DALLAS — Without standout big men Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap, the Nuggets displayed grit and resolve in the second half of home victories against the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

But in the Nuggets' 11th game away from the Pepsi Center, it was different location, same story. Denver could not overcome a flat start in Dallas, falling 122-105 to the Mavericks on Monday night at American Airlines Arena.

The loss dropped Denver to 3-8 on the road, a mark that continues to be the most perplexing development of the early season.

The Nuggets (13-10) trimmed a 25-point first-half deficit to single digits late in the third quarter. But when Will Barton's 3-pointer got Denver within 88-80 with 2:05 left in the period, Yogi Ferrell answered with a tough pull-up jumper. Then when a Jamal Murray floater reduced Dallas' advantage to 90-82, Harrison Barnes responded by drilling a jumper and Dwight Powell made 1-of-2 free throws to give Dallas to regain control heading into the final period.

The Mavericks (7-17) started the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run, capped by a jumper by future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki to put Dallas up 101-84 with 10:13 to play. Denver twice cut the lead to 10 points but never got closer in the final minutes. An old-fashioned three-point play by Ferrell all but clinched the win by giving the Mavericks a 115-100 lead with less than four minutes to play.


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Denver could not carry over its lockdown defensive performance from Saturday's stretch run against the Lakers, when it held Los Angeles scoreless for the final 3:57 and scored the final 15 points to notch a double-digit win.

Dallas shot 56.8 from the floor and 6-of-14 from long range in the first half to build its comfortable advantage, as rookie point guard Dennis Smith (20 points, five rebounds) zoomed to the rim with ease, Harrison Barnes (22 points, 10 rebounds) knocked down shots from all over the floor and Wesley Matthews (15 points) and Devin Harris (14 points) got free from 3-point land.

Denver's offense meanwhile, shot 34.7 percent from the field in the first half before making outscoring the Mavericks 35-29 in the third period.

Barton led Denver with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists off the bench, while Murray scored 22 and Gary Harris added 21.

The Mavericks have been playing much better of late, winning five of their last eight games. Still, Dallas entered Monday with the worst record in the Western Conference.

Now the Mavericks have joined the growing list of opponents who have convincingly topped Denver on their home floor.

Different location, same result for Denver.