KP's a No-Go As Hot Jokic Leads Nuggets at Luka's Mavs Tonight

Mike Fisher

DALLAS - A look at the NBA standings tells us that just two games separate the Denver Nuggets from the Dallas Mavericks. But a look at a boxscore and another look at an injury list tells us a potentially different story.

It's true that as we approach tonight's 6:30 tip at the AAC that Denver, considered an obvious power in the West, is 25-11 and in second place in the conference, and that while surprising Dallas is in sixth place, the 23-13 Mavs are just two games back of the Nuggets.

It's also true that these two teams have squared off once already this season, Luka Doncic's Mavs recording a road victory back in October.

But two things need to be acknowledged about tonight:

1) Dallas will again be without big man Kristaps Porzingis, who will miss a fifth straight game while nursing a knee. (It's "the other knee,'' and now a bit of an illness, too, but it's still bothersome.)

“He came in, was not feeling well, so we sent him home,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said on Tuesday. “His knee continues to do better, but he will not be available (Wednesday).”

2) Denver will feature big man Nikola Jokic, and just when opponents figure maybe they are catching on to how to catch up with the unique talent, we see that Jokic is coming off a 47-point performance in a Monday win at Atlanta.

“We want to be competitive against everybody, and generally speaking I think we have been,” Carlisle said. “But this game, it’s a big challenge.

“They've got all their weapons. They've got a dynamic team that can really score and do a lot of great things offensively, and defensively they’ve been better each year. Their size and rebounding and physical element is a really big test for us.”

Dallas hasn't been good enough at "passing tests'' at the AAC this season, as the Mavericks are just 11-8. Just as notable with these Nuggets and then the Lakers and then the Sixers rolling into town for a three-games-in-four-days grind-a-thon is that in the five outings the Mavs have had this year at the AAC against teams with a winning record, they've won just one.

“These next games, you got to treat as playoff games,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “You try not to live in the future, but by now we’re all happy and ready for this opportunity. These are three strong opponents that could easily all go to the (NBA) Finals. We’re excited and ready for the challenge.”

The chances of MVP candidate Doncic and his pals meeting that challenge will be helped when Porzingis is back. ... hopefully this weekend.

Playing without Porzingis,'' Carlisle said, is “going to be very challenging, but his health is the No. 1 thing and we are optimistic that he will come out of this thing successfully and in not too long a period of time. In the meantime, it is tough.” 

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