The Mavericks are just waiting for the season to end. With a 22-49 record, they sit in 13th place in the Western Conference standings, and have the fifth worst record in the NBA. Dallas have lost their past three games, the latest of which was a 105-115 defeat against the Pelicans.
Utah, in contrast, are in excellent form, although they had a disappointing 94-99 loss against Atlanta on Tuesday. The Jazz’s offense was poor in that game, and though Donovan Mitchell top scored for them with 24 points, he shot 9-for-28 from the field. Despite the loss, Utah will still be happy to be sitting in a playoff position. Their 40-31 record has them in eighth, just two games ahead of Denver in ninth, but they are only a single game from fifth.
Three keys to the game
Are Utah fading? - The Jazz have been one of the top couple of teams in the league for an extended period now, and have won 21 of their past 24 games. The loss against Atlanta, however, came as a major surprise to many, while in the game before that they only just scraped over the lines against the Kings. Utah’s defensive system is such that it will always perform to a high level, but their offense is still shaky at times, and hasn’t been good in the past couple of games.
History - The Jazz have well and truly had the measure of Dallas in the past couple of years. This season, they have won both games between the sides by an average of 11 points. Last season, Utah won the season 3-1, with the Mavericks' only victory coming in overtime in February.
Which outside game is better? - An important question in this game given both sides rank in the top four in points in the paint conceded per game. Utah allow just 41.6 points there per night this season, second in the league, while Dallas is fourth with 41.8.
Matchup to watch
Rudy Gobert vs Dirk Nowitzki - These are two vastly different players at opposite ends of their careers, but will spend a lot of time opposed to one another in this game. Nowitzki, one of the game’s greats, is nearing the end of his career, and is this season averaging a career-low 12.4 points and 5.6 assists. He is, however, shooting a career-high 42.9% from long range, and is 6-for-10 from deep in his past two games.
Gobert’s game is anchored largely around his incredible defense, and the Jazz’s defensive performance since his return from injury is enough to suggest he is the best defender in the game. Recently, Gobert’s offense has improved drastically. He is averaging just 14.1 points per game this season, but in his past ten games has lifted that to 18.9 after scoring at least 15 points in all but one of these games.
Dallas Mavericks predicted starting lineup
PG - JJ Barea | SG - Harrison Barnes | SF - Dorian Finney-Smith | PF - Dwight Powell | C - Dirk Nowitzki
Utah Jazz predicted starting lineup
PG - Ricky Rubio | SG - Donovan Mitchell | SF - Joe Ingles | PF - Derrick Favors | C - Rudy Gobert
Gobert was a defensive nightmare the first time these sides met this season, and was pretty handy on offense, too. He accumulated 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists to go with a couple of steals and an enormous six blocks. He averages a double-double in his 14 career games against the Mavericks, putting up 11.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 2.0 blocks a night in these matchups.
Dallas’ points total over/under has been set at 96.5, and the under is a great bet here. Utah rarely concede over this many points, and when they do it isn’t by much. Dallas, too, regularly score well under 100 points, and though their offense has been better of late, they won’t score heavily against the Jazz defense.
The Jazz will have predicted an easy three-game stretch for themselves, facing the Kings, the Hawks and the Mavericks, but so far things haven’t gone to plan. They were pushed by Sacramento and lost to the Hawks, and will be eager to finish this stretch of games against bottom teams with an easy victory.
They shouldn’t have any problems achieving this. Dallas have little motivation to win, while Utah have plenty, and anchored by Gobert, the Jazz will restrict their opponent to a low score. Provided they can perform at least satisfactorily on offense, they’ll have no problem earning themselves a win here. Utah will run out 103-92 winners on the road.
The game will be broadcast locally on FSSW and ATTSN-RM. Tip-off is at 8:30pm ET.