Final: Jazz 117, Mavs 102

  • Sometimes it’s difficult to identify what went wrong during a tough first quarter, but tonight it was unfortunately easy. Dallas committed seven turnovers to the Jazz’s one in the opening frame, with most of them coming in the live-ball variety, the most difficult to defend against. A pass sailing out of bounds or an illegal screen aren’t the best ways to end a possession, but at least in those scenarios you can set up your defense beforehand. But losing handle of the ball, getting stripped, or having an entry pass intercepted are all virtually impossible to recover from because it usually means an odd-man break the other way in favor of your opponent. The Mavericks settled down in the middle two frames before committing 10 more turnovers in the fourth quarter, and it seemed like all 10 of them were moving screens. (There were fouls for everyone in this game. Dallas attempted 40 free throws, its most in a regulation game since April 4, 2015.) It’s often been defensive miscues that have hurt the Mavs early in games, but in this case it was just a few offensive mistakes. Perhaps it was just what happens on the second night of a back-to-back, but neither Rick Carlisle nor Dennis Smith Jr. are in the excuse-making business. Whatever it is, Dallas now has two days to sort it out before facing off against Oklahoma City.

  • The Mavs cut a 23-point halftime deficit all the way down to nine at one point, thanks to some hot 3-point shooting and a timely hustle play by Jalen Brunson. Mostly, though, Dallas did it by finding a way to halt Utah’s relentless paint attacks. Jazz cutters were sprinting toward the rim like their pants were on fire in the first half as the Mavs worked to contain the pick-and-roll game. In the second half, however, it seemed like Dallas switched against Rudy Gobert’s screens and forced some isolation possessions, which slowed down possessions and kept the ball from flying all over the place. It will be interesting to see how Dallas defends Utah the next time they meet (for the third time this season), which is exactly one week from now. After that, they won’t play again until Feb. 23. The NBA schedule is full of quirks, and playing the same team three times in two-and-a-half weeks is among the quirkiest. The Mavericks tried quite a few things in this game and some of them worked; Utah only scored 49 points in the second half. Progress was made, although it might not reflect in the win-loss column.

  • The Jazz can really choke ball movement in the halfcourt, which turned the offensive attack into more of an iso-heavy look than we’re used to seeing. But Dallas did a terrific job of drawing fouls, earning 40 free throws and converting 36 of them. Gobert is one of the most intimidating shot-blockers in the lead, but the Mavs forced him into some foul trouble and didn’t seem too afraid of challenging him or anyone else. The flip side, though, is that you’re not going to win every battle, as Utah’s 10 blocks would indicate. But hey, if you’re going to get 40 free throws, you don’t mind getting your shot rejected every now and then. Five different Mavericks attempted at least five free throws, which illustrates how widespread the rim attacking was. Dennis Smith Jr. only took two, but he tied for second on the team with nine paint attacks. It took the Mavs some time to find offensive rhythm after a turnover-heavy start, but there are things they can build upon from this game. They have work to do, but they’ve demonstrated they have the resilience to keep pushing.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (3-8) come home to take on the Thunder this Saturday. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.

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