The Dallas Mavericks extended their winning streak to five games with a come-from-behind victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. On Friday, they'll look to move that streak to six in less terrifying fashion.
The Mavs will host the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center on Friday, a lone home game wedged between two three-game road trips. Dallas was 3-1 against the Jazz a season ago, but this season they face a young, hungry Jazz team that's off to a decent start.
Currently Utah sits at 6-5 on the season, good for 6th in the West. They've won their last two contests (over Atlanta and Toronto), and look like legit contenders for one of the last few playoff spots in the conference. Of course, there's far too much of the season left to start making predictions like that, but early on they look good.
What did Utah do in the offseason?
Utah took Kentucky PF Trey Lyles with the 12th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, a solid addition for a team that already has decent depth in the front court. They also exercised their team options on Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, and Rodney Hood. Of course, Exum, Utah's first round pick in 2014, was lost for the season in early August, when he tore his ACL playing for his native Australia in a meaningless, international exhibition matchup against Slovenia.
Burke and Gobert have been critical pieces for the Jazz early on this season, and they'll continue to improve as they grow into the NBA.
Where does Utah find success?
Utah's a tough matchup for a lot of teams because of their depth in the front court. Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are a tall (literally) task for opposing teams to match up against. Together they're averaging 24.6 points and 20.3 rebounds per contest. The two also combine for almost five blocks per game. Behind them, a depth chart led by Trevor Booker means there's no rest for the weary. Dallas' front court will be hard pressed to compete physically with the Favors-Gobert-Booker trip. Of course if anyone is up to the challenge, it's Zaza.
This isn't to take anything away from the Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, though, who have both had decent starts to the season. They're both averaging over 15 points per game, but they've taken a lot of shots to get those averages. Burks is shooting just over 43 percent to start the season, while Hayward is shooting a not-so-great 39.5% from the floor.
Of course, Utah's real recipe for success is being incredibly tough on the defensive side of things. They're third best in the NBA in points allowed, giving up just 91.5 points per contest. They've held as many teams in the 70s (3) as they've allowed in the 100s this year. This offsets the fact that they're 29th offensively, scoring just 95.3 points per game.
What can Dallas do to get win No. 9?
Push the pace and hit their open shots. Dallas has to turn this game into a high-octane, up-and-down the court kind of game. If they let Utah get set defensively things will become infinitely more difficult. That's a rather obvious point, I know, because once Gobert gets settled down in the lane, he's hard to get around (unless you're DeMar DeRozan, of course). When Utah gets into their defensive sets, any open shot Dallas gets they'll need to make. Utah is holding teams to a 5th-best 42.4 percent from the floor (Dallas is 6th at 42.5 percent), but they're allowing opposing teams to shoot almost 35 percent from 3-point range.
If Wes Matthews and Chandler Parsons can knock down some open threes, this game could swing Dallas' way pretty quickly.
How to watch
You'll find this game on Fox Sports Southwest Friday night, with a start time of 7:30 CT. Outside of DFW. catch it on NBA League Pass