The Denver Nuggets kicked off a six-game road trip with a 122-105 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. Denver dug itself into an early hole and never recovered as it allowed Dallas to shoot 57 percent from the field. Here are five observations from the game.
1. The defense Denver played down the stretch against LA? It was nowhere to be found
One small step forward, three big ones back.
On Saturday, the Nuggets won a game by applying defensive pressure down the stretch. On Monday, they lost a game by being lackadaisical on that end. Dallas torched Denver for a season-high 120 points. Dallas shot 57 percent as it made 49 of the 86 shots it attempted.
The Mavericks, who entered the game dead-last in points in the paint, scored 64 points in the paint. They were extremely efficient inside.
Denver's guards struggled to contain dribble penetration. Dennis Smith Jr. (20 points), Devin Harris (14 points) and Yogi Ferrell (16 points) all scored in double figures. Nuggets killer J.J. Barea didn't have an efficient night shooting the ball — he went 3-9 — but he dished out nine assists. Barea did a lot of his damage in pick-and-roll situations, which the Nuggets struggled to deal with.
2. Chandler struggles in return to lineup
Wilson Chandler returned to the starting lineup after missing three games with lower back soreness. The 11-year NBA veteran looked rusty in his first game since Nov. 24. Chandler made 1-11 shots and scored four points in 27 minutes.
Chandler didn't hit a shot until the 5:41 mark in the third quarter. He missed his first nine field goal attempts of the game and looked hesitant to create offense at times in the second half.
It's been a trying season for the 30-year-old forward. He's shooting 43.4 percent from the field.
3. More road woes
The Nuggets' Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde home/road routine continued. Denver earned two hard-fought victories over the Bulls and Lakers at Pepsi Center then turned around and looked lifeless in Dallas. The Mavericks outscored the Nuggets 39-23 in the first quarter and went into the halftime break leading 64-47.
Michael Malone's club has played several awful halves of basketball on the road this season. Consider...
The first half in Charlotte, when Denver got outscored 62-39.
The second half in Portland, when Denver got outscored 45-33.
The second half in Utah, when Denver got outscored 58-28.
The Nuggets are 10-2 at home and 3-8 on the road. Their only road victories have come against lowly Hawks, Nets and Kings. They need to correct their road issues in a hurry. They still have five games to go on this current road trip.
The first half did not go well for Denver. It might have been even worse if not for Faried. While many of his teammates came out of the gate sluggish, Faried looked energized. He had eight rebounds in the first half alone.
Faried's effort level has been one of the few constants about this up-and-down Nuggets season so far.
5. The Nuggets took care of the ball, but it didn't matter
Searching for silver linings? Here's one: Denver committed seven turnovers, its second-lowest single-game total of the season. The Nuggets were one of the worst teams in the NBA in terms of turnover rate for much of November. But in its last three games, Denver is averaging 10.3 giveaways.
The Nuggets valued the ball Monday. Too bad they couldn't offer any sort of resistance on the defensive end.