Den­ver’s de­fense goes to sleep in em­bar­rass­ing loss to Dal­las

MAV­ER­ICKS 112, NUGGETS 92

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Adam Gros­bard

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

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