Jazz Ride Momentum To Win Over Shorthanded Mavericks

Feb 10, 2020, 11:19 PM | Updated: Feb 11, 2020, 4:11 pm
Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the Dallas Mavericks takes a shot against Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz...
Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the Dallas Mavericks takes a shot against Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz in the first half at American Airlines Center on February 10, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

DALLAS, Texas – The Utah Jazz won their third straight game thanks to an impressive first half and an improbable push from the team’s second unit. After a five-game losing streak, the Jazz have again found the momentum they rely upon so heavily. 

The Story

The Jazz are a momentum-driven team. When things are going well, things go really well. Between early December and Mid January, the Jazz won 19 of 21 games. After suffering a surprise loss to the short-handed Houston Rockets, the Jazz were sent reeling into five straight losses. 

After a controversial non-goaltending call between Rudy Gobert and the Portland Trailblazers handed the Jazz a win, the team once again appears to have momentum at their back. The Jazz parlayed their victory over Portland into a buzzer-beating win over the Houston Rockets, then turned that into a third straight victory over the Dallas Mavericks on the second night of a back to back. 

The Jazz carried their momentum from the game-winner on a short plane ride from Houston to Dallas and blitzed the Mavericks in the form of 71 first-half points and a 21 point lead. Despite a strong push from the Mavericks to trim the lead to just four in the third quarter, the Jazz answered with a 16-4 run, and eventually beat Dallas 123-119 in their second to last game before the All-Star break. 

“It’s amazing what a buzzer-beater does to your intensity and your focus,” assistant coach Zach Guthrie said of the Jazz dominant first half.  

The Jazz once again looked like the team that was able to win 19 of 21 games, even without Mike Conley in the lineup, scoring easily at the rim in the first quarter, then catching fire from deep. 

The Mavericks carry the league-best offense but were outdueled by the turning in an offensive rating of 125.5 in the win, shooting 59 percent from the field and 43 percent from three. The Mavericks finished with an offensive ranking of 121.4, more than five points above their season average, but were undone on the defensive end.

Measuring the Jazz momentum hasn’t been difficult throughout the season. The Jazz began the year winning 11 of 16 games, then proceeded to lose six of eight. The team immediately followed their rough stretch by winning 19 of 21 games, chased by a five-game losing streak.  

With momentum once again on their side, the Jazz have won three straight. 

The Game

The Jazz played perhaps their best first half of basketball season, building a 71-50 lead behind an incredible offensive display. At the break, the Jazz had four players who had scored in double figures (Bojan Bogdanovic 15, Donovan Mitchell 14, Jordan Clarkson 14, Rudy Gobert 11), shot 61 percent from the floor and 41 percent from the three-point line. 

The offense was aided by a terrific defensive effort as the Jazz limited the league’s best offense to just 50 first-half points behind 44 percent shooting from the floor and just 30 percent from three. 

“We did a really god job defense in the first half,”: Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen said, “And that led to easy baskets on offense.”

As should be expected when playing a road game on the second night of a back to back, the Mavericks took advantage of a lackadaisical Jazz team coming out of the halftime break. Dallas pieced together a 30-13 run to trim the Jazz lead to just four behind  12 points from Tim Hardaway Jr. and 9-12 shooting from the field over a 7:30 stretch. 

But just as it seemed the game might slip away, Emmanuel Mudiay provided the Jazz with one of the more improbably stretches of basketball all season.

“We had the second half, that’s what kept us in the game,” Jensen said, “Jordan Clarkson, he’s been good, Emmanuel Mudiay having not played much in the last little stretch, that was huge.” 

Filling in off the bench with Mike Conley missing the game to rehab his hamstring and knee, Mudiay and Clarkson would combine to score 14 of the next 19 Jazz points and outscoring Dallas by 15 points as a team to rebuild the lead to 18 points with 11:22 left in the fourth quarter. 

While the Mavericks would once again trim the Jazz lead to just four points by the end of the game, Clarkson and Mudiay’s improbable run sealed the team’s victory. 

“He’s always been that vet,” Mitchell said of Mudiay, “Continuously being ready, not even just on the offensive end but on the defensive end.” 

After not playing in six of the Jazz last eight games, Mudiay finished with 12 points on 5-8 shooting, 2-2 from three and was +12 on the floor. Clarkson added a team-high 25 points while handing out eight assists and grabbing five rebounds. 

You can find the full box score here.

The Big Picture

With the victory, the Jazz move a full two games ahead of the Rockets as the fourth seed in the West but trail the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers by two games. 

The Jazz were outscored for the seventh consecutive game while Mitchell was on the floor. Mitchell was a -11 for the Jazz in large part due to the team’s rough third quarter, despite finishing with 24 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting. The Jazz are -49 in the last seven games with Mitchell on the floor. Mitchell had a career-high nine turnovers for the Jazz. 

Conley’s absence wasn’t noticed in the first half while the team was making shots, but was more apparent in the third quarter when the team lacked a traditional point guard to manage the offensive pace. It should be no surprise that when Mudiay re-entered the game, the team’s offense once again found balance against a shorthanded Dallas roster. 

Without Luka Doncic, the Mavericks lack a clear cut offensive identity. Despite an impressive offensive ranking, several Dallas possessions in the first half seemed mostly aimless as the team tried to get Kristaps Porzingis going.

Porzingis scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, but was a constant target of the Jazz offense in the pick and roll and was beat in isolate by Gobert several times throughout the game. Gobert finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds but was significantly better than the Mavericks big man throughout the game.

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