Mavericks look for change in fortunes vs. Nuggets

Luka Doncic‘s latest two high-scoring performances haven’t netted the Dallas Mavericks a victory.

Doncic and the Mavericks seek a different outcome as they look to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.

Doncic averaged 37 points in the two setbacks, including 38 in Dallas’ 119-109 road loss against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. The All-Star point guard made six 3-pointers and added eight assists and seven rebounds.

Two nights earlier, Doncic had 36 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a 112-109 home loss versus the Indiana Pacers.

Dallas has lost four of its past seven games but still resides in seventh place in the Western Conference, 6 1/2 games ahead of the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies. The way Doncic sees it, his team is exceeding expectations.

«I’m not worried at all,» Doncic told reporters after the Tuesday loss. «At the beginning of the season, people had us out of playoffs, and we showed that we can be in the playoffs.

«As of now, we are in the playoffs. It’s a long way, but I think we are going to make the playoffs. I’m not worried.»

The Nuggets are also in a bit of a rough spot, having split their past 10 games.

Denver notched a 109-95 home victory over the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, but reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) and fellow All-Star Khris Middleton (rest) both missed the game for the Bucks.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone wasn’t too concerned over who suited up for the opponent. He was just pleased to see a better performance from his club.

«It was about our effort, our focus and, ‘Were we willing to go out there and try to defend at a high level?'» Malone told reporters. «I thought we did that.»

The next task is getting All-Star center Nikola Jokic to emerge from his funk.

Jokic averaged just nine points over the past two games while making just 8 of 24 field-goal attempts. He hasn’t reached the 20-point mark since tallying 23 against the Toronto Raptors on March 1.

Jokic fared well with averages of 21.5 points, 8.5 assists and eight rebounds as the Nuggets split two games with the Mavericks earlier this season.

Point guard Jamal Murray scored 21 points in the win over Milwaukee after failing to reach the 20-point mark in six of his previous seven contests. Power forward Paul Millsap also played well, producing 20 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season and first since Feb. 8.

Denver reserve power forward Jerami Grant scored 19 points against the Bucks after averaging seven over the previous three contests.

Grant, 25, is averaging 11.6 points and 3.6 rebounds this season. His play will be observed closely down the stretch by team officials as both he and the 35-year-old Millsap are expected to become unrestricted free agents after this season.

In Grant’s case, he has a player option for $9.3 million next season that he will certainly decline in search of a much higher payday.

«We’ll see how it goes in the offseason,» Grant told the Denver Post. «It’s definitely all situational, but I’m definitely comfortable here. I love my teammates, love the coaches, everything.»

Meanwhile, Dallas is beginning a two-game homestand that includes a Saturday game against the Phoenix Suns.

Shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is providing Doncic with some scoring help, as he put up 20 points against San Antonio. He is averaging 23.5 points over the past four contests.

However, the Mavericks disintegrated after holding a nine-point lead late in the third quarter and were outplayed by the Spurs the remainder of the contest.

«When you build a lead in the third quarter the way we did and put yourself in a good position, you’ve got to find a way to sustain,» Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. «You’ve got to have a collective determination to fight through.»

Mavericks reserve shooting guard Seth Curry (ankle) is expected to miss his third consecutive game Wednesday.

–Field Level Media