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3 things to watch for when the Mavericks return to action against the Utah Jazz

The final stretch to lockdown home court starts on the road.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

There’s nothing like starting at the high-dive. The Dallas Mavericks (35-24) return from their time off by paying a visit to the Utah Jazz (36-22), the team currently 1.5 games ahead of them in the West standings and blocking them from homecourt advantage for the first round of the postseason.

The teams have met just once this season — Christmas night, a 120-115 Jazz win — in a game that did not feature Luka Doncic but did include starts from Frank Ntilikina and Sterling Brown. Friday night will be the first of three battles over the next month between the two teams.

The Mavericks look a little different since the Christmas game, and found a turning point just after that night, going 20-7 since. They will need to tap back into that momentum immediately.

Restoring order

Jason Kidd indicated Thursday that the full roster practiced earlier in the day (not including Tim Hardaway Jr.), which means the coach can deploy something closer to a normal rotation. Most notably it would mean turning to their most used lineup this season: Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Dwight Powell who have a scorching 130.5 Offensive-Rating in their 133 minutes together.

For a team that hasn’t tapped into many effective offensive lineups this season it’s promising to see this group find success. Even more so because they’ve set a good tone on the defensive end as well (101.9 Defensive-rating).

Among five-man lineups that have played at least 125 minutes this season, those ratings rank 1st (Offense), 11th (Defense), and 2nd in overall Net-rating.

Neutralizing Gobert

The Jazz may not have many shut down defenders around the perimeter to disrupt Luka Doncic. They do however defend the pick-and-roll and leverage Rudy Gobert’s presence that could force the Mavericks to look at second and third options in the offense. In seven games in his career against the Jazz Doncic averaged 23 points, six rebounds and five assists.

It’s been well covered how insane Doncic’s usage rate has been in the month of February, nearly 42-percent, up six points on the rest of the year. The battle of Doncic controlling the game and how they attack away from him will be key. Jalen Brunson’s emergence will be something to watch here — he had 27 points against the Jazz on Christmas. Last season the Mavericks neutralized Gobert by turning to Dorian Finney-Smith, who went 5-of-12 from three and scored 23 points. The Mavericks may need an encore.

Checking in with the new guys

The trade deadline is oddly timed in that players are moved to a new team and then soon after everyone goes on vacation. But it’s worth seeing where we’re at with Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.

So far we’ve gotten both ends of the Bertans experience. In his Mavericks debut he scored 12 points while going 3-of-7 from three (he dunked!), but followed that up by going 1-of-7 from three against the Pelicans before the break. Dinwiddie didn’t have a splashy game in his two appearances, but so far has provided a few points and assists off the bench without stalling the offense.

With the assumed return of both Reggie Bullock and Marquese Chriss maybe we get a better sense of where both new additions fit into the rotation.

How to watch

Tip-off is set for 8 PM CT, and can be watched on BSSW or NBA LeaguePass nationally.

Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark, looking ahead just a bit. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.