Even though the Denver Nuggets have played just four games of the 2010-11 season, last night’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center had playoff-like intensity. The teams battled, trading leads that went as high as 10 points on either side. But the Nuggets came up just short, losing the game 102-101. Carmelo Anthony, one of the best clutch shooters in the league, had a chance to hit the game-winning shot, but the ball went into the basket and looped out as time expired. “I think I’ll make that shot nine times out of 10,” Anthony tells The Denver Post. “It’s a heartbreaker, but you make some, you miss some.”

Melo had a team-high 20 points, but it wasn’t quite enough to hang with Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, a seven-foot-tall perennial All Star who racked up 35 points for the Mavs (via NBA.com box score). The game was another reminder that the Nuggets, as currently assembled, can hang with the league’s best—even when they’re down three of their biggest players. Kenyon Martin and Chris “Birdman” Andersen are still recovering from knee surgeries, and Nene was nursing a strained groin, so he sat out last night.

Free-agent signee Al Harrington proved once again his value, logging 16 points and making several key defensive stops against Nowitzki down the stretch. The Dallas Morning News points out that the Mavericks came up second in this summer’s sweepstakes for Harrington, barely losing out for his services on the free-agent market.