Fresh off a 124-102 beatdown from the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks (18-41) are set to face off with the Utah Jazz (30-29) for the second time this season. The Jazz’s 12 game win streak ended last night agains the Portland Trail Blazers and are 2.5 games out of the playoff race in the competitive Western conference.
On the other hand, the Mavericks (losers of three straight) find themselves in one of the wildest tank races in recent memory. Each game can have significant implications on lottery odds, but don’t tell that to the vets.
The Jazz took the first matchup against the Mavs, 104-89. Utah outscored Dallas by 17 in the third quarter after heading into halftime down by nine points. Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris were the only Mavericks to score in double digits in an ugly effort by the rest of the team.
Even though both teams played last night, every player will be itching to run after the All-Star break. Here’s what to watch for.
Activity on the glass
The Jazz have excelled at rebounding during their monstrous win streak. In the last 10 games, Utah is grabbing a second-best 47 defensive rebounds per game. Grabbing the opponent’s miss and limiting the possession to one shot is crucial in playing stingy defense, and the Jazz are doing just that. The key for the Mavericks will be to earn extra attempts by grabbing offensive boards. In that same 10-game stretch, the Mavs are scoring nearly 14 second-chance points per game (seventh best). If the Mavericks are to steal one on the road, being active on the glass could go a long way.
Defending the three-point line
The biggest catalyst of the Jazz’s resurgence might be the team’s three-point shooting. In the past 10 games, Utah is shooting 45 percent from deep as a team. That’s an impressive feat in itself. But when you consider that Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles are canning 50 percent from deep in the same stretch, it’s remarkable. Couple that with Donovan Mitchell, who is shooting 43 percent on nearly seven attempts per game, and the Jazz are a threat at almost all times. The three ball can swing the game either way, so it’s imperative the Mavericks don’t give up easy looks.
Do something against Rudy Gobert?
Seems simple enough. Defend Gobert. Keep Gobert off the glass. Don’t go up weak against Gobert. But that’s easier said than done. Last matchup, Gobert was dominant. He recorded 17 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, six blocks and was a plus-32 on the night. The Mavericks just don’t have the talent to account for a player like Gobert. From the big men battling down low, to the guards attacking the paint, the Mavs will have their hands full with the Stifle Tower.
How to watch
Tonight’s game tips off at 8:00pm Central on Fox Sports Southwest locally and NBA League Pass outside the Dallas area.