A Mavs Win In Utah? Unthinkable Until Now

Critics of the Mavs – even as they boast one of the top defenses in the NBA, one of the stellar records in the league and an MVP candidate – often gripe that they've "seen this before.'' But what Dallas accomplished Friday in Utah? Mavs followers have not seen much of that before.

Dallas beat the Jazz 93-81 in an accomplishment that fits right in line with what this year's Mavericks are accomplishing. Dallas' defense habitually holds foes 10 points below their scoring average and here held the Jazz to 21 points below theirs. Dirk Nowitzki, an MVP perennial, scored 26 points on 12-of-18 shooting. And the Mavs have an NBA-best eight-game winning streak, are a terrific 7-1 on the road, and are among the league's elite at 15-4.

But it's that all this was accomplished in Utah – "a bad city,'' as a geographically-challenged young Dirk once called it – is the story … and it's a story rarely written in the annals of Dallas basketball.

The Mavs entered this one with a 15-55 overall record in Salt Lake City. Even during the Rick Carlisle era, the Mavs were 0-5 in Utah. They'd never led a game at the half, they'd never led a game after three quarters and, obviously, they'd never led one after four quarters, either.

"Great game tonight,'' tweeted J.J. Barea late into the night as the Mavs prepared to travel to Sacramento for a Saturday game. "It is always nice to win in Utah.''

Yeah, but again … it always never happens.

But this turned into a laugher in the third quarter, with Nowitzki getting help from Caron Butler (16 points) and others in such a convincing way that Dallas stalwarts Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd bwegan the fourth quarter on the bench … and remained there, unneeded, as backups Brendan Haywood and J.J. Barea were more than enough to halt a Utah team that had also won seven straight and now drops to 15-6.

Just when you assumed Chandler and Kidd (16 points on 6-of-8 shooting in a Club Med-like 29 minutes) were due to return, the Dallas subs switched to another gear, those backups (and Dirk) outscoring the Jazz 13-2 margin to start the fourth quarter.

Paul Millsap led Utah with 21 points, but he was overmatched on the other end by Nowitzki, too tall and quick for Millsap. Al Jefferson – the subject of Mavs trade talk in the summer before Minnesota dealt him to Utah -- had 18 points and eight rebounds, but he had his hands full inside with an energetic Haywood (four points, six rebounds, two blocks). And maybe Dallas' greatest individual accomplishment was the control of Deron Williams, the Dallas-area native who is almost always good for 21 points or so against his boyhood idols. Williams – who'd shot 62 percent the previous five games -- made just 4-of-13 shots and committed four turnovers. The NBA's Western Conference Player of the Month (named on Friday) was Williams, yet he scored just one point in the entire second half.

Overall, Dallas limited the Jazz to 38.2-percent shooting, the sort of number that is increasingly typical of this year's Mavs … in an early season of accomplishments that, if one really watches closely, are not "typical'' at all.


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