BEN ANDERSON

Jazz Flip Switch To Beat Mavericks On Christmas

Dec 25, 2021, 11:58 PM | Updated: Dec 26, 2021, 12:10 am
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell dunks the ball (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell dunks the ball (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz got another tough test from the mercenary Dallas Mavericks in their 120-116 win on Christmas night.

Dallas was down a number of rotations players due to the current outbreak of COVID-19 tearing through the NBA, but played tough to keep the Jazz on their toes throughout the game.

Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points for the Jazz to outduel Jalen Brunson and Kristaps Porzingis who each had 27 points for the Mavericks.

Jazz Have Won Three Straight Tough Games

The Jazz have won three straight games, but it hasn’t been a particularly easy stretch of games to watch.

After suffering disappointing losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Washington Wizards last weekend, it seemed like the Jazz were overdue for a stretch of easy wins, especially considering the talent on the roster, and who they were set to play against.

But while they completed an undefeated week with the win over Dallas, none of the games have felt like a full course correction.

The Jazz downed the Charlotte Hornets on Monday but led by as few as three in the final minutes of the game against a sub .500 team at home.

They then struggled to close out a COVID-depleted Minnesota Timberwolves roster that was playing without Karl-Anthony Towns, Patrick Beverley, and Anthony Edwards, once again finding themselves with a single-digit lead in the final five minutes of the game.

Then, similar to the win over the shorthanded Timberwolves, the Jazz needed to find an extra gear late against the Mavericks to keep their winning streak going.

The Jazz were down by 16 early in the first quarter and found themselves down nine again in the third quarter before overtaking Dallas in the fourth quarter, and even then, their lead was as small as two with just 4:15 left to play.

The good news is, the Jazz are winning these games that they were losing last week when they played the Spurs and Wizards.

The bad news is they continue to find themselves in tough games against teams that shouldn’t be as difficult to put away as it has been over the last eight days.

The Jazz players and coaches have said as recently as last week that they are less worried about winning and losing streaks and are more worried about how they are playing.

“Last year I don’t know if we pull this one out the way we did it, that’s the sign of growth,” Mitchell said. “We’re continuing to grow as a team and it’s not always going to be pretty, it’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows.”

Over the last three games, the team’s execution in the final minutes of the game has been strong enough to earn the team wins, but for the most part, the first 40 or so minutes of the games have left a lot to be desired.

Jazz Were Excited To Play On Christmas

Regardless of the outcome, the unique opportunity to play on Christmas was not lost on the Jazz players and coaching staff.

The annual Christmas showcase has always been an important staple during the NBA’s pre-All-Star schedule and is one of the most highly watched days for the league throughout the season.

The day is so important, neither the Memphis Grizzlies nor the Charlotte Hornets have ever played on Christmas due to their traditionally poor performances.

The games are usually reserved for the NBA’s highest-profile teams including the New York Knicks who have played on Christmas day 52 times, the Los Angeles Lakers who have played 46 times, and the Boston Celtics who have played 34 times.

This was the eighth time the Jazz have played on Christmas Day, with their first appearance coming as the New Orleans Jazz in 1975.

For some Jazz players, playing during the NBA’s showcase has been a lifelong dream.

“We’re playing on Christmas, it’s a blessing to be able to play on that day,” Mitchell said. “To have your family in town, to play in front of a lot of people is something that I grew up watching.”

Even the usually stoic Quin Snyder acknowledged the significance of playing during the league’s most high-profile showings.

“Not that we look at it as an achievement in and of itself, but it’s something that’s unique to this to this league,” Snyder said. “I think it’s something that our guys can be enthusiastic about and look forward to.”

With the team’s win over the Mavericks, the Jazz improved to 6-2 all-time on Christmas day and maintain the league’s third-best winning percentage on the day. Only the Miami Heat who are 11-2 and the Portland Trail Blazers who are 14-4 have better Christmas Day records.

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