Here we are. It's arguably the biggest game of the season as the Mavericks prepare to take on the Jazz in Utah. Dallas needs to win one of their two final games or hope for a Houston loss to clinch a playoff spot. With the Jazz and Mavs both fighting for one of the last playoff spots and the Rockets right behind them, this game has all sorts of implications.
What's at stake?
Had the Mavericks beaten the Clippers yesterday or if the Rockets beat the Lakers, Dallas would've clinched a playoff spot and this game would've been about seeding.
Sadly, that's not the case. For a while, Dallas had a chance at the No. 5 seed after beating Memphis on Friday, but those chance are all but gone after the loss to the Clippers. Should Dallas make the playoffs, it'll be as either the No. 6, 7 or 8 seed.
But first, they actually have to clinch their spot, which beating Utah would do. A loss would tie the Mavericks and Jazz at 41-40, meaning Dallas could conceivably go into its season finale needing to beat the Spurs. Just think, the Spurs may control if the Mavs make the playoffs AND if the two play each other in the first round. Dallas could avoid all of that with a win, or if the Rockets lose to the Timberwolves.
Who's going to play?
Dallas will need all hands on deck, but they might be without two key guys with J.J. Barea and Deron Williams being game time decisions.
Barea missed yesterday's game against the Clippers with a groin injury he sustained against the Grizzlies on Friday. It was a huge loss for Dallas, but the Mavs got a lift with the return of Deron Williams against the Clippers. Williams missed the previous eight games with a sports hernia, but returned against the Clips for 15 points, four rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes. If Dallas can get that from Williams against his former team, it would be incredibly important.
If one or both can't go, the Mavs will rely heavily on Raymond Felton and Devin Harris again. Felton dropped 21 points against the Clippers while Harris added eight. Still, Dallas needs everyone they can get.
Matchup to watch?
So, how are the Mavs actually going to beat the Jazz? It starts with how they play Utah center Rudy Gobert. He's averaging 9.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, and is coming off a 16 points, 14 rebounds and six block (!!!) performance against the Nuggets. Big men have feasted on the Mavs this season, and Gobert has averaged 11 points and 11 boards in two games against Dallas this season. Zaza Pachulia and Salah Mejri will no doubt have their hands full.
And then there's Gordon Hayward, the man that beat Dallas on a buzzer beater the last time these two met. The Jazz forward is averaging 20.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in his last five games. It'll be super interesting to see how Dallas decides to play him, but expect a heavy dose of Wesley Matthews. I'm really excited to see how much Justin Anderson Dallas will throw at Hayward. The rookie's athleticism could end up being a huge factor.
How to watch?
This game will be on TXA21 and NBA League Pass. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.