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Dirk Nowitzki’s last game in Utah ended how it should ... with a loss

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Remember that guy who pulled Andrei Kirilenko to the ground back in 2008? It was his last game against Utah.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

There were times tonight that the Utah Jazz looked just flat out tired. After playing a Double OT slugfest last night, tonight’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks seemed like a trap game game wrapped inside a trap. That didn’t bother Utah as they pushed through the fatigue in order to get the victory at home 125-109 despite the turn back the clock game from Dirk Nowitzki.

Ricky Rubio who we criticized heavily after his season worst game last night was spectacular with the ball. Rubio has had a penchant for one game on-one game off throughout the entire season so it fit the brand that he’d follow his worst game of the season with what could be one of his best games of the season considering his tired legs. He finished the game with 25 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and a very impressive ZERO turnovers on 8 of 14 shooting.

Give Dallas credit though. Despite being without Luka Doncic and running the husk of Dirk Nowitzki—who had a big game—they played hard. Multiple times during this game, it appeared that Utah was close to breaking this game wide open, and then Dallas would come back with a gritty 10-2 run to pull within 3-5 points. Dallas never went away quietly. The Zombie Mavs forced Utah to give them their full attention all game long.

Behind that was a big game from Jalen Brunson. I mistakenly clowned on Twitter that I couldn’t recall who he was (turns out we actually wrote a draft preview for him—June feels like years ago in Jazz years). I won’t make that mistake twice. The former Villanova star—and NCAA Player of the Year (see I googled)—Brunson had a surprisingly good game as he had 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 turnover. While he may not be the point guard of the future for Dallas, he’s a good find in the second round for filling out that bench around Tim Hardaway, Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis.

Former Utah Jazzman—and texter extraordinaire—Trey Burke had himself a game against Utah. He plays with a passion against Utah and still has beef with them. See Exhibit A:

[Sidenote: If Utah ever lands a big time free agent, that tweet will get put on blast before any celebration. It’s every Jazz fan’s duty.]

Trey Burke playing like he could get his starting spot back from Raul Neto, had 20 points 7 rebound and 3 assists. Tim Hardaway carried most of the scoring burden in this game as he was 6 of 13 from the field while getting to the line 7 times.

Donovan Mitchell, Jae Crowder, and Rudy Gobert, all of whom had big games against the Thunder, ran it back again with top notch performances. Mitchell was an incredibly efficent 25 points on 14 shots. Honestly, I’m shocked by Donovan’s efficiency tonight. Not because he is or ever was a “chucker” but he had just had a big game against OKC and was playing tired. Instead he was a machine. He also had 8 rebounds and 6 assists.

Jae Crowder continues his hot shooting. He had a big time 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting while going 4 of 7 from three. He also chipped in 4 rebounds. Rudy Gobert had 15 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks as he continues his avenge tour for the All-Star snub.

Most importantly, Joe Ingles, who has looked mentally exhausted from a trying season with more important off the court issues going on, looked to have found his rhythm against Dallas. He went 5 of 9 from three and was just flat feeling it. He also had his usual 5 rebounds, and 6 assists to go with it.

Honestly, this is a very big effort from Utah. Tonight could have been another disappointing loss because of the fatigue factor. It could have been easy to pull from the myriad of moral victories—team was tired, got in late, mental hangover from tough OT loss—but Utah prevailed. Even better, the Thunder who were victorious last night, lost to the Kings tonight so any ground gained by OKC was washed away by the L to Sacramento.

The Utah Jazz now have four days off before their next game against the Los Angeles Clippers at home. Go watch the Oscars. Hit up the outdoors. Do some skiing. Go to sleep at a decent hour. Catch up on the Marvel movies. Keep up on the downbeats. See your wife and kid again. Oh that’s for me. Whatever it is. Enjoy the break.


Notes

  • Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. Tonight it was great to be wrong. I wrote today that if Quin were to take Rubio out of a game late due to poor performance it would be a statement. It appeared that he was taking a gambit to try to boost Rubio’s confidence. It paid off tonight. Rubio came out fierce, in control, and deliberate.
  • Which brings me to my next point: Utah’s fatigue looked to have forced them to be more decisive and deliberate with their play tonight. Every ounce of energy was going to be used the right way. It was as if Utah was using every part of the buffalo when it came to whatever strength and stamina they had left from last night. Like the last chocolate in the Valentine’s heart tin, they savored their energy and made it count. (Cannot confirm if I stole the last chocolate from my wife’s assortment of chocolates. The culprit could still be at large.)
  • Kyle Korver’s hot three point shooting is in a slump of sorts. It’s like only one Splash Uncle can have the powers of long range. With tonight’s 1 for 6 performance, Kyle Korver drops to 40.8% on the season. Korver is 39.3% with Utah—Utah has given him a neon green light to shoot as they are desperate for long range shooting. Tonight Korver had some good looks, but it’s just not falling for him right now. In the month of February he is only shooting 29.6%. Big woof.
  • Derrick Favors was a big reason Utah was in last night’s game. Having one of his best games of the season. At times, he looked 5 years younger. Oh what a B2B after an OT can do. He still powered his way to 11 rebounds, but at times he didn’t look very spry. Which is okay. Keep the legs healthy for the playoffs. He still had 2 blocks and was a +9 in the game.
  • Tonight was Dirk’s last game in Utah, good riddance. Still haven’t forgotten how he did Andrei Kirilenko dirty.
  • SHEEEEEEET
  • Shenanigans

[Update: Prior version had Rubio incorrectly attributed with less points and rebounds.]