By Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
DENVER — The Denver Nuggets map out what uniforms they wear for each game before the season, but after their successful homestand, they might stick with the bleach white shirts for a while.
Nikola Jokic may never take his off.
Jokic tied a career high with 27 points to go with 15 rebounds and nine assists, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Dallas Mavericks 117-107 on Monday night.
Gary Harris scored a career-high 24 points for Denver (12-16), which has won three straight for the first time this season. Emmanuel Mudiay had 18 points and seven assists for the Nuggets, who are averaging 125.3 points during their streak.
“This is a really good homestand for us after a really bad road trip,” Jokic said. “We stepped up as a team.”
Deron Williams scored 23 points and handed out eight assists, and Harrison Barnes added 19 points for the Mavericks (7-21).
Jokic’s near triple-double came a week after he put up 27 points and 11 rebounds in the 20-point loss in Dallas. A missed 3-pointer by Mudiay in the final minute kept him from reaching 10 assists Monday.
“It doesn’t really matter,” Jokic said of falling short of the triple-double. “The game is more important than your name.”
His teammates were cheering for him. The players on the bench were on their feet when Mudiay’s shot went up and shoulders slumped when he missed.
“When you have a guy playing that well, you want him to get it,” Jameer Nelson said. “That’s a heck of an accomplishment for an individual. It means he’s playing the game the right way.”
The Mavericks are playing better, winning two of their previous four coming into Monday, but they ran into a team on a roll. Dallas got a boost from the return of J.J. Barea, who had 11 points in 13 minutes.
“I didn’t know how I was going to feel out there but it felt good to be out there with my teammates,” he said. “I felt better than I thought I was going to feel.”
The first half was filled with extreme swings. Denver was on top by nine late in the first quarter, but paced by Barea, the Mavericks went on a 33-8 run and led by as many as 16 early in the second quarter.
The Nuggets responded with a run of their own, outscoring Dallas 28-8 to go into halftime ahead 60-58.
“We stopped playing at the middle part of the second quarter and they made a big run and got the lead, and that’s where I thought the game got away from us,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We did a lot of great things up until that point.”
Denver extended the lead to 12 in the third quarter as the Mavericks started to show some fatigue after Sunday’s home win against Sacramento. The Nuggets were 11 of 18 in the third quarter and went 6 of 9 from long range.
Mudiay hit three of those 3-pointers and finished 4 of 5 from behind the arc.
Dallas was within eight heading into the fourth and stayed close for most of the quarter. Wes Matthews’ 3-pointer got the Mavericks within 105-99 with 4:17 left, but Jokic hit a 3-pointer and responded to a Dwight Powell dunk with a bank shot to keep Denver comfortably ahead.
Jokic got his ninth assist when he threw a long pass to Wilson Chandler streaking to the bucket.
“He’s a hell of a player and when we play through him good things happen,” coach Michael Malone said.