Utah Dominates the Second Half in 104 – 89 Dallas Win

October 30th, 2017 | by Clint Johnson

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell (13th pick) and Dallas’ Dennis Smith Jr. (9th pick) renewed their college rivalry tonight in Salt Lake City. (Cindy Rice Shelton)

Story of the Game

This contest was best understood as two disparate halves spliced into an odd whole.

The first belonged to Dallas. Enabled by some lackluster individual defense by the Jazz, the Mavericks started the night white hot from long range. At one point late in the second quarter, they’d made nine of 13 attempts. Utah’s defenders couldn’t stay in front of their men, and against a Rick Carlisle team that’s the next worst thing to forfeiture. Dallas repeatedly penetrated and kicked out for quality shots, which allowed them to shell the Jazz mercilessly. The nine point deficit at half was smaller than it had a right to be.

Then Utah took its half, which was way better than Dallas’.

The Jazz dominated the third quarter behind intensified individual defense and a blistering Rodney Hood, who went off for 15 points in the quarter, including three made triples. Defenders no longer gave up on attempted penetration by Dallas, which stopped the cascade of help defense that had fueled the three point barrage in the first half. Without those points, the Maverick’s multiple vulnerabilities as a team became apparent. Their defense did little to slow the Jazz and their offense had little to counter punch with.

A 32 – 15 quarter flipped the script, turning Utah’s nine point hole into an eight point lead they would never relinquish. The Mavericks made a few mini-runs in the fourth quarter, but the Jazz bullied back in each case, eventually winning by an easy 15. The second half’s final tally: Utah 60, Dallas 36.

Stars of the Game

Superstar: Rudy Gobert

While Gobert’s numbers have been impressive this season, there have been whispers that he hasn’t seemed quite as impactful as expected after rising to elite NBA status last season. That changed tonight with a stellar, and complete, stat line: 17 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 blocks, and 2 steals. It was a virtuoso performance for all the skills displayed by the franchise’s center of gravity: unfathomable efficiency in 17 points on only 5 shots; an accurate shooting stroke on display with 9 made free throws in 12 attempts; a career high in assists; and the ability to completely dominate a game defensively, which only a handful of NBA stars can do. Not surprisingly, his plus-32 led the team on the night. Gobert was simply awesome.

Secondary Stars: Rodney Hood and Ricky Rubio

Only a game as completely dominant as Gobert’s could eclipse two fine displays by Utah’s starting back court. Hood looked every inch the primary scorer, pouring in 25 points on only 15 shots, including bombing the Mavericks with five three pointers (in nine attempts). In the second half he truly looked the alpha dog, swaggering and jawing and hunting for shots with confidence he’d can them.

Rubio continued his forceful presence, scoring 20 points on 15 shots and adding 6 assists, 2 rebounds, and 4 steals. His 4 of 8 accuracy from the three point line is the type of performance no Jazz opponent wants to see. If Rubio is scoring well from outside, Utah becomes really, really tough to beat – as Dallas can attest.

Secret Star: Thabo Sefolosha

Sefolosha has quietly become what Joe Ingles was for the Jazz prior to his elevation to the staring lineup: Quin Snyder’s human duct tape. While typically deployed as a wing stopper, tonight the ultra-long veteran closed out competitive play in the fourth quarter at the power forward. With Sefolosha at the four, Utah is scary good at switching, which prevented Dallas from driving their offense with Dirk Nowitzki flaring out for threes of the screen. The Swiss player added 11 points, 2 rebounds, and steal.

Stats of the Game

64 percent – Mavericks shooting from long range through the first half, 9 of 15.

14 – Utah’s turnovers, nearly six fewer than their season average. Dallas plays at a slow pace and isn’t very good defensively, so this number needs to be considered in that light. But still, not coughing up so many possessions helped tonight.

Minus-28 – Harrison Barnes’ plus-minus for the game. He was practically invisible, not scoring until 2:00 minutes left in the second quarter and finishing the night with 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 assist. He shot 3 of 11 from the field and missed both of his three point attempts. That contract Dallas cut him is looking a lot like a desperate move by a desperate team.

16 – Utah steals: Rubio (4), Ingles (3), Gobert (2), Udoh (2), Mitchell (2), Favors (1), Sefolosha (1), Burks (1).

18 – Nowitzki points. He made four of his five attempts from downtown, which is pretty much his only way to contribute at this point. Even his midrange game has deteriorated as he entered this contest shooting 27 percent there.

100 percent – Utah’s home winning percentage thus far this season.

29 – Three pointers made by the Jazz in the last two games.


  • Entering the night, most eyes were at least partially focused on each teams’ prized rookie, Dennis Smith Jr. for the Mavericks and Donovan Mitchell with the Jazz. Neither made a tremendous impression in this game, though Mitchell showed the better of the two. His 8 points, 1 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals were a legitimate contribution, and he had the most electric play of the game with a steal while fronting Nowitzki off a switch that he threw down court for a fast break bucket while falling out of bounds. Smith Jr., on the other hand, really struggled, shooting 1 of 7 and scoring only one points while turning the ball over four times to only one assist.
  • Smith Jr. will have nightmares about Rudy Gobert. The young guard is used to being able to simply jump over defenders to score. He has that ability to go higher than reason should allow. He learned Gobert can do the same as a defender when the Stifle Tower snuffed several of his shots at the rim.
  • I hate J.J. Barea. Make no mistake, I respect him and would love to have him coming off the Jazz bench. But as an opponent, there is no truer Jazz killer in the league than squat Puerto Rican. He scored 17 first half points and largely drove the Mavericks to their solid halftime lead. But he ended the night with 17 points as well, because there has to be some justice in the universe and J.J. Barea is, after all, J.J. Barea not Stephen Curry, and that can’t be ignored for a full game even against the Jazz.
  • The first five points scored by Utah came on a Favors corner three and a Gobert midrange jump shot. The Frenchman has now hit two of those wide open shots this season. Meanwhile, Favors has attempted nine three pointers in seven games, including three attempts against Dallas. While these are not shots Utah’s offense is designed to create, and likely never will be, it’s important these two take these shots. Even if they only make enough of them to have the confidence to keep shooting, it has the chance to completely change Utah’s offense. It’s worth remembering that Favors and Gobert are still only 26 and 25 respectively. If they each use this year stretching their range with enough effectiveness to build on that in future seasons – much like the progression of Paul Millsap – the duo may go from a non-shooting pairing to respectable marksmen for their positions. If that ever added to their defensive impact, it would be a sea change for the franchise.
  • Utah’s smaller defenders played fantastic ball denial when switched onto Nowitzki tonight. Both Rubio and Mitchell caused turnovers by fighting the seven footer.
  • Alec Burks took a step in the right direction, not only by making two of three from the field, both threes, but more importantly by showing defensive engagement and effort, notching both a steal and a block in 12 minutes of play.
  • Consider what this says about Mitchell’s gumption: he’s scored 31 fourth quarter points this season on 60 percent shooting in the period!
  • There was a Jonus Jerebko sighting!
  • Jeff Withey took a three! On purpose!

The win marks a major home stand for Utah, a stretch where they will need to pick up some wins. This adds to a solid start in that respect and the team will fight to continue their home success on Wednesday against Damian Lillard and the Blazers.

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.


  1. Paul Johnson says:

    It’s interesting that the Jazz have won all of their home games and lost all of their away games.

    One trait I noticed about Gordon Hayward was that he was equally good on the road as he was at home–there was not any noticeable drop off. That is often what makes an NBA player into a superstar (playing well on the road), because most NBA players play much better at home than on the road. I think that is one thing that the Jazz are really missing about Gordon Hayward so far this season.

    If the Jazz want to make the play-offs this season, some of their players will need to step up and play well on the road. It will be interesting to see which current Jazz players can do that.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I also think part of what we saw last night was also a product of playing against Dallas. All players develop teams they just cook against. Hood’s buzzer beater and shimmy was against Dallas last years, as was Gobert’s 27 and 25 game. I think they both have high confidence when playing this opponent and that showed, particularly for Hood who isn’t so confident.

  2. John Jenkins says:

    As well as the team played as a whole in the second half, the contributions and team play by Alex Burks is notable. His dnp last game message may have taken hold. Totally agree about Favors and Gobert and their jump shots. When they play together their defense is so good and if this part of their offense evolves they will make quite the dominate pairing.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Burks was so awesome in the preseason that I’m a little dismayed he’s been fighting to find his way thus far. But he’s healthy, which is the biggest thing. He’s also shooting quite well on average: 46% from the field, 50% from three, and 75% from the line. If he can just keep defensive focus and energy, he’ll get time to contribute.

      As for the bigs’ shooting, Draymond Green has only had one season where he shot above 44% from the field or 34% from three. If Gobert and Favors can hit those marks from their own respective long ranges, and I think they can, that’s enough to create some gravity and warp how defenses can guard the Jazz. It would make the offense significantly better.

  3. The Other Spencer says:

    Only the Jazz (4-0) and the Spurs (2-0) are still undefeated at home in the Western Conference.

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