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Mavericks vs. Jazz Preview: 2 things to keep an eye on ahead of a potential get-right game

Dallas has a chance to turn things around after losing six of its last nine games.

Memphis Grizzlies v Dallas Mavericks
Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks is guarded by Derrick Rose #23 of the Memphis Grizzlies at American Airlines Center on December 01, 2023 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images

The next two games on the Mavericks’ schedule are Christmas gifts from the NBA, but is Dallas in any kind of shape to take advantage of them? We’ll find out Wednesday when the Mavs (11-8) host the Utah Jazz (7-13) in the teams’ first meeting of the year at the American Airlines Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Bally Sports Southwest.

The NBA assigned the Jazz and the Portland Trailblazers as the Mavericks’ next two opponents when the In-Season Tournament quarterfinalists were finalized last week. Neither the Mavs nor their next two opponents will be playing on in the tourney, and missing out may have played into Dallas’ favor here, as Utah and Portland have a combined record of 13-26.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for Dallas, as the Mavericks are in desperate need of a couple of get-right games after dropping six of their last nine. Not even a 30-0 fourth-quarter run was enough for the Mavs to get past the Oklahoma City Thunder in Dallas’ last game on Saturday. The Thunder had one last run in them at the AAC and hung on late for the 126-120 win.

Meanwhile, the Jazz outlasted the Blazers in a triple-overtime Saturday, 118-113, despite shooting just 7-of-34 (20.6%) from 3-point territory. Utah got a combined 46 points from guards Keyonte George and Collin Sexton in the win. The Jazz have won three of their last five after dropping four straight before that.

Pay attention to the injury report, again

As of Tuesday afternoon, Josh Green and Maxi Kleber had been ruled out, according to the Dallas Morning News. Green will miss his second-straight game with an elbow sprain, while Kleber is still recovering from a dislocated toe.

According to Chams Charania of The Athletic, Josh Green will be out “at least the next couple weeks” with that elbow sprain.

What really throws the outlook of the Jazz game into question is that Kyrie Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Grant Williams are all listed as questionable as well. If two of the three of those can go on Wednesday, you have to like the Mavericks’ chances to take care of business in this one.

Heck, if one of them is available the Mavs are probably still pretty strong favorites. But if somehow all three of them miss this game, visions of past trauma may rush back into the minds of Mavs fans, specifically from Friday’s ugly 108-94 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, when Luka Dončić was out and the offense couldn’t find its way.

Irving missed the Thunder game with foot soreness, Hardaway has missed the last two with back spasms and Williams is reportedly dealing with knee soreness and did not practice on Monday.

For Utah’s part, Lauri Markkanen has missed the last five games with a hamstring issue and was initially listed as questionable on the Jazz injury report, according to KMVT. Markkanen was leading the Jazz in scoring at 23.7 points per game and pulling down 8.7 rebounds before he went down.

Shooting guard Jordan Clarkson (thigh) and center Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) were also listed as questionable.

What do the rotations look like?

Even if Irving, Williams and Hardaway play against Utah, will their minutes be limited in any way? Will we see more of AJ Lawson, who had a pretty good outing in his first extended minutes of the year against Oklahoma City?

Lawson had 12 points and was pivotal in the Mavericks’ incredible fourth-quarter comeback that ultimately fell short. He defended well, made open 3-pointers and avoided the obvious blunder in his 19 minutes on the floor.

Seth Curry is another guard who may deserve a few more rotational minutes should Irving, Williams and/or Hardaway be limited against Utah. He had 12 and was one of the lone bright spots for the Mavericks in the loss to the Grizzlies.

Aside from massive injury trouble, it’s hard to conjure up a reason the Mavs won’t dispatch the Jazz on Wednesday. But remember, Mavs fans, that’s what we all thought before the Grizzlies debacle as well.

How to watch

Tipoff between the Jazz and the Mavs on Wednesday at the AAC is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Bally Sports Southwest.