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3 things as Dallas loses to Utah, 114-109

Dallas looked solid coming out of the All Star break, but couldn’t hold it together in crunch time.

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Mavericks lost a heartbreaker to the Jazz in Utah, 114-109. It was a game with outsized weight considering how close the fifth seeded Mavs are to the 4th seeded Jazz in the Western Conference standings.

In their first game back from the All-Star Break, Dallas showed little signs of rust, going toe to toe with Utah in a game where both squads came out of the gates shooting. Utah, perhaps one of the most consistent lineups across the league over the past few years, did exactly what you’d expect a contending team to do, leaning on big nights from Donovan Mitchell who scored 33 points and was particularly lethal from deep tonight, going 7-of-12 from three.

Dallas, a team still working in new pieces after the Porzingis trade, had one of their stranger box score nights. Huge stretches from the new guys, Bertans and Dinwiddie (17 and 20 points respectively), supplemented an astounding scoring night for Dwight Powell. He scored 22, many coming off of Luka Doncic assists. For his part, Luka finished with an understated 23/7/11 line.

Can’t buy a free throw

Truly don’t like being the “but the refs…” guy, but a quick look at the free throw disparity in this game tells the story of this game. 22 for the Jazz, and only eight for Dallas (and only one of those coming in the second half) in what was a neck-and-neck game going to the buzzer. Luka was hunting Gobert on switches late in the fourth. Defensive player of the year or not, Doncic loves the opportunity to go to work on a big man. On many instances when Luka took it to the rim against Gobert there was undoubtedly contact that was deemed not enough to rise to the level of a foul. Luka, to his credit, gave the refs a talking to but avoided landing himself with a tech in a game where he was dealing with five personal fouls already.

In a game where so much was even – three point percentage, field goal percentage, the score in general – losing it at the line is hard to swallow. For what it’s worth, Dallas did make all eight of their freebies.

Full Power Powell

Enough with the whining. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dwight Powell! When Davis Bertans caught fire in the second quarter, I was scrambling to find his career high in scoring. Then, all of a sudden, it was the third quarter and Powell had 20 points. The “career high” lens swung suddenly to focus on the long-tenure Maverick big man. That he ended with 22, four shy of his career-best 26, shouldn’t detract from the performance he had tonight.

Against the Jazz, a team rolling out two big, traditional, paint roaming bigs in Gobert and Whiteside, Powell worked his Luka Synergy to perfection, making himself available for lobs and pocket passes all night. Not just that, he also grabbed seven boards to go along with the scoring.

Exactly what was needed

We’re still in the early days of the Dinwiddie and Bertans trade, but already you can see two players who are filling the exact roles Dallas was asking them to fill. On its face, not such a novel concept, but Dallas has had such a bad run of notable role players coming here and completely flopping in the role they’re asked to play, to see a secondary ball-handler and scorer come in and… handle the ball and creating his own shot, all the while, the knockdown catch and shoot dead eye is… knocking down shots? Well, it just warms the heart.

No longer is Dallas trying to make a Binary Star offense work. It’s Luka Doncic and some extremely solid role players who, so far, have no problem simply performing in their roles. No egos. No demands for touches. It’s something of a breath of fresh air.

Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. 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.