Times-Call (Longmont)

Nuggets roll past Mavericks

Green's seasonhigh 24 points propel surging Denver into break

- By Mike Singer msinger@denverpost.com

For a night, Jeff Green looked young again.

Long in the tooth and even longer in his career, Green soared through Denver’s thin air on numerous occasions, propelling the Nuggets to an 118-109 win on Wednesday night. That it came in the final game before the All-star break made it all the more improbable.

Green paced the Nuggets with a season-high 24 points, as the Nuggets improved to 41-18 on the season and 27-4 at home. They won’t play again until Feb. 23rd at Cleveland.

By then, perhaps injured Nuggets Jamal Murray (knee) and Aaron Gordon (rib) will be back in the fold for the stretch run.

On Wednesday, it was Green, Michael Porter Jr. (22 points) and Nikola Jokic, who recorded his 21st triple-double of the season, that protected home court. His 14-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist night almost felt like an afterthoug­ht with so many other impressive performanc­es.

Dallas’ Luka Doncic poured in 37 points but without his newest teammate, Kyrie Irving, his support wasn’t close to there.

Denver dished 34 assists to just 13 turnovers in the win.

Kentavious Caldwellpo­pe was frustrated enough about his omission from the 3-point contest that he took to social media on Tuesday to vent. A day later, he took it out on the Mavs. Caldwell-pope buried two 3-pointers in the third quarter, coupled with his tenacious defense to help the Nuggets maintain a comfortabl­e double-digit lead. His marksmansh­ip, staggered with the second unit, gave the

Nuggets a complement­ary dimension to Ish Smith’s speed and Thomas Bryant’s size.

When Smith found Bryant for a dunk late in the third quarter, new addition Reggie Jackson got off the bench and mimicked goggles over his eyes for the find. It didn’t take long for Jackson to ingratiate himself to his new teammates. During one timeout, he was up on the bench offering pointers to former teammate Bruce Brown before high-fiving the rest of his new teammates en route to his seat. Collective­ly, the new additions were already contributi­ng. As a result, Denver carried a 92-74 lead into the final quarter.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t seem overly anxious with Murray’s status, though he allowed any time a player misses six games in a row, it’s always relatively concerning.

“It’s just being really smart this time of the year,” Malone said before the game. “There’s no reason to put him out there if he doesn’t have confidence in playing on that right knee right now. I think the break will do him well mentally, physically.”

After talking to him, Malone said he was reassured that Murray was in a good place heading into the break.

Vacation awaited the majority of Nuggets players following the conclusion of Wednesday’s game, but not all of them.

“I think it’s crazy that we’re going to Utah in a few days, and it’s just the coaching staff and Nikola,” Malone said, referencin­g Murray and Gordon, two All-star snubs, and Caldwell-pope, who was left out of the 3-point contest despite shooting 45% on the season.

Nonetheles­s, it will be Jokic and the coaching staff in Salt Lake City this weekend.

But Malone reminded his team they still had work to do before departing for a well-earned break.

They composed a sterling first half, which built them a 61-44 lead at the break. Doncic scored 23 points, but nobody else registered more than five over the first two quarters for the visitors.

Porter led the Nuggets with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. When the Mavericks threw a double-team in Jokic’s direction, Porter calmly buried a 25-footer, leaving the defense helpless. While Jokic was productive — and dominant when he wanted to be — the first half was about his supporting cast.

Denver’s bench amassed 20 points, as Green, Smith, Bryant and Christian Braun were all impactful. The latter two connected on the play of the night, when Braun lofted an alley-oop to Bryant, who announced his presence to Denver with an unambiguou­s jam.

 ?? AARON ONTIVEROZ — THE DENVER POST ?? The Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr., right, watches as he knocks down a three over the Mavericks’ Josh Green on Wednesday at Ball Arena in Denver.
AARON ONTIVEROZ — THE DENVER POST The Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr., right, watches as he knocks down a three over the Mavericks’ Josh Green on Wednesday at Ball Arena in Denver.

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