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Mavericks vs. Jazz Preview: 3 things to watch as Dallas takes on Utah

The NBA is all about kicking a team when they’re down, and Utah is down.

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

To be a Maverick fan is to commit to the maddening practice of holding two dueling thoughts in your head simultaneously. Chiefly, yes, the team has lost six of their last eight, and yet… they’re still just 3 games out of fourth in the West, so if we can just turn this thing around even a little bit…?!

As Bobby Karalla pointed out, five of the six losses were decided in the final 10 seconds of the game. Dallas is playing on the razor’s edge and has come just shy of having some things tip their way since the addition of Kyrie Irving.

Dallas last faxed Utah exactly a month ago. They were a much different roster but did come away with a win, so in theory, they know the mechanizations required to defeat this Jazz team. They probably won’t be able to count on the Jazz shooting 19% from three again, though, so the Mavs might want to consider having a contingency plan.

The Jazz are closer to tanking than contending at this point, especially with All-Star Lauri Markkanen day-to-day and Colin Sexton likely remaining out.

Battle of who could care less

The Jazz have fallen on hard times. After surprising many at the start of the season, their current standing of 10th in the West is much more in line with expectations. Their recent skid is of note, though.

Utah’s last five games have all been against the Thunder and the Spurs, two of the worst teams in the league. A great opportunity to string together a mirage of a win streak to lift team spirits. Instead, they won two and lost three. And, like Dallas over that same stretch, their defense down low has been absent. Over those five games, the Jazz have given up 57.2 points per game in the paint - just a hair better than Dallas’ 58 per game, but against much worse competition.

If either of these teams is able to manufacture any paint defense at all to prevent easy buckets, it could be a fairly uncompetitive game.

Shots, Shots Shot, everybody

Have you found yourself thinking, “boy, I sure wish Josh Green would get some more shots up?” Or, “Jaden Hardy looked fun in limited minutes. I wouldn’t mind him chucking a few.” Have I got a team for you. It’s the Utah Jazz.

Over the last 10 games, Utah have allowed opponents more shot attempts than any team in the league with 97 per game. For Dallas, the team with the highest effective field goal percentage over that same span, that’s music to the ears.

More chances for Dallas to hit shots means a better chance to come away with a W, even if they’re not as efficient as they’ve been of late. Dallas isn’t going to be winning with defense any time soon, and the Jazz are uniquely situated to allow Dallas to blow the lid off this thing early.

Iso ball can work

As they have two of the league’s best shot creators on their roster, Dallas has gotten away with not having to get too creative with their play designs (something that comes back to bite them in late-game, out-of-timeout situations). But against this Jazz team… it just might work.

The Jazz are giving up the fourth-most points per possession defending on isolation plays this year, and over the last 10 games, are surrendering a league-worst 48.7% score frequency ( a stat measuring when the offensive team comes away with at least one point from the play).

For guys like Luka and Kyrie, that’s free real estate.

How to watch

You can broadcast or stream the game on Bally Sports at 7:30 CST.