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Nuggets’ unselfish, balanced attack trumps big night by Mavericks’ Luka Doncic

Luka Doncic put on a sensational, long-distance, one-man show, but he was no match for the Nuggets’ multifaceted balancing act.

Led by big nights from Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Reggie Jackson, the Nuggets cruised to a 130-104 victory over the Mavericks Monday night at Ball Arena.

Doncic, an MVP candidate who entered the game averaging 32.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game, scored 38 points. He drained six of his 12 3-point attempts, even though a Nuggets defender often had a hand in his face.

Denver held a comfortable lead most of the game despite a relatively quiet night from center Nikola Jokic, its own MVP contender. Jokic took just eight shots and finished with eight points, though he did dish out seven assists and pulled down nine rebounds in just 28 minutes. Jokic entered the night averaging averaging 27 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 9.5 assists.

A prime example of the Nuggets’ unselfish team chemistry came midway through the first quarter. Murray hustled the ball down the court and dished to Jokic, who deftly floated the ball to Gordon for an alley-oop jam — a scene that’s become quite familiar at Ball Arena.

Despite Doncic’s 28-point first half on 10-of-16 shooting (including 6 of 9 on 3-pointers), the Nuggets led 68-59, paced by Gordon’s 16 points. Denver’s bench had a big night, scoring 62 points.

Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets drives on Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) of the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter at Ball Arena in Denver on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets drives on Tim Hardaway Jr. (10) of the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter at Ball Arena in Denver on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Murray sank all four of his 3-point attempts and led Denver with 22 points, while Gordon finished with 21 on 7-of-9 shooting. Jackson came off the bench to add 18 points in 18 minutes. Zeke Nnaji was the fourth Nuggets player in double figures, scoring 14 points.

A subplot to Monday’s game involved Jokic and Mavericks reserve forward Markieff Morris, who were facing off for the first time since Jokic decked Morris in retaliation for a perceived cheap shot on Nov. 8, 2021, when Morris played for Miami.

With 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in Denver’s 113-96 victory, Jokic rebounded the ball and brought it down the court, then passed off near midcourt. Morris, attempting to stop play, struck Jokic with a hard elbow to Jokic’s exposed right side as he was throwing an overhead pass.

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