After the dramatic overtime victory over reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, the Mavericks opted to rest Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and a sore Dorian Finney-Smith for Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz. Utah also rested its franchise player in Donovan Mitchell. One team missing three key pieces is going to lose to the team missing one key piece, right? Wrong.
The shorthanded Mavs used some torrid shooting in the second half to defeat the Jazz 122-114 on Monday and kept their hopes of moving up in the Western Conference standings alive.
A win is a win, right? Even if the other team isn’t necessarily trying its hardest
There was a point early in the second half of Monday’s game where the Jazz looked like they were going to run the Mavs out of the building. At the 10:18 mark of the third, Emmanuel Mudiay drained a three to put Utah up 78-56. Utah had led by 16 at halftime and then didn’t have its starters (the likes of Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley) on the floor to start the third. Nonetheless, the Jazz’s seemingly never-ending string of athletic wings were able to stretch out the lead to its apex at 22.
The rest of the third quarter was basically the two teams trading baskets as the Mavericks were able to get within 10 at one point in the third before giving up some more important and easy baskets to the Jazz to find themselves back down by 15 in the final seconds of the third quarter. The fourth quarter belonged to Dallas as they outscored the Jazz 34-14 to comfortably handle the last minute or two of the game.
The difference ultimately came down to the Mavericks playing their best players available while the Jazz simply didn’t. When Utah played their best players available, they were in control of this game. Fortunately for the Mavericks, they never played in the second half.
“They did pull their starters, and certainly I’m not going to overlook that as a factor in the game,” Rick Carlisle said after the game. “Our brand of basketball in the second half was much more like playoff basketball and that’s where it needs to be.
For whatever reason, Utah is comfortable with wherever it ends up in the standings. They’re currently one game up on the Mavericks for 6th with a couple games in hand when it comes to winning percentage, and they weren’t going to risk any of their key players getting hurt. Already down their second leading scorer in Bojan Bogdanovic after he had surgery done during the season’s stoppage, they can’t afford to lose anyone else if they want to even win a game in a playoff series against the West’s elite.
THJ and Seth Curry find their shooting groove
After shooting a combined 4-18 during Saturday’s win over the Bucks, the Mavs streaky shooting guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Seth Curry were back on track on Monday. The pair were the two leading scorers for Dallas with 27 and 22 points, respectively, while shooting a combined 19-26 and a scorching 7-12 from beyond the arc.
“(There was) more opportunity out there with a lot of points missing tonight,” Seth Curry said of the chance to find his shooting rhythm with Luka and KP out. “It was the opportunity for myself and some other guys to get a rhythm and get a few more looks… Everybody is just a little more involved with the ball in their hands and trying to make plays.”
The Mavericks were always at their best when their key supporting players are supporting Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis with major statistical contributions. Hopefully this strong shooting performance for Curry and Hardaway carries over to tomorrow against Portland and beyond.
Good feelings for guys who haven’t seen much time on the court
In a game full of reserves, there wasn’t a shortage of feel good moments for Mavs players who perhaps haven’t been constantly on the court throughout the season.
Big man Boban Marjanovic got the starting nod at center and racked up 20 points and 9 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Rarely-used Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s 18 minutes were the most he had played in a game since coming over to the Mavs in February. Despite not attempting a shot, Coach Carlisle had an appreciation for what MKG brought to the table.
“He had an amazing presence for us defensively and our offensive energy was coming off our defense in the second half,” Carlisle said of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s team-leading +21 +/- rating.
Then Mavs Twitter hero Josh Reaves had the best game of his NBA career thus far with four points in 14 minutes. After previously only appearing in two games this season for a combined one minute and 29 seconds, the extended stretch of playing time in this game will definitely be memorable for Reaves if he doesn’t see the court much in the final two regular season games or the playoffs.
With the red-hot Phoenix Suns defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday afternoon, the Mavs are one game back of Utah for the 6th seed and 1.5 games back of OKC for the 5th seed. Dallas faces long odds to move up, but the window is still slightly open.
In the race for the two seed, the Denver Nuggets will play the Los Angeles Lakers later Monday night. If Denver wins, they’d be just a half game back of the Clippers before the two face off on Wednesday in a game that could go a long way in determining who the Mavs will play in the first round.
The Mavericks will be right back in action on Tuesday when they take on the Portland Trail Blazers at 5:30. The game will be on TNT and channel 21 locally.
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