Jazz Defense Stifles Shorthanded Mavericks

Jan 28, 2023, 10:37 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2023, 1:03 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz flashed some of their best defense of the season and held off the Dallas Mavericks 108-100 at Vivint Arena.

The Maverick shot 43 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three, and were outrebounded 49-31 by the healthier Jazz roster.

Dallas was without Luka Doncic and Christian Wood, while the Jazz welcomed Kelly Olynyk back to the roster after missing the last eight games.

Lauri Markkanen scored 29 points to lead the Jazz, his 18th consecutive game of scoring 20 or more.

Jazz Test Aggressive Doubling Defense

After two big offensive performances from Kyrie Irving (48 points) and Damian Lillard (60 points) in the Jazz last three games, the team was aggressive trying to take the ball out of Spencer Dinwiddie’s hands.

Dinwiddie scored 35 points to lead all scorers, but Jazz coach Will Hardy said he was happy with how his team performed after first trying, and struggling to deploy the defense against other dangerous backcourt players.

“We didn’t give up many layups, which I thought was huge,” Hardy said. “I thought our rotations were much cleaner, we forced a few more turnovers, and I think the shots that did what he did make were very hard.”

The Mavericks scored just 28 points on 27 field goal attempts in the paint, as the Jazz scored 48 on 41 attempts.

While the team had success doubling Dinwiddie, Walker Kessler’s presence in the paint was also a strong deterrent for the Mavericks offense.

Kessler scored 14 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and blocked five shots 25 minutes during his 15th start of the year for the Jazz.

“[Dwight] Powell is going be around the basket mostly,” Hardy said, “so we felt like it gave Walker an opportunity to be in a comfort zone defensively and to continue to help protect the basket.”

It marked the fifth time this season Kessler had blocked at least five shots, pulling him even with Andrei Kirilenko for the second most by a rookie in Jazz history. Only Mark Eaton, who did it a remarkable 24 times in his debut season, has more.

Saturday’s win marked only the second time this season the Jazz have held an opponent to just 100 points.

Healthier, Deeper Jazz Stick With 10 Man Rotation

With Kelly Olynyk back in the rotation, the Jazz were as healthy against Dallas as they have been all season.

Mix in the development of both first-round rookies, it’s also the deepest the Jazz have been at any point during Hardy’s tenure.

With that in mind, it’s notable that Ochai Agbaji remains in the Jazz rotation, even with Hardy playing one of the deeper rotations among NBA coaches.

“I think depth is one of our advantages and if I’m being honest, there’s more than 10 guys that I like to see on the court,” Hardy admitted. “There are a lot of hard decisions that have to be made every night and they don’t all feel good.”

Agbaji saw the floor ahead of veterans Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Talen Horton-Tucker, both of whom have significantly more NBA experience than the rookie.

Though the Jazz may feel the desire to invest minutes into the development of a rookie over two veterans, it’s also true that Agbaji offers a more unique 3-and-D skillset that has rapidly evolved since entering the rotation earlier this month.

Horton-Tucker and Alexander-Walker are better scorers, playmakers, and ballhandlers than Agbaji at this point in his career, but with Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and Collin Sexton in the rotation, their skillsets are more redundant than Agabaji’s.

“It’s going to be a game-by-game thing how many people we play, but there are so many guys on our team who have shown throughout the season that they have the ability to contribute,” Hardy said. “Some nights they’re in the rotation and some nights they’re out of the rotation and all those guys know that those things can change.”

Agbaji finished with four points and three rebounds in 17 minutes for the Jazz.

Utah Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors will tip off at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Jazz Defense Stifles Shorthanded Mavericks