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3 things to watch as Dallas hosts Jazz

Can the Mavs stop red hot Utah?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks playoffs-or-bust bandwagon took a couple of bumps earlier this week, as back-to-back losses to the Nuggets and Blazers widened the gap between the Mavs and the eighth seed.

With the Utah Jazz coming to town, it won’t get easier.

Jazz clicking and looking for sweep

The Utah Jazz have won five straight, including blowout wins against Atlanta on Monday and the Pelicans Wednesday. They’ve already dispatched Dallas three times this season, the last pair of meetings being closer than the early November thumping. Even with Rodney Hood still out with a knee injury, the Jazz have been dominant of late, with Joe Johnson assuming a lot of the ball-handling/spot-up duties in Hood’s absence. Gordon Hayward continues a career year as well, having increased his scoring average in each of his seven seasons(!).

D-Will done til after the All-Star break?

While Deron Williams hasn’t yet been officially ruled out of tonight’s matchup, there has been chatter that the injury-plagued point guard might not return until after the All-Star break later this month, meaning the Yogi Ferrell show might continue for some time.

Williams has unfortunately seen this plot before: small nagging injuries tend to linger for extended periods of time. Ferrell has had thrilling moments in D-Will’s absence, but you do see the undrafted rookie occasionally get into bad spots on the floor, either when he leaves his feet on a drive or gets stuck behind a defender he can’t effectively see over. A veteran presence may be needed after all if Dallas is going to pull off the improbable run to the postseason.

Will Dirk have an encore?

Perhaps the biggest story from Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss to the Blazers was that it spoiled a clutch performance from Dirk Nowitzki, who hadn’t reached double digits in points in several games. Was this a one-game aberration or a sign of the 38-year-old finally getting into the kind of groove we’re used to seeing? He has had some spectacular games against Utah in the past, so count me as hopeful it’s the latter. Nowitzki may get a serious test against Rudy Gobert, if Rick Carlisle decides to stick with his small-ball, five-out lineup.

How to watch

Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30pm Central on Fox Sports Southwest or via your League Pass account. Enjoy!