The Dallas Mavericks were shorthanded on Wednesday night in Denver, playing without four essential players, including recently acquired guard Kyrie Irving.
The Mavericks (31-29) dropped their third consecutive game as the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets (41-18) came out with a 119-108 win heading into the 2023 All-Star break.
Dallas hung with Denver in three of the four quarters, but a 35-19 second quarter gave Denver control of the game. The Nuggets led by as many as 21.
The Mavs battled back in the second half and even won the fourth quarter but could not get within striking distance to complete a comeback.
Dallas leaned on Luka Doncic for its scoring with Irving out, and he finished with a game-high 37 points. Christian Wood added 17 off the bench, while guards A.J. Lawson and McKinley Wright IV also scored in double figures.
Six Nuggets players had at least 14 points, led by forward Jeff Green with 24 and Michael Porter Jr. with 22. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic added 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.
WHAT TO KNOW
— Recent rumors have linked the Mavericks to veteran power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, but the team made another addition on Wednesday, adding small forward Justin Holiday.
— The loss drops the Mavericks to seventh place in the Western Conference, tied in record with the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are part of a cluster of teams within four games of each other. The Mavericks trail Sacramento, Phoenix, and the Los Angeles Clippers and are just ahead of New Orleans, Golden State, and Oklahoma City.
— Irving missed the game with “back stiffness,” according to head coach Jason Kidd, while Dallas also played without Davis Bertans, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Maxi Kleber.
— Dallas finishes the season series with Denver with a 2-2 split.
BY THE NUMBERS
— According to the Associated Press, this was Doncic’s 65th game with at least 35 points, and he trails only LeBron James for the most 35-point games before age 24. Doncic turns 24 later this month, and the team does not play enough games for him to reach James’ mark.
— The AP also reports that Jokic became the third player to collect at least 500 rebounds and 500 assists before the All-Star break.
— Head coach Jason Kidd spoke on his team playing through injuries during a press conference on Wednesday.
“We missed everybody, but you gotta play with the guys that are suited up, and that’s just been part of the season for us. We’ve had injuries like everyone else. It gives the next guy the opportunity to play, and I thought those guys played hard tonight and put ourselves in a position to win.”
The NBA is heading into the All-Star break this weekend. Doncic and Irving will represent the Mavericks in the All-Star Game, which will be played at 6:30 p.m. CT on Sunday in Salt Lake City.
Dallas returns home to face the San Antonio Spurs (14-45) at 7:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, February 23.