The Utah Jazz faced off against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. Behind 31 points on 12 of 14 shooting from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks pulled out the road win of 108-101. The game was a back-and-forth slugfest, and rarely did the lead for either team stretch beyond two or three possessions until the final minutes, after a barrage of threes from Dallas.
First quarters haven’t been the Jazz’s friend lately, but despite 10 first-quarter points from Nowitzki, Utah ended the first period on top 25-23. Trey Burke had seven points in the first quarter for the Jazz. The Mavericks played an alternating man and zone defense, which gave the Jazz some fits early on in the quarter on the offensive side of the ball.
The second quarter saw much of the same kind of action as the first – neither team made many changes to their game plans, and the game stayed incredibly close the entire way. The Jazz had one noticeable difference, though; they played a more up-tempo game, getting out in transition and grabbing steals. Also, Enes Kanter was able to come off the bench and put up 11 points in the second quarter, to go along with eight rebounds.
Kanter’s play was very important for the Jazz, even in a loss.
“It was huge, especially with Derrick in foul trouble, I was able to keep him on the bench and not take a chance with him getting his third because he was playing so well,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He did a good job, especially getting the ball close to the paint. I thought in the second half he bailed out a little more than we want him too, but when he gets the ball down low, he’s tough to guard.”
Kanter’s solid play wasn’t enough to give the Jazz a lead going into halftime though. After a flurry of threes and free-throws, including one nice deep triple from Dallas guard Vince Carter, the Mavericks went into the half up 55-53.
Dallas came charging out of the gates to start the second half and were moving noticeably faster and quicker than they were in the first half of play. Dallas used their faster pace to grab a 71-66 lead with about 5:30 left in the third quarter. As was the case with most of the game, the Dallas lead didn’t stretch too far before Utah came rumbling back.
Jeremy Evans converted a three-point play, then threw down a ferocious dunk on a fast break to tie the game up at 75 with about a minute and a half left in the third quarter. Gordon Hayward then knocked down a three to give the Jazz their first lead of the second half. Underscoring the back and forth nature of the game, however, Wayne Ellington nailed a three, then a layup in transition, to put Dallas back on top 80-78 going into the fourth quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, Dallas’ lead once more didn’t last long; Burks threw down a fast break dunk to break an early quarter tie and put the Jazz up 82-80.
The two teams continued trading punches for the next few minutes, but with eight minutes left, the Mavericks found themselves up 90-85 with one free throw coming. Ellington and Nowitzki continued to make big shots for Dallas down the stretch.
“I tried a lot of different coverages on him, and he still made tough shots. That’s what great players do in this league, give the guy a lot of credit,” Corbin said in reference to defending Nowitzki. “Guys know who he is, how good he is.”
A few adjustments were made to try and slow down Nowitzki, and Burke checked back in for Utah with the Jazz down 91-87, right at the six minute mark in the fourth. At that point in the game, 17 ties and 18 lead changes had taken places. The back and forth feel of the game made for great basketball to watch, especially as time was winding down.
Richard Jefferson was fouled on a dunk attempt and only made one of two free throws, and Burks missed a three on the next possession. The Mavericks answered that with another three from Ellis, their 11th triple of the game at that point, and went up 98-93 with 3:35 left in the ball game. Jose Calderon hit Dallas’ 12th three moments later, followed by an Ellis layup, to give the Mavericks their game-clinching lead. That lead translated into the 108-101 victory for Dallas.
Kanter finished with a double-double for the Jazz, scoring 18 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Burke turned in an equally impressive performance of 20 points and six assists. Burks contributed 13 points and eight assists, and Evans was able to put up nine points and six rebounds in limited minutes for Corbin.
“It feels great, especially just from the dunks. I think it brings a lot of energy, not only for us but for the fans to feed off of,” Evans said in regards to his solid performance.
Utah is in the middle of a three-game home stand which ends on Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz dropped to 22-43 on the season, while Dallas furthered their playoff chances by improving to 39-27.