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3 things to consider prior to the Dallas Mavericks facing the Utah Jazz on Christmas night

Put away your presents and get ready for basketball

Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Christmas day games are supposed to be a reward, a highlight game for the best or most popular teams in the league. That’s the way these showcase games are announced, usually in their own segment on an ESPN show.

When it was announced that the Mavericks were playing the Jazz in the night cap for Christmas games, I recall being excited. “A game after my kid is in bed and I’ve completed all family obligations sounds outstanding” or something along those lines.

But the Omicron strain of COVID-19 has other plans for the NBA and for the Dallas Mavericks specifically. Luka Doncic, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke, and JaQuori McLaughlin are all out due to COVID protocols. Kristaps Porzingis is questionable as of this writing with a toe issue, but I have a strong feeling that he plays.

So here’s some things to think about prior to the start of what’s going to be an odd Christmas night-cap.

How can the Dallas defense stop the Utah offense?

The gap between the first ranked Utah offense and the second ranked Charlotte Hornets is as wide of a gap as between the Hornets and the Knicks, who are ranked 15th. So how do the Dallas Mavericks find a way to slow down the Jazz scoring all the points?

I have zero idea. The Jazz are very, very good. Perhaps a perfect regular season team in these NBA times. If Dallas is to have any chance, it’ll be because the Jazz are missing shots and disinterested. Or because the fleet of new Dallas players aren’t well scouted and they get the defensive jump on a Utah team.

Are you betting this game? Here are the odds.

I am writing this mainly to Luke Askew and Xavier Santos, our gambling correspondents at Mavs Moneyball: maybe seek some help. If you are betting, click here to see the odds. As of this writing (Christmas Eve, around 5pm CST), the Jazz are 12.5 favorites. That seems like a lot, until you see what the Jazz have done to teams lately.

If Kristaps Porzingis plays, how will he look on offense?

One of the odder parts about covering Kristaps Porzingis is the tendency to overreact to everything. He’s either terrible or a savant and very little in between. I’ve played a part in that, no doubt. Iztok Franko shared some data the other evening noting how Porzingis has been on a downswing offensively lately.

So with many days of rest for his toe, I’m curious to see his shot and his movement. With Luka Doncic out, his average shot distance changed rather dramatically. The Jazz have a good defense as well, so this might not be the best measuring stick, but I miss seeing him play.

How to watch

This game is on national television on ESPN starting at 9:30 pm CST. A late game. On Christmas. YAY.

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