If anybody deserves a run of good health, it’s Kristaps Porzingis. But Monday was another step in the wrong direction for him.
Porzingis missed the game against Utah with a sprained right wrist that he may have suffered weeks ago, Rick Carlisle said in his pregame news conference.
“We don’t have a timetable,” Carlisle said. “We hope it’s not serious. It’s something he’s been dealing with for a number of weeks. And so we’re going to hope for the best on that.”
Asked about whether this could be a multi-game problem, he said: “Not certain. It happened awhile back. I was talking to him today about it. And it may have happened in a game back in January. We’re not 100 percent sure. But it’s bothered him since then.”
Nicolo Melli, the big man acquired two weeks ago from New Orleans in the J.J. Redick deal, took Porzingis’ place in the starting lineup.
The Mavericks play back-to-back games Wednesday in Houston and Thursday against Milwaukee at American Airlines Center.
They have taken a cautious approach with all health issues this season while trying to keep an eye on the big picture, meaning the playoffs. They are hoping to have their best health in May, when the postseason begins.
One of the key figures in that pursuit is Porzingis, who has not played both ends of back-to-back games since before the All-Star break. He missed the first nine games when he was recovering from offseason knee surgery and three more games in February with back tightness.
He’s been held out of five games for injury recovery management.
“Look, he’s a tough guy,” Carlisle said. “He doesn’t miss practices. He wants to play all the time. But this is one that he’s seeing doc tonight so maybe we’ll know more later tonight or tomorrow.”
Trying to ensure that Porzingis gets the wrist completely healthy now, rather than letting it linger and risk aggravating it, makes sense. But the Mavericks have been rolling lately and Porzingis has been a big part of that push.
He’s averaged 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds since the All-Star break, He has scored in double figures in every game he’s played this season.
Sixth-man shootout: Perhaps the two frontrunners for sixth man of the year were going against each other Monday night as Utah’s Jordan Clarkson and the Mavericks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. were in their usual roles.
Clarkson is the No. 1 scorer in the league among players who have come off the bench more than they’ve started at 17.3 points per game. Hardaway is next at 16.6 points per game (16.4 in the 27 games he’s been a sixth man).
Clarkson also had a nine-assist game on Saturday against Orlando.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said that’s an emerging part of Clarkson’s game. He’s generally known as a shooter and a scorer.
“The two go together,” Snyder said. “When he gets in the lane, he’s such a good finisher that you want him to shoot that ball. But if he’s collapsed the defense and he can kick it out and find someone else for a catch-and-shoot 3, that’s what he’s doing.
“When he gets the ball, he’s been able to make a read really before he catches the ball. And that’s something that makes him even harder to guard.”
Similarly, Hardaway is known as a 3-point marksman, but his periodic drives to the rim, often resulting in rim-rattling dunks, are enough to keep defenses honest.
It was hard to declare a winner in their square-off. Both players finished with 16 points.
The difference in Utah: The Jazz have had winning streaks of 11, nine and nine this season. Their most recent nine-game streak was ended Monday night, but Carlisle said he has been impressed with the consistency Utah has displayed this season.
They have the best record in the NBA and Carlisle believes point guard Mike Conley, in his second season with the Jazz, is a big reason.
“The guy you look at and say, this guy really looks comfortable in this system, is Conley,” Carlisle said. “He had been in Memphis for so many years. I’m uncertain as to what his physical situation was coming into Utah last year because he’d had a few issues.
“But this year, he’s been fantastic. I voted for him as an All-Star. I had him pretty high on my list because of how successful their team has been and obviously how he’s played this year. And their other guys, they’re one more year grown together. And they’re a very determined team.”
Briefly: With the Mavericks snapping Utah’s nine-game winning streak, the Mavericks now are tied with Denver and Phoenix for longest current win streak at five games . . . It was NCAA national championship game night with Baylor playing Gonzaga for the title. Maybe Jalen Brunson could feel the vibes. He won two titles at Villanova and poured in 20 points. Meanwhile, Utah’s Royce O’Neale went to Baylor, but those same vibes never found him. He scored just two points and was 0-for-8 from the field.