The Utah Jazz were playoff mainstays back in the middle to late part of last decade because of one big reason -- Jerry Sloan. But after him I think we do have to recognize the inspired play of former All-Star point guard . D-Will, Duh-ron, whatever you call him, he was the engine of those teams that never seemed to win on the road, or against bigger competition. Kevin O'Connor failed to keep those playoff teams together, and one of the people who slipped through the cracks was . Eventually, things got hot, and the Deron Williams pot boiled over. Deron was traded in ' rookie season for . Tonight the Utah Jazz will get to face off against all four of the, now members of the Dallas Mavericks.
Dallas' death was premature. It seems like only I thought they would be okay this year. They are better than that, at 8-4 they are 3rd best in the tough Western Conference. Rick Carlisle 's club somehow found a way to lose to the New Orleans Pelicans, and since then they have rattled off five straight wins -- including three on the road. Their loan home game before heading out for another three game trip is tonight. Against a Utah team that has been particularly poor in the head to head. Last season the Jazz went 1-3 against Dallas, and before last seasons' loan win (on April 13th) had lost eight straight games in Dallas. Utah has also lost 23 of the last 26 meetings there. And all-time in the regular season the Jazz are just 31-48 in Dallas.
The Mavs are motivated as their window is closing quite a bit. They've re-loaded and re-loaded over and over again each year since their Championship. This time around they bring those four Jazzmen to support Dirk Nowitzki. , , also return while new additions of and (injured all season long so far) have yet to really make a dent. That's no disrespect to Zaza, but he's not a replacement even if he knows that "nothing [comes] easy."
Deron is having a bounce-back year, and Dirk is Dirk. Somehow Deron, Wes, Ray, Devin, and Jub-Jub all play at least 20 mpg. That should mean that none of them ever get tired. It should also mean that they don't have a strong inside force right now.
The Jazz like to play a normal game. They play slowly. They play defense. And they like a big lineup. It's working so far, though Utah doesn't have 8 wins like Dallas does.
Derrick Favors is a force of nature and Rudy Gobert is a demi-god sent from another realm. Trey Burke and Alec Burks are both doing things (mostly good) off the bench. And Rodney Hood is improving every single game. It's going to be interesting to see how Gordon Hayward "deals" with Chandler Parsons -- Chandler is in a hot streak right now, but I think Parsons brings the best out of Hayward. I don't ever remember him getting outplayed (except that one time that we won't bring up).
Both teams will be without a "starter" each, no Dante Exum. No JaVale McGee. For the Jazz it shouldn't matter, though. The hope is that their brand of basketball is one that can be taken on the road. One that has so far proven to win road games. And hopefully one that will result in a win tonight.