Nuggets prepare for Dallas-Doncic challenge

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Nuggets prepare for Dallas-Doncic challenge

Denver guard Jamal Murray confessed that the Nuggets didn’t respect the Washington Wizards on this current road trip, and it cost them with an inexplicable loss.

Chances are Denver won’t overlook its next opponent as it wraps up a five-game road trip.

The Nuggets will likely be locked in when they visit Dallas on Wednesday night in a matchup of two of the better young teams in the Western Conference. The Mavericks are coming off a 118-110 win over the Chicago Bulls on Monday in which their young superstar, Luka Doncic, put up a triple-double.

Dallas is sixth in the Western Conference standings, but at 23-13 is only two games behind Denver, which is second. The Mavericks will face the Nuggets without 7-foot-3 forward Kristaps Porzingis, who will miss his fifth straight game with right knee soreness.

But Dallas does have Doncic, who has established himself as one of the better all-around offensive players in just his second season. His legend grew with his 38-point, 11-rebound and 10-assist performance against the Bulls, giving him his ninth triple-double when scoring 30 or more points.

It was the second straight game he had a triple-double with 30 or more points, and the nine he has this season is more than the rest of the league combined. He has 11 triple-doubles overall this year.

“The rare thing about Luka is he’s doing this at 20,” Mavericks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said after Monday’s win. “I haven’t really seen any 20-year-old be this effective on both ends of the floor.”

Denver can counter with its own triple-double machine in Nikola Jokic, who at 24 years old is a graybeard compared to Doncic. Jokic has seven this season and 39 in his career, four of those coming in the postseason last spring.

Jokic scored a career-high 47 points in Monday’s win at Atlanta, showing that he can be aggressive with his shot when the team needs. He has had games this season in which he passes up open looks, which has drawn criticism from almost anyone but his coach.

“No matter what Nikola does, no one’s ever happy,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Monday. “That’s why I don’t give a (expletive) what anybody says. … When I go to bed, I worry about a lot of things. I don’t worry about Nikola Jokic.”

Wednesday is the second of four meetings between the two and the first of two in Dallas. The Mavericks went into Denver on Oct. 29 and handed the Nuggets their first loss of the season. Denver contained Dallas’ two superstars but the Mavericks had nine players score in double figures that night to pull out the 109-106 win.

The Nuggets can bring that kind of depth to a game as well. All five starters are capable of putting up big offensive nights and the bench has offensive firepower as well.

The key for Denver is being focused, an issue that has led to four losses to teams with a combined 32 wins this year. For Malone, that focus starts with his center.

“He sets the temperature for our team,” Malone said of Jokic. “Whether it’s shootaround, whether it’s practice or whether it’s a game. When Nikola is locked in and engaged and in a good place, you know you’re going to have a good practice or a good shootaround or a good game. You can lead in so many different ways.”

–Field Level Media

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