Jazz Offense Gets Back on Track in 119 – 112 Mavericks Victory

March 22nd, 2018 | by Clint Johnson

The Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell scored a game high 26 points on repeated drives to the hoop, going over, around, and through anything the Dallas Mavericks’s defense could muster. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Story of the Game

The Utah Jazz’s offense failed them in their recent home loss to the Atlanta Hawks, their first bad loss since late January. Tonight against the Dallas Mavericks, a team that Utah has gone to overtime against in their last three games in Texas, it revved back into gear and sped to a 119 – 112 win, Utah’s 12th straight on the road.

Both offenses started the night on fire. Utah scored 37 first-quarter points while Dallas largely kept pace with 34. Notorious Jazz killer J.J. Barea fueled the Mavericks’s unlikely offense, scoring 20 points in the first half and routinely pulling Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert away from the hoop so other Mavericks could finish at the rim.

But despite Barea’s outburst, Dallas simply couldn’t keep pace with Utah’s offense. Using a 21 to five run in the second quarter and then a 16 to five spurt in the third, Utah scored 96 points through the game’s first three quarters. Barea failed to score at all in the third, and against Utah’s defensive pressure Dallas’s offense tapered off. By the time the fourth quarter started Utah had a 15 point lead they would never relinquish.

That isn’t to say the Jazz never had a nervous moment late though. An eight to zero run by the Mavericks in the last half of the quarter enabled them to trim the lead to six with 1:17 left to play. Then Donovan Mitchell, who had been finishing at the rim with amazing variety and at high degrees of difficulty all night, put the game away with back-to-back layups.

The final margin isn’t what the team would have wanted given the lead they started the fourth quarter with, but after the frustrating loss to the Hawks, it was a solid victory – one that didn’t even require overtime.

Stars of the Game

Superstars: Joe Ingles (18 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 threes) and Donovan Mitchell (26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals)

Ingles notched his second career double-double by once again leading the team in assists, a development that has become routine this season. He also returned to his normal dead-eye self from deep, nailing three of five attempts after a maddening one of eight performance against the Hawks. Ingles also posted a team-high plus-20 in the game.

Mitchell’s three point struggles continue as he made only one of six attempts, yet his dazzling finishes at the basket compensated. He contributed across the stat sheet nicely and, as is his habit, when the Jazz started to stumble late, letting the Mavericks close for a chance to steal the game, it was Mitchell who put away the contest with back-to-back finishes at the rim, giving him eight points in the deciding quarter. Just look at his repeated finishes at the hoop, many of which required extreme creativity.

Secondary Stars: Ricky Rubio (22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals, 4 threes) and Derrick Favors (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block)

Rubio continues his season of evolution by showing more offensive aggression than he ever displayed in Minnesota. He attempted a team-high eight three point shots, and those four makes are crucial. In the last two games alone he’s made seven of fifteen attempts from three as teams continue to help off him, leaving him wide open for even corner threes. Providing only three assists isn’t ideal, but if Rubio continues to score efficiently (22 points on only 14 shots tonight) he can invalidate one of the few defensive strategies that teams have repeatedly employed against the Jazz, one the team will certainly see more of in the sprint to the playoffs.

Given the stunning loss to Atlanta, Quin Snyder likely wishes he could take back Favors’s rest night that game with soreness. The Georgia product played a solid all-around game, impacting play both offensively and defensively. While his role and personality sometimes allow him to drift, tonight he displayed the variety of skills that make him such a tantalizing piece of this roster, dunking with power, making a three, making sneaky touch passes in the paint and accurate darts out of the post to three point shooters, and providing solid defense from the perimeter all the way to the hoop. His plus-12 was invaluable on one of the rare nights where Gobert was a net minus on the floor.

Secret Star: Dante Exum (2 points, 3 assists, +2)

One of five shooting for two points is nothing to boast about, and Exum is clearly not adjusted to the NBA game or nearing true game shape. However, it took him only 10 minutes of play to match Rubio’s three assists on the night, he didn’t turn the ball over, and the team managed to outscore Dallas in the minutes Exum played, all positive signs. He’s got to help the team stay afloat as he, hopefully, plays his way back into the impact player he displayed before the shoulder injury.

Stats of the Game

17 – Threes made by the Mavericks on 32 attempts (53 percent). If they’d shot only their season average they’d have been blown off the floor.

12- Jazz threes made on 29 attempts (41 percent). They made six of 34 (18 percent) against the Hawks.

32 – Assists by Utah, making them 16 and one in games with at least 26 assists.

43 – Points given up to Barea and Yogi Ferrell. Add in Dennis Schroder’s 41 last game and that’s 84 points to point guards in the last two games. With Rubio and Dante Exum on the roster, two quality defenders, that has to stop.

Sundries

  • Man, do I hate J.J. Barea. Dude’s averaging 11.5 points on 10 field goal attempts this season. That’s who he is. Except against Utah when that balloons to 19 points on 14 field goal attempts. The only team he scores more against in his career than the Jazz is the Bucks. 
  • While I have no empirical evidence of this, I suspect that Ingles will set an NBA record for fake passes this year. It’s practically part of his drive to the hoop at this point, that deliberate fake to either Gobert or Favors rolling to the rim, or sometimes toward a player standing in the corner. He occasionally even uses multiple fakes on the same drive, which is only possible at the methodical (slow) pace at which the Aussie plays. 
  • In what continues to be one of the most inexplicable stats of the season, the Jazz are now 13 and three when Rubio, who is shooting 40 percent this season (the same as Exum), takes at least 14 field goal attempts.
  • Dwight Powell tried to dunk on Gobert. Bad idea. He fed the Stifle Tower one of his five blocks.

The unexpected loss to Atlanta took away some of the breathing space the Jazz had and they’re now back to every game feeling vital to simply holding on to the eighth spot in the West playoff picture. While the Nuggets and Clippers both remain two games back in the loss column, that could change quickly. Of Utah’s 10 remaining games, only one is against a tanking team (the Grizzlies). Six contests will pit the Jazz against playoff opponents, and three more entail facing the much improved Lakers twice and the desperate Clippers.

Despite winning 22 of their last 25 games, these last 10 will determine everything. The stretch run begins tomorrow in San Antonio against the first Spurs team fighting for a place in the playoffs in several decades.  

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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