In tight playoff chase, Mavs face spiraling Jazz

League: NBA

Posted on: 24 Mar, 2024 at 11:19 PM

Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There are just more than 10 games remaining in the regular season for the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks, but they find themselves in vastly different positions.

Heading into Monday's game in Salt Lake City, the Jazz (29-42) hope to rebound from the struggles they've experienced since trading three contributors in mid-February.

The Mavericks (41-29) are embroiled in a tight playoff-positioning battle with the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings. They are tied with the Kings (41-29) for the seventh and eighth spots in the play-in tournament.

Those teams are a half-game behind the Suns (42-29) and the final guaranteed playoff spot.

Dallas hasn't played since beating Utah at home 113-97 on Thursday.

Luka Doncic led the Mavs with 34 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Daniel Gafford had 10 dunks and scored 24 points while only missing one field-goal attempt against the Jazz. He's shooting an NBA-best 71.4 percent from the field.

"He has great hands," Dallas coach Jason Kidd said. "His ability to finish in traffic is something we haven't had."

Kidd was also pleased that the Mavs dished out 33 assists in the win. They had a season-high 37 assists against Utah in a 147-97 win in Dallas on Dec. 6.

"Guys are being very unselfish," Kidd said, "and it's really fun to watch and be a part of."

Monday's game kicks off a five-game road trip for Dallas: at Utah, Sacramento (two games), Golden State and Houston. The Mavericks return home for three games and then finish the season with three of four on the road.

The Jazz are in the midst of a free fall, the likes of which they haven't experienced since losing 16 of 18 near the end of the 25-win 2013-14 season.

Utah has lost five straight and 16 of 19, falling 13 games below .500 since beating Oklahoma City to reach 26-26 on Feb. 6.

In Saturday's debacle at Houston, the Jazz allowed the Rockets to score 85 points in the first half and make an NBA season-best 27 3-pointers in a 147-119 outcome.

"You go into halftime and down 30, it's hard to bounce back," Jazz coach Will Hardy said. "But you have to find that element within you, the pride."

Utah is using a cast of players that includes three rookies and multiple two-way players while giving players such as Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson ample time to heal from injuries. The results have not been pretty.

"I want our team to always be thinking about the Utah Jazz and competing for our team," Hardy said. "But there also is a selfish element that you should tap into and say, 'I'm gonna do everything I can every single night to represent myself in a positive way, because I want to be in this league and I want to make money and I'm trying to provide for my family.'

"Wherever you find your inspiration, that's up to you, but anytime you take the floor in the NBA, it matters."

It remains to be seen whether any punishment will arise after Utah's Kris Dunn was involved in a scuffle with Houston's Jabari Smith Jr. on Saturday. Collin Sexton momentarily left the Jazz bench during the altercation, so he also could be punished.

-Field Level Media