On a cold night in Denver, the Dallas Mavericks couldn’t ask to be in a better position than what they were at the end of Saturday’s game at the Pepsi Center.
Down by as many as 17 points and searching for ways to get some energy, the Mavs fought all the way back before getting upended by the Nuggets 102-100.
In having their four-game winning streak snapped, the Mavs are now 9-5 overall, 2-5 on the road and 1-4 on the second leg of a back-to-back. Denver improved to 6-6 overall.
These same two teams will meet again Monday in a home-and-home situation, with the venue being the American Airlines Center.
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The Mavs had two chances to send Saturday’s game into overtime, but came up dry both times.
First, Monta Ellis missed on a drive through a crowd of people with 7.1 seconds left.
Then, Dirk Nowitzki took a pass from Vince Carter and, with time running down, hoisted a 22-footer before he had time to get his feet set.
The Nuggets led for the majority of the game, but a bucket by Ellis and two more from Nowitzki gave the Mavs a 100-98 lead with 2:02 left.
The Mavs had a chance to widen that lead, but a jumper from Nowitzki missed its mark.
Randy Foye put Denver ahead for keeps when he buried a 3-pointer from the left side (101-100) with 1:09 left.
Ellis and Nowitzki each missed a jumper before a free throw by Kenneth Faried increased Denver’s advantage to 102-100 with 14.7 seconds left.
Then came those two frantic misses down the stretch for the Mavs, who trailed 35-20 after the first period and 65-53 at the half.
Coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t around to see his team battle back and turn what had been a blowout into a winnable game. Carlisle received two quick technical fouls with 5:14 left in the second period and was ejected with the Mavs behind 49-33.
However, the Mavs rallied and went on an 18-7 run to get within 76-75 with 3:25 left in the third quarter on a basket by Carter.
The Mavs eventually took an 89-88 lead with 7:31 remaining in the game on a jumper by Ellis.
It was the Mavs’ first lead since they held a 16-15 edge with 4:56 left in the opening quarter
Nowitzki, who converted 9 of 22 shots, led the Mavs with 27 points and nine rebounds. Nowitzki now is only six points from passing Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett for 14th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Garnett has 25,348 career points, while Nowitzki has 25,343.
Also for the Mavs, Ellis tallied 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and also grabbed six rebounds. Carter broke out of a slump with 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting, and Jose Calderon had 11 points and five assists.
Center Samuel Dalembert played for the first time with a padded undergarment to protect his sore right ribs. Dalembert didn’t attempt any shots and finished with three points and three rebounds in 22 minutes.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 20 points, Faried had 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Foye finished with 17 points.
The Mavs, who won at home Friday against Utah, shot just 40.2 percent from the field, while the Nuggets converted 44.3 percent of their shots.
Denver was aided by its efforts at the 3-point line, where it was 11-of-32 to just 7-of-21 for the Mavs.