The string of interesting and important games of March basketball for the Mavericks continues Monday night as they host the Utah Jazz. March tends to be a wasteland for the NBA; prior to the play-in tournament, this was the time of year fringe teams competing for the bottom seeds in a conference would start to pack it up for the year. That is seemingly no longer the case and the fringe playoff teams playing harder has resulted in good basketball up and down the league with middle of the pack playoff teams and very good teams having to keep playing solid basketball throughout what is historically a slog.
These Mavericks-Jazz games in particular are fascinating; three total match-ups post All-Star break. Dallas has lost both the Christmas day game and the first post All-Star contest and has a chance tonight to try to get a win. The Jazz are still a very real possibility for a Dallas playoff opponent though, so there’s likely some gamesmanship between winning and showing all their cards against a team they could likely play many more times.
The Jazz are currently 1.5 point favorites as of this posting despite being the road team, though those odds could certainly change as we get closer to game time.
Slowing the Jazz shooters
Utah is one of the best teams in the league in terms of three point shooting. They are seventh in percentage and two in both attempts per game and makes per game. The hot shooting from Dallas in the last game somewhat masked the Jazz shooting, as they connected on 42% of their distance attempts while a couple of their best shooters couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
The Mavericks tried a bit of everything defensively against Utah and none of it worked for sustained periods. The zone defense Dallas plays now and then might get eaten alive by this kind of team shooting.
Finding an answer for Donovan Mitchell
These first two points are related as Mitchell carved up the Mavericks from behind the arc in the previous contest. Dallas has played three smaller scoring guards since returning from All-Star break. Though the team put the clamps on Steph Curry twice, Mitchell then De’Aaron Fox scored on them with relative ease. It’ll be up to the combination of Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith to make Mitchell work for his baskets.
Drawing fouls against a good defense
With the benefit of hindsight I can safely say that the refereeing in the previous Utah game was garbage. Dallas shot eight total free throws and just one in the second half. The last two minute report released the next day indicated there were incorrect non-calls in crunch time, so I feel comfortable saying there were also a lot of missed calls in non-crunch time.
It’s up to Dallas to force the issue. Rudy Gobert might be an all galaxy defender, but he shouldn’t stop Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jalen Brunson from probing the paint. Dallas should slow the iso-hunting against this defense and instead move the ball and move off the ball to find looks in the paint that way. I also think it’s safe to say Luka won’t shoot 8 of 24 from the floor this time around.
How to watch
This game starts at 7:30 pm and is available locally via Bally Sports Southwest or nationally via NBA League Pass.
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