Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 115, Mavericks 110

DENVER -- The Dallas Mavericks’ season reached a Rocky Mountain low with a 115-110 loss to the reeling Denver Nuggets.

How it happened: The Mavs never recovered from an atrocious defensive performance in the first quarter, when the Nuggets scored 41 points, including 17 by point guard Ty Lawson. The Mavs have allowed more points in a quarter only once this season.

But the Dallas defense might have been even worse in the fourth quarter, when the Nuggets scored 36 points and missed only two field goal attempts.

It took the Nuggets, who had lost 11 of their previous 12 games, going ice-cold in the third quarter for the Mavs to get back into the game. Dirk Nowitzki had 11 points in that frame, matching the total of the Nuggets, who were 4-of-26 from the floor in the third.

But it didn’t take long for the Nuggets to turn it into a blowout again. After the deficit was trimmed to six points, the Nuggets opened the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run, fueled by six points on a few easy buckets around the rim by J.J. Hickson.

Some garbage-time 3-pointers made the final score appear much more competitive than the Mavs actually were.

Hickson had 12 of his 16 points -- and a few highlight dunks -- in the fourth quarter. He was one of six Nuggets to score in double figures, led by Wilson Chandler’s 21 points.

The Mavs wasted a 27-point performance by Nowitzki, who was 13-of-20 from the floor. Reserve big man Brandan Wright, who got more minutes than usual because Samuel Dalembert was benched for the second half, added 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting.

The Dallas defense was so awful -- except for the third quarter -- that the Mavs’ offense was pretty much irrelevant. Denver slammed the door by running a layup line with little resistance for most of the fourth quarter.

What it means: The Mavs have their first three-game losing streak of the season, dropping to 36-26. Dallas is now two games behind the Golden State Warriors for sixth place in the Western Conference and would be the eighth seed if the playoffs opened now. The Nuggets improved to 26-34 with their first home win in a month.

Play of the game: A playground trick by Kenneth Faried exposed just how awful the Mavs’ defense and rebounding was in the first quarter. After Faried picked up his dribble in the middle of the lane, he tossed the ball off the backboard and caught it to set up an uncontested layup.

Stat of the night: The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers are the only teams in the league without a three-game losing streak this season after the Mavs dropped out of that club.