Sunday, September 25, 2022

Preview: Utah Jazz (45-29) at Dallas Mavericks (45-29)

The Utah Jazz look to pull out of a three-game losing skid on Sunday when they visit the Dallas Mavericks in a matchup crucial to Western Conference playoff positioning.

After opening its current six-game road swing with a win in New York last Sunday, Utah hit a rough patch with consecutive defeats at Brooklyn, Boston and Charlotte.

The Jazz (45-29) enter Dallas tied with the Mavericks (45-29) for fourth place in the West as the two teams hurtle toward a first-round playoff matchup between the fourth and fifth seeds. Sunday’s result will establish a tiebreak edge for the home-court advantage for the winner.

Both Dallas and Utah have the prospect of climbing the standings with two weeks remaining in the regular season, but of course, either could drop. They are three games behind third-place Golden State, while Denver and Minnesota are lurking close by.

Dallas lost ground to the Timberwolves on Friday in a 116-95 road loss in Minneapolis. Luka Doncic finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but no other Maverick scored more than Dwight Powell’s 13 points.

“You’re not going to win shooting 23 percent (on 3-point attempts) and 38 percent (from the floor),” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. “We had a lot of great looks. They just didn’t go in.”

Friday’s contest was the fourth time in the last five outings that the Mavericks have allowed 108 points or more. That from a team that led the NBA for much of the season in fewest points yielded with an average under 103.

Of those four games in which the Mavericks gave up 108-plus, they lost three — part of a 2-3 stretch over the last five, preventing Dallas from overtaking the Jazz in the standings amid Utah’s ongoing losing skid.

While the Mavericks aim to return to form defensively for the stretch run, Utah looks to recover some offense. Despite averaging 113.5 points, the Jazz have failed to top 106 in the past three.

Utah’s offensive downturn coincides with the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic, whose 18.1-point average ranks second on the team to Donovan Mitchell’s 26.1. Friday’s 107-101 loss at Charlotte marked Bogdanovic’s seventh consecutive missed game due to a left calf injury.

Juancho Hernangomez has started in five of Utah’s games without Bogdanovic, scoring only 31 points, but he did contribute a season-high 14-point effort against the Hornets.

“We trust him,” Mitchell told the Salt Lake Tribune. “And when you have that trust from your teammates, it’s easy to hit shots.”

Yet Mitchell has been the difference for the Jazz against Dallas.

Utah won matchups with the Mavericks on Dec. 25 and Feb. 25 in which Mitchell scored 33 points each time. But when Dallas held Mitchell to 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting from the floor on March 7, the Mavericks prevailed 111-103.

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