Something should be made clear before you read the rest of this preview: the Dallas Mavericks are better than an 8-9 record shows and are going to be a really difficult test for the Jazz tonight. Don’t expect this to be a cruise control effort win.
For Dallas, tonight is going to be the first night in a long time where they play at full force. Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Dwight Powell have all cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols and are expected to play for the first time in over two weeks. These guys are integral in Dallas’s success as a team and have been greatly missed. In my opinion, the most important out of the three, Dorian Finney-Smith, will be a difference maker tonight. He is their primary on ball defender and without him, they have had to throw rookie Josh Green into the fire against some of the NBA’s best scoring talents (you can probably guess how that went). With Donovan Mitchell out tonight, expect Finney-Smith to fly around and take whoever on the Jazz is hot.
Unsurprisingly, the player that will be leading the charge for Dallas is going to be Luka Dončić. This season, Luka has been averaging 27.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 9.9 assists on 45.8/28.5/76.6 shooting splits. That is pretty insane. His shooting numbers are down this season and that’s partly due to the fact that as a whole, the Dallas Mavericks can’t shoot the ball from downtown. The Mavericks are 29th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (33.1%) and it’s making Luka’s life much more difficult because his driving and shooting lanes are clogged with defenders that don’t care about leaving their assignment open. It is something that other teams have taken advantage of and its something I’m sure the Jazz will try to do as well.
So far this season, Dallas has been a team that’s been pulled apart by injuries and the NBA’s health and safety protocols, meaning they haven’t had much time this season to gel together as a group. That (and some poor fitment and play with a couple of players early on) has led to their poor record. Tonight, they are going to look to reverse that.
When: Wednesday, January 27th • 7:00 PM MT
Where: Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet - Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone
What to watch for
How will the Jazz play without Donovan?
Tonight we were supposed to watch a battle between two of the brightest young stars in the league with Donovan Mitchell and Luka Dončić. But because Donovan is out under the NBA’s concussion protocol, we won’t get to see that.
This is going to put a ton of pressure on the other Jazz players tonight. Are Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Joe Ingles going to be able to pick up the slack? Will we have a classic Jordan Clarkson game? Or will it be someone else? I’m looking forward to seeing some of the young guys like Miye Oni getting some reps tonight and showing what they have in real NBA minutes. The Jazz also wont be able to survive a really poor shooting night from Bojan again. To put it plainly, he’s going to have to play great tonight to give the Jazz a chance.
It is a shame that we wont be able to see the matchup between the two. It is almost a given that Luka will play well tonight. Even if the guy has a difficult night shooting the ball, he still almost always ends up with a triple double. Luka is the future face of the NBA and his on court play has proven why. He has an endless bag of moves that shift even the best defenders in the league and has some of the best passing vision in the world. I was also expecting Donovan to have a great bounce back game tonight and put on a show. Alas, we will have to wait until next time.
Will tired legs contribute to another iffy shooting night?
Last night against the Knicks, the Jazz couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in the first half. Poor shooting nights will always happen and nobody expects the best three point shooting team in the league to shoot 31.3% from downtown every night. However, tonight is the second half of a back to back and there is a real chance that the Jazz will have to battle through some shooting slumps again.
The good thing about last night was that the Jazz were able to do all the other things well in the second half to overcome that poor shooting. The problem is, the Jazz won’t be going against the Knicks again. They are really going to have to really hunker down tonight on the defensive and and stay focused even if their shots don’t fall. They did a great job of staying with it through the entire game last night and they will have to repeat that again.
Again, I am really interested in seeing how the Jazz react tonight. This game has quickly shaped up to become one of Utah’s biggest challenges this season and I will be really impressed if they piece together their 10th straight win. If they do just that, it would be one of their best wins of the season.