DENVER – Luka Doncic is always ready to take the big shot, but he isn’t afraid to pass to a teammate with the game on the line.
Maxi Kleber rewarded Doncic’s trust with a clutch 3-pointer late in regulation, then set up a teammate himself for another huge 3 in overtime to lead the Dallas Mavericks over the Denver Nuggets 124-117 Thursday night.
Doncic came within one rebound of his second straight triple-double, finishing with 38 points and 13 assists. He sat out Sunday’s loss to Chicago and responded with his first triple-double of the season against Houston on Monday. He followed that up with a season high in points.
Nikola Jokic scored 20 of his 38 points after halftime and grabbed 11 rebounds for Denver. Jamal Murray added 21 points and nine assists.
The Nuggets led by one in the final seconds of regulation when Kleber came through. Doncic had the ball with time running out, and when the defense collapsed on him he found Kleber, whose 3-pointer put Dallas up 109-107 with 2.4 seconds left.
“He’s a great shooter. He's a great player. He does a lot of stuff that few people see,” Doncic said. “Our whole team sees that. It was a great shot. Even if he would have missed it, it was a great shot.”
Jokic capped a 17-point fourth quarter with an 18-foot jumper at the horn to send the game to overtime, and Kleber delivered again. He fed Josh Richardson for a 3 with 1:25 left that put the Mavericks ahead 119-114. Denver got within three on a 3-pointer from Jokic, but Doncic scored four straight to ice it for the Mavericks.
Richardson finished with 14 points, including a tiebreaking jumper before his 3-pointer.
“We had the game. We had the game,” Murray said. “We just didn’t close it like we should have.”
Dallas rallied from four down to take a 101-97 lead on a 3 by Kleber, his first points of the night, but Jokic scored the next five to put Denver ahead.
“I’m trying to be ready and take that shot with confidence,” Kleber said. “Shots are going to fall or not — you just have to trust and believe.”
Mavericks: G Trey Burke wasn’t with the team but coach Rick Carlisle said “to my knowledge, it is not COVID-19 related.” ... F Kristaps Porzingis (knee) is on the trip and making progress but there is no timetable for his return. "He is ramping things up and the hope is that his progress can continue without issue and then we can see where things are as we move forward,” Carlisle said.
Nuggets: F Michael Porter Jr. was expected back Thursday night but he was ruled out hours before tip-off due to health and safety protocols. Porter missed the previous three games because of COVID-19 contact tracing. “He’s not here right now, so I’m not even going to speak on that,” coach Michael Malone said after the game. “We have guys that are talented, have been in the league. They got to step up and help us play. We’ll speak about Michael when he gets back to our team.”
SHOW OF UNITY
The teams locked arms in a circle and kneeled for the national anthem before the game as a show of solidarity following the insurrection by rioters Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol.
“We came together as a team, and we talked to the opponent today, and we wanted to stand together and that’s why we decided before the game to kneel,” Kleber said. “We all have a platform and stand for the right thing. We can make that statement powerful if we decide to do that.”
Mavericks: Host the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.
Nuggets: At the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
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