Final score: historic start propels Mavs over Jazz, 95-83

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dirk Nowitzki passed the Big O for 10th on the all-time NBA scoring list.

The Dallas Mavericks rode a franchise-best 94% shooting first quarter to a victory, scoring 39 points in the first frame and though they managed just 56 the rest of the way they pulled out the win.

Interestingly enough that historic hot start was not the major headline against Utah, as Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points and passed Oscar Robertson to become the 10th highest scorer in NBA history.

Dallas made 17 of their first 18 shots(!), and Dirk finished with another hyper-efficient scoring line of 21 points on 9-11 shooting, and 0 turnovers.  All five Maverick starters scored in double-figures, and though the team came down from that ludicrous shooting first quarter, they still managed to shoot 55% overall.

The Jazz tried to climb back in, and to their credit got within 10 points in the final few minutes.  They collected a stunning 23 offensive rebounds, and even though they didn't shoot nearly as well as Dallas, those second chances allowed them to take 15 more shots.  Utah outscored Dallas 58-56 after that opening period.

In a game a playoff team should probably expect to win, Dallas notches their 48th win of the season and fourth straight since that heartbreaking Stephen Curry buzzer beater against Golden State a week ago.  They're now a full game ahead of Phoenix and two full games up on Memphis for 7th place in the West.  Memphis faces Miami tomorrow and the Suns take on the Pelicans.

I don't know what's more amazing: that Dallas could start so incredibly hot(here's the best look I could find for there shot chart in the first quarter), or that for most of the game's 48 minutes this one wasn't quite a blowout.

After a timeout following a 13-6 lead for Utah, Dirk came out looking to take over, and his teammates fed off him as that sensational shooting stretch extended all the way into the early portion of the second period.  Early on the Jazz were also shooting fairly well, so the Mavs simply kept firing.  The shooting display becomes all the more impressive when you consider that most of it was jumpshots, and not simply easy layups and dunks.

Dallas led by 15 at halftime, and got the margin up to 20 in the third quarter, at which point you would have been forgiven if you expected things to get ugly soon.  However,  the Mavericks were starting to return to Earth with their shooting, and while Utah wasn't hitting much, either, they were mauling Dallas on the offensive glass(Enes Kanter especially).  Utah crawled to within 11 halfway through the final period, before a pair of Dallas threes put some distance between the two teams again.

Utah kept coming, slowly but surely, and a Derrick Favors and-one cut the lead to single digits at 92-83 with two minutes left.  Unfortunately for the home team(or fortunately, I suppose, if the Jazz fans are on board with "the tank"), they wouldn't score again.

Some observations:

  • I mentioned it already a few times, but I really think it's worth repeating how strange this game was, with Dallas looking unstoppable in the first quarter and mustering barely 50+ points the rest of the game.  I wonder how many games have seen a team shoot 55%, record just 9 turnovers, but put up a fairly mediocre 95 points.
  • The two main culprits in that discrepancy would appear to be the rebounding(Dallas was out-boarded 47-36, despite shooting nearly 30% better from the field), and the whopping six free throws made.  The latter a downside to all that jump-shooting.
  • Dirk's assault on the All-Time scoring list this season has been pretty spectacular to watch, and if there's at least one more healthy season in him he's going to pass even more pantheon-dwellers.  It isn't as if Dirk looks like he's close to breaking down.  Games like this he looks just sublimely good on offense.  You can't say it enough: enjoy this man while he's still on TV.
  • Five guys not named Dirk also scored in double-digits tonight, and Devin Harris just missed being the sixth with nine points.  Samuel Dalembert went 5-6 from the field and was the plus/minus leader for the Dallas starters at +10.  Brandan Wright, meanwhile, had a slight blip on the radar, going 0-3 from the field and being by far the worst Mav in terms of plus/minus at -7.  There were a few good looking chances at hookups between the usually terrific duo of Harris and Wright that didn't materialize.
  • Marvin Williams started despite being ruled as questionable with a knee problem.  He then left after just eight minutes as the knee was apparently bothering him.  With Marvin out, Utah started playing guys like Richard Jefferson and Jeremy Evans on Dirk, and that...just wasn't going to work out very well.
  • Enes Kanter was the latest guy to put up an eye-popping rebounding total on Dallas, going for 15 points and 19 boards(nearly half the offensive variety).  Derrick Favors led all Jazz players with 19 points.  I don't know why exactly Utah doesn't play Kanter and Favors together, at least against a team like Dallas.  Those two went 14-25(56%); the rest of the Jazz crew went 22-62(35%).
  • Coincidentally, Steve Nash also had a milestone game, passing Mark Jackson for 3rd on the All-Time assist list.  Pretty cool stuff.  Just remember that Don Nelson and the Mavs acquired both Nash and Dirk on the same night nearly 16 years ago.
Dallas has tomorrow off with the dreaded Spurs coming to Dallas Thursday.  They'll then host Phoenix Saturday, before having a three-day break before the season finale in Memphis on Wednesday.

Phoenix plays New Orleans tomorrow, then gets San Antonio(sadly on the second night of a back-to-back following their game against Dallas), and then the Mavs all on the road.  They host Memphis before finishing up in Sacremento.

Memphis hosts Miami and the uber-tanking 76ers, goes to L.A. to face the Lakers,  then to Phoenix, and finally closes out their regular season against Dallas.  Dallas has already clinched a tiebreaker with the Grizzlies.

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