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Game 65: Mavs take on Nuggets

Game 65: Mavs take on Nuggets

The Dallas Mavericks continue their four-game homestand tonight against a Denver Nuggets team that will look a lot different than the team that eked out an 91-89 win at the Pepsi Center on Jan. 27.

Paul Millsap is back in the lineup for Denver (35-28, 8th in the West) after missing the last three months with a wrist injury. He is widely regarded as the team’s best defensive player even though guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray have both made strides for the Nuggets this season on that side of the ball.

Dallas (19-45, 13th in the West) has gone 6-20 since a four-game winning streak earlier in the season brought them to 13-25. The Mavericks have lost seven of their last eight games despite close contests against Utah (97-90 road loss) and a 111-110 overtime defeat to the Thunder at home on Feb. 28.

Dallas will close out the rest of its current homestand on Saturday against the Grizzlies and Sunday against the Rockets before heading out on a four-game, 11-day road trip against the Knicks, Raptors, Nets and Pelicans before returning home on March 22 to take on the Jazz.

The Nuggets haven’t made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season when they lost in six games to the Warriors as the 3-seed. They are currently mired in an eight-team bunch that is separated by just four games between the current 3-seed and 10-seed.

For Dallas, there are several trends to keep an eye on. Firstly, the improved play of Dwight Powell has been something to behold. Mavs.com’s Bobby Karalla summed it up nicely.

Another trend to be mindful of is Dennis Smith Jr.’s penchant for getting to the rim. It’s been well-documented that the rookie hasn’t been getting the calls that senior players get (a sentiment shared by Dallas owner Mark Cuban) but lately, the young point guard’s fortunes seem to be turning.

Smith’s usage rate is 28.6 (second among rookie starters behind only Portland’s Zach Collins) so it’s good to see his repeated attacks to the rim resulting in more free throws. However, Smith’s 69.2% free throw clip leaves room for improvement.

Tonight’s game will again have an impact on the lottery standings as Dallas “trails” only Memphis and Phoenix for the NBA’s worst record.

The Suns have lost three in a row to slip to 19-47 and Memphis, who Dallas plays Saturday, has lost 14 in a row and sits at 18-45. Brooklyn, Orlando, Atlanta and Sacramento are all 20-44 and one game back of Dallas in the reverse standings.

I'm Zack Cunningham, a broadcast journalism major from Abilene Christian University's class of 2008. I've lived in Texas for 28 of my 31 years on this Earth and I've followed the Mavericks since 1998. My first memory of them was the 2001 playoffs and being extremely happy when they beat the Jazz, but sad when they lost to the Spurs in five games in the conference semifinals. However, seeing Dirk drop 42 stands out to me, punctuated by his dunk in garbage time. I covered high school sports for the Cleburne Times-Review from 2008-12 before moving into the tech industry. Most recently, in 2015 covered the Mavericks for the Fanatic briefly before moving to work with Mike Fisher at DallasBasketball.com. I am married to my beautiful wife, Jessica, and have been for just over five years now. We live in Carrollton with our dog, Zara, and cat, Drake. I'm looking forward to covering them again this season with the Fanatic!

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