Nuggets defeat Mavericks behind Jokic’s buzzer-beater

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball in the first quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center.
Mar 14, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball in the first quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets captured a thrilling victory on Thursday night as Nikola Jokic hit a buzzer-beater to give Denver a 100-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

With the win, Denver’s record moves to 45-22, which is good for a game behind Golden State for first place in the Western Conference. The Nuggets victory also pushes their home record to 29-6, which is the best mark in the NBA.

Even though Denver was able to walk away victorious, they started the game slow as Dallas began the night strong. Because of that, the Mavericks held an early 10-8 lead. What Denver did have going for them was the tremendous play of Paul Millsap, who scored the Nuggets first eight points of the game.

The spark Millsap provided was echoed by his teammates as the Nuggets finally got in rhythm offensively, but Dallas continued to lead early on. With just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Mavericks held a 4-point lead as Denver was still within striking distance. Dallas closed the quarter strong though as they held a 29-26 lead through 12 minutes of play.

Even as Dallas was playing well, so were the Nuggets as they quickly took the lead in quarter number two. Denver began the period on a 16-8 run and before you knew it, they suddenly had a 5-point lead midway through the quarter. That run was sparked by Millsap, who turned back the clock with this alley-oop dunk that helped increase Denver’s lead.

From that dunk on, the Mavericks went on a 20-9 run to close the period, which gave them a 57-51 lead going into the halftime locker room. At the break, Dallas had three players in double-figures — Dwight Powell (10), Luka Doncic (11), Tim Hardaway Jr. (13) — while the Nuggets had just one (Millsap, 20). Will Barton was the next closest with nine points, while Jamal Murray and Monte Morris each had five points a piece.

The Millsap show continued into the third quarter as he scored seven of the Nuggets first 12 points of the period, but Dallas still found a way to grow their lead. As the Nuggets struggled to stop the Mavericks offense, their deficit grew to 8-points with 7:57 left in the period. Denver’s struggles continued throughout the quarter as they could not get going offensively besides what Millsap was providing them.

Even though Millsap had 31 points through three quarters, the Mavericks were still in control as they led 89-79 with one period remaining. Millsap was the only Nuggets player in double-figures through three quarters as Denver was looking for anyone to step up and help jump start the offense.

Like they have done all season, the Nuggets battled and quickly got back into the game with an 8-2 run to open the fourth quarter. That run made it a 4-point game as the Nuggets still had 8:27 to complete their comeback, which became more of a reality as time wore on. A Jokic floater off the glass made it a 95-93 game with 4:26 to play as the Nuggets had officially made it a one-possession game.

Millsap would hit a floater just a few possessions later to tie the game at 95, before a Doncic lay-up gave Dallas the lead once again. Denver answered to tie the game back up, before a Jokic free-throw with 1:06 remaining gave the Nuggets a 1-point lead. The Nuggets would get a stop on Dallas’ next possesion, then a costly turnover gave the Mavericks the ball — down one — with 20 seconds remaining.

A thunderous dunk by Doncic gave Dallas a 1-lead as the Nuggets had the ball with five seconds remaining and a chance to steal a victory. Jokic would hit an off-balance floater at the buzzer for Denver to put them over the top as the Nuggets captured a thrilling 100-99 victory.

Stat leaders for Denver were Millsap, who had a tremendous night finishing with 33 points on 14-of-19 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds. Jokic also finished with a solid stat line as he chipped in 11 points, while hauling in 14 rebounds and dishing out eight assists to go along with one buzzer-beating shot. Other Nuggets who finished in double-figures were Murray (12), Malik Beasley (12), and Barton (11) as all three played an important role in Denver’s comeback.

Denver has a day off tomorrow before they are back in action Saturday at home against the Indiana Pacers.