The Denver Nuggets flew into Dallas gunning for their first preseason win and left as victors in a game that showed promise, yet need for improvement. Coming out of the gate firing, Denver dominated the first quarter, almost doubling up on the Mavericks 30-16. Credit goes to Joffrey Lauvergne and Danilo Gallinari; the two Europeans led Denver in the opening quarter with 11 points and 4 assists, respectively.
Emmanuel Mudiay continued to struggle protecting the ball (7 turnovers), but scored a team high 17 points to go along with 5 assists. Most of his mistakes tend to come from trying to force the issue, so these are typical rookie mistakes -- he's simply trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. If the high turnover numbers continue into the regular season... then the team may have a problem.
Once again, Kenneth Faried struggled. He had some very nice moments rebounding the ball, but generally had trouble defending the pick-and-roll (especially with Mudiay in the set) as well as some missed rotations and generally careless mistakes. If Faried is going to win back the portion of Nuggets fans that have lost faith in him, it has to start with defense. Here are some glimpses of good Faried play...
These three plays happened within a minute of each other via the game clock. Villanueva continued his onslaught as he cut the Nuggets lead down to four points in the third quarter, making it a game before Will Barton and his bag of tricks put it away for good:
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas / Oct. 6, 2015 / Preseason Game No. 2
CO-STARS OF THE GAME:
Mudiay shook off a tough performance against the Clippers and responded with a team high 17-points on 7-14 shooting (1-2 from 3-point land). The young point guard started the game a little wild, but calmed down by the end and even showed off some strength as he put a punctuation mark on the night, as seen here:
Another game, another double-double for Lauvergne. The Frenchmen is making a very convincing argument for the starting center position, and he is winning Nuggets fans over. Solid across the board, King Joffrey was on an absolute tear, dropping 14 points and 12 rebounds tonight on 6-8 shooting (2-2 from three).
Too many to choose from as Gallinari found Lauvergne early and often. This is why you can't purely look at the box score -- Gallinari shot poorly, but generally played an excellent game. His playmaking helped launch the Nuggets to an early lead and he is proving to be invaluable as a secondary ball handler alongside Mudiay. Gallo was the catalyst in a dominating first quarter that set the tone for the rest of the night:
Mudiay also showed the Dallas fans in attendance a glimpse of what makes him so special when he threw a perfect cross court pass for a Gallinari three -- something Nuggets fans will hopefully see a ton of in the future:
Solid numbers across the board, Gallinari played a good game despite the terrible shooting percentage -- just imagine when he's hitting his shot. With the Nuggets needing someone to step up this season, Gallo might become a legitimate triple-double threat this season.
Randy Foye had a terrible statistical impact, although he made some nice plays, but right now Gary Harris has the handle on the starting job due to his defense, something that is music to many Nuggets fans' ears.
Nikola Jokic was a perfect 4-4 from the field in what was another solid game for the rookie. He's something special and could play considerable minutes this season even with the logjam in the frontcourt.
With all this praise it's sad to announce that the stat of the night is Mudiay's 7 turnovers. He needs to show improvement in taking care of the ball, and that should come as the season wears on. I like seeing the youngster testing the waters with his playmaking, but some of his mistakes were just plain silly. Sometimes the best play is the simple play.
Nuggets fans should be giddy knowing they will be watching the growth of Mudiay over the next handful of years -- hopefully longer. Mudiay is improving right before our eyes and is giving fans hope after what proved to be a disastrous couple seasons under Brian Shaw. Although he's struggling with turnovers, Mudiay is getting into the paint at will, finding teammates and moving the ball seamlessly. He is struggling with the more subtle intricacies of defense right now -- like pick-and-roll defense and rotations -- but with his mature demeanor and high basketball IQ there is little doubt that it's fixable.
An unsung hero, Jokic should be making Tim Connelly and the Nuggets front office extremely happy with their investment of a mere second-round pick (41st overall). Flashing legitimate draft-lottery talent, Jokic is proving that he not only has the skill-set to succeed, but the will to actually achieve it. Look for the Serbian rookie to continue pushing for minutes this season as an incredibly useful player... in any lineup.
The Nuggets will be back in Denver, but will face off against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, Oct. 8 at Coors Event Center in Boulder, CO. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. MST.