Nuggets’ road woes continue in Dallas
DALLAS — The Denver Nuggets started a six-game road trip Monday night desperately trying to figure out how to win away from home.
It didn’t happen as they fell behind by 25 points early in a 122-105 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
Denver (13-10) fell to 3-8 on the road. With games coming up at New Orleans, Detroit and Boston on this road swing, the Nuggets could find themselves at .500 if they can’t put together four solid quarters on enemy territory.
“We can’t let teams hit us first,” Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray said. “They hit us first, and we hit back too late. The game was already over.”
Due to key injuries to starters Nikola Jokic (left ankle), whose return date is uncertain, and forward Paul Millsap (left wrist), who will be out the next several months, and the Nuggets are missing a pair that brings nearly 31 points and 17 rebounds a game.
Their absences make the upcoming road task look increasingly daunting.
The Mavs’ offense had the Nuggets’ heads spinning. Dallas (7-17) shot 56.8 percent in the first half to take a 64-47 lead into the locker room, and finished a season-best 57 percent. Driving to the hoop at will, the Mavs also produced a season-high 64 points in the paint.
Dallas fended off a couple of Denver hot streaks, including a 35-point third quarter, but never allowed their lead to dip below eight points when it was 88-80 with 2:11 to go in third period.
Dallas played its best overall game of the season and scored a season high in points with six players hitting double figures. Harrison Barnes’ 22-point, 10-rebound effort led the Mavs, who also got 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting from rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr.
“There was a lot of energy in the air early, you know, with all the servicemen and women courtside and President (George W.) Bush being there,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, referring to the Mavs’ Seats for Soldiers promotion in which injured soldiers sit courtside. “Our guys, I think, really felt an obligation to be their competitive best.”
Smith said the soldiers played a role in his team’s motivation in getting a fifth win in eight games.
“Coming out at halftime, I met with a couple (of soldiers) and let them know I personally appreciate what they do and their sacrifice,” Smith said. “They made sacrifices a lot of people weren’t willing to make, so that was a little added motivation for everybody tonight.”
Yogi Ferrell contributed 16 points off the Dallas bench, Wesley Matthews added 15 points, and Devin Harris had 14 points. Dwight Powell had 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists off the bench, while Dirk Nowitzki finished with nine points.
“When you can’t guard their guards and they live in the paint for scores and they live in the paint for kick-out threes, they got everything tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “You’re not going to beat anybody when you’re giving up that kind of productivity in the paint and behind the arc.”
Reserve Will Barton led the Nuggets, scoring 13 of his 23 points in the third quarter. Murray finished with 22 points and Gary Harris had 21, but Denver shot just 41.8 percent as a team.
NOTES: Nuggets F Wilson Chandler returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous three games, and four of the past six, with lower back pain. He finished with four points and seven rebounds. ... Denver C Nikola Jokic missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. He said Monday the injury is getting better but did not have a timetable for his return. ... The Mavs scored a season best for any quarter with 39 points in the first.