will have to game plan on for Tuesday nights game. Barnes leads the Mavs in scoring at 18.7 points per game and also leads the team in rebounding at 6.7 per game. Smith Jr. is second on the team in points per game with a clip of 14.3 and averages 4.5 assists per game. The Nuggets will also have to watch out for veteran Dirk Nowitzki as he’s still going strong averaging over 25 minutes per game and chipping in 12.3 points per game. Dirk also leads the Mavs in three-point percentage at 41.5 percent and will be a guy the Nuggets will have to run off the three-point line in order to have some defensive success.
The last week or so has been a tough one for the Nuggets as they’re in a stretch of achieving just one win in their last five games and have dropped all the way to eighth in the Western Conference. With a record of 22-21, the Nuggets are now tied with the red hot Los Angeles Clippers and are in danger of falling out of the top eight in the West. A win on Tuesday would be big for the Nuggets as they need to get on a bit of a hot streak if they want to regain their postseason prowess that they’ve had for most of the season.
Gary Harris returned for the Nuggets in their last outing against the Spurs and is back with the team after missing last Friday’s game for personal reasons. Harris leads the Nuggets in points per game at 16.9 and has a shooting percentage of just under 50 percent, which is by far the best on the Nuggets roster. Last time these two teams played Harris scored 21 points, but was just 7-17 shooting. If Harris is able to bump those shooting numbers up, he could be in store for a big night against the Mavericks.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Mavs attempt to stop Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic. There’s no real “center” on the Mavs besides Salah Mejri, and he’s only averaging around 11 minutes per game. With the small line-ups the Mavs usually role out, Jokic could be in big night. Jokic is currently averaging 15.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, and five assists per game. Jokic’s turnover numbers have also improved over the last three games as he’s only committed five turnovers in his last three outings. To put that number is perspective, Jokic committed 11 turnovers in the two games prior to the last three. Look for the Nuggets big man to have a big night and hopefully lead the Nuggets to a much needed victory.
Stay tuned to Dig In Denver for postgame coverage.