DALLAS (AP) — All it took for Nikola Jokic to get going were a few words of encouragement from Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone at halftime.
Jokic scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half and Denver pulled out a 107-106 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night to finish 3-2 on its longest road trip of the season.
Jokic had 21 points in the third quarter and delivered the winning basket with 7.9 seconds left in the fourth when he backed down on the right side of the lane and got a favorable bounce on his left-handed layup. Jokic, who was coming off a career-high 47 points Monday in a win over Atlanta, scored his first points of this one with 4:31 to play in the first half.
“No, I didn’t get on him: ‘You've got to score 26 points this half,’” Malone said. “It was more, ‘Just stay with it.’ He got really good looks in the first half. ‘Didn’t go down for you. We’re going to keep on going to you.’”
The Mavericks’ final possession ended with an errant pass that eluded Tim Hardaway Jr. behind the 3-point line.
Luka Doncic led Dallas with 27 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds — one rebound short of his 12th triple-double of the season. The Mavericks played their fifth straight game without Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness), who is second on the team in scoring and rebounding.
“The game wasn’t lost at the end,” Hardaway said. “It was lost in the first, second, third and little parts of the fourth. You’ve got to give them credit because they knocked down their contested 3s and Jokic got hot.”
The Nuggets were 9 for 24 behind the arc, led by Jokic going 4 for 6.
Dallas shot 12 for 35 on 3-pointers. Doncic was 1 for 7 from long range.
After Jokic missed his only three shots of the first quarter and had seven points at halftime, he got rolling quickly.
“I missed a couple easy ones in the first half,” Jokic said. “My teammates were passing me the ball and telling me to shoot. I was just trying to be aggressive and score as much as possible.”
The Nuggets were down two starters. Will Barton, second on the team in rebounding, missed the game for personal reasons. Paul Millsap sat out with a bruised left knee. Their substitutes in the lineup were Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig, each making his fourth start of the season.
The Mavericks are 2-2 on a six-game homestand, their longest of the season. They have lost five of their last eight home games.
After the Nuggets allowed only four offensive rebounds in their eight-point win over the Hawks, they limited the Mavericks to six. ... The teams alternated six 3-pointers in the final 2:01 of the third quarter, leaving the Mavericks ahead 89-86 going into the fourth. ... Doncic went into play leading the NBA in first-quarter scoring at 9.9 points per game. He scored nine this time on 4-for-11 shooting, including 1 of 4 on 3-pointers while playing the entire period.
Doncic, the NBA’s third-leading scorer at 29.6 points per game, was held scoreless in the fourth quarter, going 0 for 3 from the floor with one 3-point attempt and no free throws.
“Just put pressure on him, make him give the ball up early,” Denver guard Jamal Murray said. “We trust our rotation to the last play, and it was working. We did a great job of just being active on defense.”
ON THE BOARDS
With Porzingis out, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle sought rebounding help from wherever he could find it. The Mavericks finished with a 38-37 edge over an opponent that is 17-2 when outrebounding its opposition. Dwight Powell had eight boards and reserve Maxi Kleber grabbed seven.
With the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers coming to town Friday and Saturday, respectively, Carlisle had no update on when Porzingis might return.
“He’s doing better every day,” Carlisle said. “His activity’s increasing every day.”