The Theme: The Theme is The Streak … and Utah represents the week's largest threat to Dallas' run, which is up to 11 now.
But Dallas is also on an AAC roll. Despite all the talk of the Mavs' being something short of dominant at home, Dallas is shooting for a seventh consecutive victory here. … and among the many aspects that add to the intrigue here is Utah's six-game road win streak.
The Matchup: In the last meeting, on Dec. 3 in Utah, the Mavs opened the game with DeShawn Stevenson guarding Deron Williams. I had a Mavs staffer tell me frankly, "That didn't work.''
Dallas' zone contributed to Deron's poor second half, in which he scored just one point. … which contributed greatly to the Mavs' 93-81 win.
The Key Utah Number: In that meeting, the Mavericks' zone defense held the Jazz to 39.2-percent shooting. Is it too much to expect the Mavs – with their goal of limiting foes to 45-percent shooting – to do the same against a Utah gang fresh from an early-morning flight from Salt Lake to Dallas?
The Key Dallas Number: Dallas (18-4) is now a two-way threat. You know about the D; in the six straight home wins, coach Rick Carlisle's re-invented club is giving up just 90.8 points on 41.2 percent shooting. But on the other end? Dirk Nowitzki is the leader, shooting a sizzling 57 percent and scoring 24.7 per during the Mavericks' streak.
The Line: Dallas (18-4) is a six-point favorite over the 17-7 Jazz. By the way: As much as we make of the Mavs' traditional troubles in playing at Utah (the all-time record is now "up'' to 16-55) the Mavericks have won 14 of 17 at home in this matchup.
The Lineups: The health of the Jazz is in wait-and-see mode. But at this early stage, we'll work with what we know from last night's Utah home win over Orlando: Okur is out. Kirilenko, Raja Bell and the huge Kyrylo Fesenko (ankle) will try to play.
|Utah Jazz||Dallas Mavericks|
|Deron Williams||Jason Kidd|
|Gordon Hayward||DeShawn Stevenson|
|Andrei Kirilenko||Caron Butler|
|Paul Millsap||Dirk Nowitzki|
|Al Jefferson||Tyson Chandler|