Before Monday night’s matchup at the Denver Nuggets, the Dallas Mavericks were playing their best basketball of the year. They had won nine of 12 games, including back-to-back wins over two of the best teams in the NBA, and seemingly found a point guard in Yogi Ferrell. Fast forward to Monday, and Dallas looked like the team that we had watched in the first 38 games of the season. In short, they looked totally out-matched.
Dallas struggled to score, defend, rebound, or do anything resembling winning basketball. As a result, they were blown out 110-87 at the Pepsi Center by an extremely average Denver Nuggets team.
“This is on all of us,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "We just weren’t ready to play."
From the beginning, Denver controlled the game, and despite their best player, Nikola Jokic, being in foul trouble for a good majority of the game, they owned Dallas in the paint. Denver out rebounded the Mavs 49-29, while outscoring them in the middle 50-36. The Nuggets also had a ridiculous 10 blocked shots, most of which seemed to come at the expense of the diminutive Yogi Ferrell, who struggled for the first time since becoming a Maverick.
As a team, Dallas shot just 43 percent from the floor, and was eight of 26 from three. They even struggled from the line, going 11-17.
That was not the case for the Nuggets, who shot 50-percent from the field, 39.3-percent from downtown, and 15-16 from the charity stripe. They also dished out 28 assists as a team, which is very impressive considering Emmanuel Mudiay, Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried, who did not play.
The Nuggets were led by Will Barton’s 31-point, eight-rebound, five-assist night, in which he was 12-18 from the field, and 5-7 from three. Gary Harris also contributed 20 points, while Jokic added 14 points, nine assists and four rebounds in just 24 minutes.
Despite facing one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, things did not come so easy on the offensive end for Dallas.
Harrison Barnes struggled to find his footing, scoring just 12 points on 11 shots. Wes Matthews likewise struggled, with just 10 points on 3-8 shooting, but did have a season-high eight assists. Frustration continued for Wes, as he forced to leave the game towards the end of the fourth quarter after his foot was stepped on by an opposing defender.
He would not return with what is hoped is a mild ankle issue.
Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell were the Mavs leading scorers with 15 a piece, but neither guard played particularly well on the night. In fact, the Mavs were a whopping minus-32 when Yogi was on the floor.
Both guys, who have been linchpins in Dallas’s recent success, struggled to find their shots throughout the game.
Without the energy provided from their guard play, the rest of the offense was in disarray, and the Mavs wobbled on the offensive end. Even Dirk, who got off to a nice start, finished with just nine points and six boards in 24 minutes.
“It was disappointing,” Barnes said after the loss. “I think when you look at where they are in the standings and where we are in the standings, (this) was a big game. And it didn’t really come down to X’s and O’s, or made or missed shots. It just came down to effort, and they just gave more effort than we did.”
In an attempt to wash away the taste of this one ... a result that prevented Dallas from pulling closer to Denver but is not three games back from the No. 8 spot -- , the Mavs (20-31) will return home to face the Portland Trailblazers (22-30), a team they have beaten in two of their previous three matchups this year. In their previous meeting, Yogi -- who today will get his two-year contract, as DB.com reported a week ago -- had a coming out party in Portland, going for a career-high 32 points, and hitting nine of 11 from three.
“We’ve got another playoff-like game (tonight).’’ Wes said, “so we’ve got to put this one behind us and move forward to a must-win game.’’