Jokic’s Nuggets Top Luka’s Mavs, 117-113

Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic head-to-head is must-see NBA basketball.
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DALLAS - The Dallas Mavericks lost to the Denver Nuggets, 117-113, in a Monday game at the AAC that featured two MVP candidates living up to the hype. 

Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic head-to-head is must-see NBA basketball. But ...

As Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, “When you have a great individual performance and the spirit of your team isn’t right, then it’s very likely you’ll be at a deficit.”

The Doncic Show started early as the Slovenian star accounted for all of the Mavs' first quarter points except two; scoring 14 points plus 15 more points off of assists. Doncic earned his first-ever triple-double against Denver and the 31st triple-double of his career (tied with John Havlicek for 13th most in NBA history). Doncic finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists.

Fun fact: Doncic also recorded his 16th career 30-point triple-double, tying Michael Jordan for eighth-most all-time.

However, for the second game in a row, the Mavs gave up 70 first-half points, here with Denver shooting 54.5 percent from beyond the arc. Jokic's dominance continued, finishing with his 17th-straight double-double. The Nuggets’ center finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists.

[READ: Whitt's End: Luka Is The Next Emmitt]

The Nuggets led by as many as 13 points before a turning point in the third quarter. Jamal Murray was ejected for flagrant-2 after making unnecessary and excessive contact with Tim Hardaway Jr's groin region. Murray had 16 points. Hardaway Jr. proved to be the catalyst Dallas needed; hitting a pair of free throws and a three-pointer... then dunking it in transition to tie the game at 80.

Talk about a Hardaway Jr. takeover ... THJ scored 16 points in the third quarter. 

But, said Hardaway after the defeat: “For me it’s all about the wins and losses. Today he got ejected, but those guys stepped up. You have to give them credit. Bench players stepped up.”

Denver and Dallas fought each other until the final minute, with Michael Porter Jr. scoring clutch baskets for the Nuggets down the stretch. Porter Jr. lead Denver with 30 points off the bench. Porzingis and Doncic each committed uncharacteristic turnovers in the final minutes and the Mavs could not capitalize on the momentum swing, falling 117-113. 

The Mavs continue to be without four key rotational players missing because of COVID-19 protocol; Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell and Josh Richardson. Tonight, it showed as the Mavs were out-rebounded 49-34 by the Nuggets.

On the bright side... Finney-Smith, Powell and Richardson were in attendance in street clothes at Monday's game. 

The Mavs are officially one-fourth through their 72-game NBA season with an 8-9 record.

Next up, the Mavs travel to play the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. CT. They'll do so after conducting a post-game closed-door meeting here at the AAC.

“We had a talk,'' Doncic said. "Coach spoke, but that will stay between us. That was it.”