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Two-ish things to watch for when the Mavericks clash with the Jazz

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The Mavericks are riding high after a great clutch win against the Bucks, and now face a tough afternoon tilt with the Jazz

Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Editor’s note: Jordan turned this in before the injury report came out. We’re going to make it work anyway.

The Dallas Mavericks (42-30) will attempt to squeeze every ounce of momentum from the dramatic Saturday night win against the Milwaukee Bucks, and carry it into their afternoon battle with the Utah Jazz (43-27), but do so in a short handed fashion with Dorian Finney-Smith, Luka Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis sitting.

There is plenty on the line for both teams, as the Jazz clutch to their playoff seeding while the Mavericks make a last gasp attempt at moving up in the standings. All signs point to the Mavericks finishing seventh in the West, a likely match-up with the Los Angeles Clippers on the way. But as friend of the site and host of Locked on Mavericks podcast Nick Angstadt mentioned Sunday, there are still some chances for movement:

The Mavericks, who have lost their previous two match-ups to Utah by a combined nine points, will look to keep hope of moving to the sixth spot alive against a Jazz team that has gone a very up and down 2-4 inside the bubble.

Late game lament

Saturday night’s dynamic victory against the Milwaukee Bucks had just about everything you’d want from a Mavericks team still learning to play meaningful basketball. And while clutch time uncertainty might linger even into next season, seeing moments of growth like Saturday is a nice reminder of the long term path they’re on.

But for now there’s no time to soak up that praise. And if the previous two games against the Jazz this season are any indication, we could be in for a nail-biter. The Mavericks lost close twice to the Jazz (once without Luka Doncic) in two very different fashions: a back and forth battle with the Mavericks caving late, and then a comeback bid that came up short.

In the first, the Mavericks were utterly atrocious from the free throw line, a paltry 54-percent at the stripe (while managing just 13 attempts as a team). In the second they had a breakout game from Tim Hardaway Jr., came roaring back late, but allowed the Jazz to shoot 43-percent from three. Neither path is an option in the bubble Monday if they want to give themselves a chance to win.

Bench battle

The Utah Jazz have relied little on bench scoring this season, ranking 24th in the league at 32.3 points per game. The dynamic scoring from starters Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Mike Conley, and before his injury Bojan Bogdanovic, has allowed the Jazz to simply use the bench for support.

The Mavericks, on the other hand, have spread the wealth this season among bench units, averaging 38.6 points per game from reserves (good for 12th in the league). The Mavericks may not have a go-to sixth man this season, but Rick Carlisle’s system has again made space for a new contributor almost any given night. This bench battle will undoubtedly be a storyline heading into Monday, after their previous tilts saw them being a factor.

In the tightly contested first game, the Mavericks bench outscored Utah’s 30-21. Limiting the opponent’s impact when Doncic or Kristaps Porzingis are off the floor is paramount for the Mavericks’ success. That’s why their second match-up against the Jazz required such a hefty comeback bid, after the Mavs gave up 50 bench points to Utah, led by Jordan Clarkson’s 25 points.

In the bubble the tables have turned for these two teams, with Utah ranking 12th among teams still playing, posting 36.3 bench points per game, while the Mavericks have dropped to 17th among the 22 teams in Orlando, averaging just 31.4 points. (Editor’s note 2: Now, with so many guys moved into starting roles for Dallas, some deep bench guys will have a chance to do something.)

Let the stars be the stars

The Mavericks have two of the top six scorers inside the NBA bubble, with Doncic averaging 33.4 points per game (third) and Porzingis posting 29.4 points (sixth). These late season games are when teams need their stars the most. The games get tighter, more physical, more demanding, and turning to your cornerstones in crunch time when you just need a basket becomes paramount.

Donovan Mitchell, who at the time of this writing is listed as questionable for Monday’s game, leads the Jazz with nearly 24 points per game (16th among players inside the bubble). Their next leading scorer in Orlando has been Mike Conley, with nearly 20 points per game.

Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith, as well as Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry, will have the tough task of trying to slow down the Jazz backcourt, enough to give the young stars from Dallas the upper hand. The key difference between these pairings is postseason experience. Doncic and Porzingis will continue to learn this on the fly, and Monday’s afternoon clash could be a great follow up to Saturday’s memorable victory.

(Editor’s note 3: This is what I meant earlier. As of this writing, it’s not clear if the Jazz will sit anyone additionally in response to Dallas resting three starters)

How to Watch

Tip-off is set for 2 PM CT, and can be watched on NBATV or FSSW.