Denver’s defense goes to sleep in embarrassing loss to Dallas
MAVERICKS 112, NUGGETS 92
dallas» Nuggets coach Michael Malone was asked before Monday night’s game if he was concerned his team might play with low energy against a Dallas Mavericks team with the worst record (then 5-18) in the NBA, especially after an emotional Denver win over Orlando on Saturday.
Malone, noting that his team had won consecutive games only once all season, said the Nuggets had not earned the right to overlook any opponent.
“We’re in no place coming into any game thinking we can go up and win,” Malone said. “After the game if that’s an issue, then obviously I think it speaks to a much bigger problem.”
Three hours later, and the Nuggets’ embarrassing 112-92 loss to the Mavericks was over. Denver, which never led in the game, fell to 9-16 and ended its six-game road trip 2-4.
And looking forward to a homestand starting with Portland on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center didn’t qualify as an excuse, either.
“I’m not worried about Portland right now at all,” Malone said. “I’m worried about our team. We just got our (butt) kicked and Portland has nothing to do with that.”
The Nuggets struggled to score at the start of the game. Dallas center Salah Mejri blocked three
of Denver’s first seven shots, punctuating the second with a Dikembe Mutombo-style finger wag. Malone called a timeout after Denver fell behind 10-2 and it calmed the team, for a period. The Nuggets’ bench scored eight points in the first quarter to keep Denver within striking distance.
But the wheels fell off at the end of the second quarter, and Denver’s defense was the culprit. The Nuggets were down 6543 at halftime.
“Our one-on-one defense is pathetic right now. It’s pathetic,” Malone said. “I have no other way to describe it. We don’t meet the challenge. We don’t take pride in it. We allow guys just to back us down and score way too easy.”
That 65-point outburst was the most points Dallas’ offense, which is dead last in the NBA in points per game, had scored in a single half this season.
lf performance relegated the second half to garbage time, when center Nikola Jokic scored 23 of his game-high 27 points.
If there was a bright spot for the Nuggets, it was that Wilson Chandler (hip) and Darrell Arthur (knee) both returned to the court. But even that was spoiled.
Arthur started at power forward and played 4:30 in the first quarter but did not return to the court after that. Chandler came off the bench and played 23 minutes but made only one of his three field-goal attempts.
A return to Big D.
The game against the Mavericks represented a homecoming of sorts for Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay, whose family settled in Dallas after leaving his home country of the Congo during the Second Congo War.
“Definitely went and saw family,” Mudiay said. “It’s always a good feeling to be back home. Never take that for granted.”
Mavericks guard Devin Harris works against Nuggets center Nikola Jokic on Monday night in Dallas. Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
Mavericks center Salah Mejri is fouled by Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler on Monday night in Dallas. Mejri scored seven points to Chandler’s two. Tony Gutierrez, The Associated Press