Opening night of what could be a season-defining six-game road trip for the Denver Nuggets couldn't have gone much worse.
The Nuggets lost 122-105 to the Dallas Mavericks. Denver allowed Dallas, who came into tonight's matchup as the league's 26th ranked offense, to rack up 39 first-quarter and 64 first-half points, 36 of which came in the paint. When the Nuggets needed a solid defensive effort to begin an important road trip on the right note, they didn't have it.
The Mavericks' 122 points were a season-high.
Denver widdled down what was a 25-point Dallas lead to eight late in the third quarter. The Mavericks then pushed their advantage back to 11 heading to the fourth. The Nuggets cut Dallas' lead to ten at the 5:20 mark of the fourth on an Emmanuel Mudiay three that prompted a Rick Carlisle timeout.
Will Barton was instrumental in Denver's brief comeback. Denver's sixth-man, who Nuggets' coach Michael Malone put in his starting lineup in place of Mason Plumlee to open the third quarter, scored 13 in the third and finished with a team-high 23 points.
As was Kenneth Faried, who gave Denver energy and played hard in the 28 minutes he played tonight. Faried finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
But the Mavericks pushed their advantage back to 14 points a few minutes later. That margin was too much for the Nuggets to overcome
Denver's road struggles this season are well documented. On the year, the Nuggets are now 3-8 on the road. Prior to their loss tonight in Dallas the Nuggets were shooting 49 percent from the field at home (third-best in the league), compared to 42.6 percent on the road (27th in the league).
Opponents were also shooting 47 percent against Denver at home but 48.4 percent outside of Pepsi Center. It might not seem like a big difference but those numbers represent the 23rd and 29th-worst marks in the league respectively.
Tonight, Dallas shot 57.0 percent from the field. The Mavericks went 12-26 (46.2 percent) from three.
Jamal Murry had another good first quarter for Denver. 48 hours after scoring 28 points against the Lakers on Saturday including 14 over the first 12 minutes, Murray had nine in the first period tonight to go with three long-distance jumpers. Murray tallied 11 more points in the second half but it wasn't enough.
As a team, Denver didn't defend at the level they needed to throughout tonight's loss.
The Mavericks came into tonight's matchup averaging a league-worst 36.7 points in the paint. Dallas reached that total in the first half and finished with 64 points in Denver's paint.
Wilson Chandler returned to Denver's starting lineup after missing the Nuggets' past three games with low back pain and scored just four points on 1-11 shooting. Chandler played 27 minutes.