DAL
DEN

No Text

Jokic's big night helps Nuggets hold off Mavericks 105-102

DENVER (AP) Michael Malone wasn't all that thrilled about the lack of composure in the final quarter. Or all the turnovers. Or the shot selection. Or even the defense.

Still, he won't quibble with the outcome.

''We survived,'' Denver's coach said.

Nikola Jokic scored 29 points and grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds, Gary Harris hit two late free throws and the Nuggets held off the Dallas Mavericks 105-102 on Tuesday night after nearly blowing a 23-point lead.

''We lost focus in the fourth quarter and we gave them a chance to come back in the game,'' Jokic said. ''That was bad.''

The Nuggets led 82-59 with 4:04 left in the third before Dallas staged a massive comeback. The Mavericks cut the deficit to one on a three-point play by Dennis Smith Jr. with 10.4 seconds remaining. After Harris made two free throws, the Mavericks had a chance for a last-second shot, but Dwight Powell couldn't corral a long pass as the buzzer sounded.

''We never give up,'' Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. ''There are some things to build on here.''

So, what exactly changed in the fourth?

''I don't know. I'll have to go back and watch film to figure it out,'' said Smith, who finished with 25 points.

The Nuggets unraveled during a fourth quarter in which they were outscored 33-19. They turned the ball over several times, leading to 10 points, hit just 3 of 7 free throws and allowed Dallas to drain three 3-pointers.

''I thought we looked like a poorly coached team in that fourth quarter,'' Malone said. ''I take that very personally. We all have to be better down the stretch. If that game is 10 seconds longer, we probably lose.

''But I'm not going to say it's a complete waste - we got a win. I'm proud of our guys for having enough fortitude down the stretch to get the win.''

Harris finished with 25 points and Will Barton added 22 for the Nuggets, who won for just the second time in six games.

Trying to address the issue of slow starts, Malone tweaked the starting lineup by inserting Barton and sending Mason Plumlee to the bench. The change worked as Denver led at halftime. That's significant because it halted a streak of seven straight games in which the Nuggets trailed at intermission.

Denver made protecting the paint a point of emphasis in this contest. When the Mavericks beat the Nuggets 122-105 on Dec. 4, they dominated points in the paint with 64. That figure comes with a caveat - Jokic was sidelined with an ankle sprain.

This time, Dallas had 42.

Harris and Jokic combined to score Denver's opening 22 points, before Plumlee got in the scoring act with a free throw late in the first quarter.

TIP-INS

Mavericks: J.J. Barea sat out with a strained groin. ... F Harrison Barnes contributed 17 points, while reserve Devin Harris had 16.

Nuggets: The team had two buzzer-beaters - Barton on a 3-pointer to end the first quarter and Jokic with a tip-in to close out the second. ... Jokic had seven assists.

INJURY UPDATE

Carlisle said it's looking like at least February until Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee), Nerlens Noel (left thumb) and Seth Curry (left tibia) return.

''Right now Nerlens is on track to be on the floor before any of them,'' Carlisle said. ''If all goes well it's very possible he could be back playing in the first week of February.''

YOUTH IS SERVED

A reason for Denver's disparity between its home record (16-5) and road mark (7-16) is plain, old youth.

''It's our reality. Jamal (Murray) is 20. That's not an excuse, he's 20 years old,'' Malone said. ''We have a lot of young players and we have to help them get through these tough times.''

SPORADIC JOKIC

Malone isn't worried about Jokic's up-and-down performances. All part of his learning curve.

''This is his third year in the NBA. He was a second-round pick. Now all of a sudden people want him to be Superman,'' Malone said. ''Very few players in NBA history come in their first, second and third year and put a franchise on their back. What you love about Nikola is he doesn't shy from it.''

UP NEXT

Mavericks: At the Trail Blazers on Saturday.

Cavaliers: Travel to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

---

More AP basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Copyright 2018 by AP. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of AP is strictly prohibited.

Key Players
H. Barnes
40 SF
N. Jokic
15 C
30.7 Min. Per Game 30.7
15.8 Pts. Per Game 15.8
5.0 Ast. Per Game 5.0
10.1 Reb. Per Game 10.1
45.6 Field Goal % 48.1
45.5 Three Point % 47.9
83.3 Free Throw % 86.6
+ 1 Gary Harris made 2nd of 2 free throws 0:01
+ 1 Gary Harris made 1st of 2 free throws 0:01
  Personal foul on Wesley Matthews 0:01
+ 1 Dennis Smith Jr. made free throw 0:10
  Shooting foul on Torrey Craig 0:10
+ 2 Dennis Smith Jr. made driving layup 0:10
  Defensive rebound by Dwight Powell 0:15
  Gary Harris missed 2nd of 2 free throws 0:17
  Team rebound 0:17
  Gary Harris missed 1st of 2 free throws 0:17
  Personal foul on Yogi Ferrell 0:17
Team Stats
Points 102 105
Field Goals 38-78 (48.7%) 40-86 (46.5%)
3-Pointers 8-27 (29.6%) 8-26 (30.8%)
Free Throws 18-22 (81.8%) 17-26 (65.4%)
Total Rebounds 41 58
Offensive 5 15
Defensive 30 32
Team 6 11
Assists 17 23
Steals 10 10
Blocks 3 3
Turnovers 16 18
Fouls 24 23
Technicals 0 0
25 PTS, 2 REB, 5 AST
29 PTS, 18 REB, 7 AST
1234T
away team logo Mavericks 15-30 27212133102
home team logo Nuggets 23-21 30312519105
Team Stats
away team logo Mavericks 15-30 109.4 PPG 45.6 RPG 22.7 APG
home team logo Nuggets 23-21 109.9 PPG 47.2 RPG 26.9 APG
Key Players
D. Smith Jr. PG PPG RPG APG FG%
N. Jokic C 17.4 PPG 10.0 RPG 7.6 APG 47.8 FG%
Top Scorers
D. Smith Jr. PG 25 PTS 2 REB 5 AST
N. Jokic C 29 PTS 18 REB 7 AST
48.7 FG% 46.5
29.6 3PT FG% 30.8
81.8 FT% 65.4
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
D. Smith Jr. 31 25 2 5 1 0 4 2 11/18 0/1 3/3 0 2 34 +1
H. Barnes 36 17 6 0 2 1 0 0 5/9 1/2 6/6 0 6 26 +8
W. Matthews 35 10 4 2 2 0 3 4 3/12 2/8 2/2 2 2 17 +9
D. Nowitzki 23 6 4 0 1 0 0 2 3/5 0/1 0/0 0 4 11 -9
M. Kleber 16 3 2 1 0 2 2 4 1/4 0/1 1/2 0 2 7 -6
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
D. Smith Jr. 31 25 2 5 1 0 4 2 11/18 0/1 3/3 0 2 34 +1
H. Barnes 36 17 6 0 2 1 0 0 5/9 1/2 6/6 0 6 26 +8
W. Matthews 35 10 4 2 2 0 3 4 3/12 2/8 2/2 2 2 17 +9
D. Nowitzki 23 6 4 0 1 0 0 2 3/5 0/1 0/0 0 4 11 -9
M. Kleber 16 3 2 1 0 2 2 4 1/4 0/1 1/2 0 2 7 -6
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
D. Harris 18 16 0 1 0 0 4 1 5/11 4/9 2/2 0 0 14 -8
Y. Ferrell 35 13 2 7 1 0 2 4 5/10 1/5 2/4 0 2 28 0
S. Mejri 12 5 6 0 1 0 1 4 2/2 0/0 1/1 2 4 11 +9
D. Powell 20 4 7 1 2 0 0 2 2/6 0/0 0/0 1 6 15 -10
K. Collinsworth 10 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 1/1 0/0 1/2 0 2 5 -9
J. Barea - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. McRoberts - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
N. Noel - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
S. Curry - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Motley - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Finney-Smith - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Jones - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 236 102 35 17 10 3 16 24 38/78 8/27 18/22 5 30 168 -15
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
N. Jokic 33 29 18 7 2 1 5 5 11/23 0/2 7/10 9 9 59 -2
G. Harris 37 25 0 4 4 1 1 3 8/14 3/6 6/8 0 0 37 +1
W. Barton 42 22 5 6 1 1 5 4 9/15 2/5 2/4 1 4 36 +7
J. Murray 31 7 3 1 0 0 3 1 3/9 1/3 0/0 0 3 9 +2
W. Chandler 37 6 8 2 2 0 2 2 3/8 0/3 0/0 2 6 18 -2
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
N. Jokic 33 29 18 7 2 1 5 5 11/23 0/2 7/10 9 9 59 -2
G. Harris 37 25 0 4 4 1 1 3 8/14 3/6 6/8 0 0 37 +1
W. Barton 42 22 5 6 1 1 5 4 9/15 2/5 2/4 1 4 36 +7
J. Murray 31 7 3 1 0 0 3 1 3/9 1/3 0/0 0 3 9 +2
W. Chandler 37 6 8 2 2 0 2 2 3/8 0/3 0/0 2 6 18 -2
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
M. Plumlee 14 5 3 0 0 0 1 2 2/5 0/0 1/2 2 1 7 +8
T. Craig 14 5 4 0 1 0 1 5 2/3 0/1 1/2 1 3 9 -2
T. Lyles 15 3 6 3 0 0 0 0 1/4 1/3 0/0 0 6 15 +9
M. Beasley 14 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1/5 1/3 0/0 0 0 3 -6
P. Millsap - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Faried - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Arthur - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
E. Mudiay - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Lydon - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Hernangomez - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
R. Jefferson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Morris - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 237 105 47 23 10 3 18 23 40/86 8/26 17/26 15 32 193 +15