The Denver Nuggets have played through tough injuries and COVID-19 issues and somehow sit two games above .500.
It feels more like survival for Denver, which wraps up a two-game swing through Texas when it plays at Dallas on Monday night.
The Nuggets won the first leg of the trip, 124-111, at Houston on Saturday night, despite not having head coach Michael Malone and four players due to health and safety protocols and being down to one healthy point guard in Facu Campazzo.
Assistant Popeye Jones served as the acting head coach but was in constant contact with Malone before the game.
“Obviously you keep him in the loop on everything that we’re doing and what we’re thinking, game plan-wise, lineup-wise, and he said, ‘You know what, I don’t want to micromanage you,'” Jones said. “‘You guys know what you’re doing.'”
Denver didn’t practice Sunday so the status of Bones Hyland, Jeff Green, Monte Morris and Zeke Nnaji for Monday has not been updated.
Campazzo, in his second season with Denver after a strong career in Europe, had a career-high 22 points in the win over the Rockets and may need to match that against the Mavericks. Austin Rivers aggravated a thumb injury Saturday night and could be limited.
Denver signed Rayjon Tucker to a hardship contract, Davon Reed to another 10-day contract and Carlik Jones to fill out the roster. Tucker played 22 minutes and Reed logged 15 against the Rockets. Jones, who joined the team Saturday, didn’t play but could see action if the team is shorthanded.
The Nuggets still have Nikola Jokic, and Aaron Gordon returned to the lineup after missing three games with a hamstring injury.
Jokic has been a steadying influence this season through injuries and illnesses. He had a sub-par game for him on Saturday, with 24 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
Denver faces a Dallas team that has gotten key players back, most notably Luka Doncic. Doncic missed 10 games before leading the Mavericks to a 95-86 win at Oklahoma City on Sunday night. It was his first game in 23 days and he was sporting a brace on his left knee.
Coach Jason Kidd limited him to 31 minutes, and he finished with 14 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
“My chest was burning,” Doncic said of returning to the lineup. “It was a weird feeling, but happy. Very happy.”
Dallas also got Tim Hardaway Jr. and Max Kleber back into the lineup. Both players missed six games in health and safety protocol since testing positive for COVID-19 before Christmas.
The win over the Thunder was the second straight for the Mavericks after they dropped five of their previous seven. They went 5-5 without Doncic.
Reggie Bullock played his second game after he missed six due to health and safety protocols.
“It was a tough time,” Bullock said. “It’s going around the whole league. I had to isolate at home. I’ve been feeling well. The break was good for me. I was struggling.”
–Field Level Media