When you lose a tough game, like the Jazz did on Wednesday night, the best remedy is to get right back at it and play again. At least that's what I've heard professional athletes say before. And the Jazz have that opportunity tonight, when they go to Dallas to take on the Mavericks. But will this game become therapeutic, or become a losing streak?
What's Going on With the Mavericks?
It's hard to put a finger on the Mavericks. They are the defending champions of the NBA. But they started out 0-3 and if the playoffs started today, they would be watching from their love seats in the comfort of their own homes. In the offseason the Mavericks passed on resigning key components of their championship run in Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea and went with more cap-friendly contracts signing Vince Carter and Delonte West. It's no secret that the Mavericks are looking towards bringing in stars in free agency this off season, even at the expense of winning a title this season. But, like I said, they are the champions until dethroned and they are going to be a good team in the West when all is said and done.
Their star player Dirk Nowitzki is out for tonight's game, due to resting his sore knee. Starting point guard Jason Kidd is in the twilight of his brilliant career, but at this point is really just a game manager, not a game changer. The Mavericks big men are almost inept at scoring, although Ian Mahinmi has been an effective scorer this season, almost exclusively on cuts, offensive rebounds and pick and rolls.
The scoring responsibilities will rest mostly on Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom and Rodrigue Beaubois, who have all had past success against the Jazz. Just eight days ago Odom, Marion and Beaubois combined to score 50 points on 20/31 shooting to lead the Mavericks to the 3 point win in Salt Lake City. The problem for the Jazz, is that they really don't have players that match up very well with those players defensively. The Jazz lack overall speed, strength and length at the wing positions, even though we have improved in that area. I expect one or two of these 4 Mavs to play well tonight.
What's Going on With the Jazz?
The outcome of this game weighs heavily on Al Jefferson's ankle, who has traveled with the team to Dallas and is a game time decision per reports from both the Sltrib and Desertnews. The Jazz certainly missed Al Jefferson against the Raptors. While the Jazz missed the ability to go to Al during late possessions, the Jazz's depth at power forward was really challenged, as Jeremy Evans became the backup power forward in Jefferson's absence. If Jefferson is out, the Jazz will have to rely heavily on Evans, Josh Howard or even CJ Miles to play some "four" and that could lead to poor results on the road against a team like the Mavericks who take advantage of mismatches.
It's also no secret that the Jazz have underwhelmed at the wing positions this year, a fact that was made obvious against Toronto or any time a team runs a zone defense against us. If the Jazz want to compete in this game, they are going to need someone out of CJ Miles, Gordon Hayward, or Raja Bell, to help offensively.
Matchups to Watch for:
Paul Millsap vs. Lamar Odom
Odom should get the nod to replace Nowitzki in the starting lineup. I don't need to tell you about the history of Millsap vs Odom, because we have all watched it the last 3 years. The caveat is that Millsap has never played at the level he is playing and the same is true of Lamar Odom.
Gordon Hayward vs. Shawn Marion
Marion dominated Hayward a week ago and Hayward will need to find a way to make this matchup closer tonight. This may not be the best night for Hayward to try to find his offensive game, because Marion is one of the best wing defenders in the NBA, but hitting some outside shots would certainly help.
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