First Impressions: Mavs 103, Jazz 93

By virtue of the Mavs' 103-93 win over Utah on Friday, Dallas is 9-4 and has opened its home schedule at 7-0 for the first time since 2003-04. It could've been easier against the hapless Jazz - 'We gave in to playing to the score,' said coach Rick Carlisle of what looked like it would be a blowout win - but eventually the score ended up aligning properly enough. First Impressions:

Anybody fearing a Dallas Mavericks letdown after Wednesday's emotional win over the Rockets eventually learned there was no need to worry about such things -- emphasis on "eventually.''

The Mavs improved to 7-0 at home by holding off the lowly Utah Jazz (1-13) by a score of 103-93 on Friday.

This one was delivered in contrast to what happened on Wednesday. After trailing Houston for over 46 minutes and mounting one of the most entertaining comebacks in recent memory, the Mavericks led almost from start to finish and in the middle found themselves up by 24 points at halftime.

And then what happened, Coach?

"We gave in to playing to the score," is how Carlisle phrased it.

The Mavs were hot early with four first-quarter 3's, putting them up 31-18 after one period. The hot shooting continued throughout the half, with Dallas hitting 59 percent from the field and cruising to a comfortable 58-34 intermission lead.

Unfortunately for Dallas, the first-half Dr. Jekyll version of Utah quickly morphed into Mr. Hyde in the second. Despite finding themselves behind 28 at one point, the Jazz trimmed the Dallas lead all the way down to five midway through the fourth quarter at 90-85. ... the players apparently not embracing the TeamTank concept.
With Utah surging late, the Mavs went on a 10-2 run highlighted by Dirk Nowitzki's 3-point play with three minutes left that pushed the lead back to 98-87 and proved to be the dagger.

Nowitzki finished with 18 points but it took a 5-of-13 shooting effort for him to get there.

Friday's Player of the Game? Who Deserves "The Dirkie''? You vote here! But if we may try to influence you: First Impressions says it goes to Samuel Dalembert.

Sammy had his best game as a Maverick, going a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor and scoring 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Monta Ellis picked up right where he left off against Houston, hitting a corner 3 right out of the gate. Ellis finished with 26 points and six assists, carving up defenders with a myriad of slashes and drives to the basket that Utah seemingly had no answer for. He's now scored at least 18 points in every one of his Mavs games.

Marvin Williams (wearing a mask to protect his face after a recent surgery) led the Jazz with 19 points, and Gordon Hayward fought through a troubled knee for 13 of his own. They get some credit for battling here and they will need some luck; their road trip takes them to Oklahoma City next.

Despite the game getting closer than some might argue it should've been (thus raising the blood pressure of the sellout crowd at the AAC), the Mavericks did exactly what they were supposed to do, riding a big late shot by Jose Calderon and taking care of a bad team at home ... and in doing so now has the fourth best record in the West.
Having said that, it would've been nice to rest the heavy-lifters (not just Dirk, but Shawn Marion, too, who played despite a groin strain.)

Why the wish for rest? The challenges continue immediately as Dallas is flying overnight to Denver for a late one Saturday night, completing a back-to-back that is among the NBA's greatest challenges.

"It was disappointing,'' Carlisle said of not securing the easy win, "but wins are hard to get so it's a good win from that perspective. Our execution was poor in the second half on both ends, it was pretty obvious. But now we have to get on a plane and go play another team. So, that's where we are."

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