Mavs Jazz Preview: Where Dirk Won't Sit

DALLAS - 'I think it’s pretty obvious,' Dirk says, 'that we don’t want to sit on a two-game losing streak going into an eight-day break.' That's the Mavs' mindset as they play host tonight to Utah - a foe that looks different on the floor than it looked a little while ago on paper.



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A different look

Wednesday’s matchup with the Utah Jazz was supposed to be the easy game amongst a "Hell Month'' worth of strenuous challenges. After all, the 35-19 Dallas Mavericks have beaten Utah in seven straight. Unfortunately for the Mavs, the Jazz may pose a much more significant test than originally thought.

The 19-33 Jazz are the Mavericks’ last opponent heading into the All-Star Break. After Monday’s blowout loss to the Clippers in Dallas (see our All-Access analysis here), Dirk Nowitzki said, “I think it’s pretty obvious that we don’t want to sit on a two-game losing streak going into an eight-day break.”

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But with Tyson Chandler (USAToday photo) out with an ankle injury and Monta Ellis doubtful with a hip injury, it will take a balanced attack to beat this Jazz team.

NOON-TIME UPDATE: Ellis worked with the team at shootaround and the ironman has been updated from "doubtful'' to "questionable,'' leaving the impression he'll try to go. Rondo did some light work but will not play. TY is still ruled out. Bernard James (see below) is eligible to go.

Strength Versus Weaknesss

The Mavericks have been out rebounded in seven straight games and in six of those games Tyson Chandler was playing and grabbing double-digit rebounds. Last night, DeAndre Jordan grabbed 27 rebounds after Chandler left the game.

"The guy looked like Wilt Chamberlain playing in 1963,'' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Jordan.

The Jazz have out-rebounded their opponent in eight of their last 10 games. They have three players who average more than eight rebounds per game in Rudy Gobert, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. All three of those players average more than two offensive rebounds per game as well. The Mavericks have one player with those averages and he isn’t playing Wednesday night.

The Mavericks interior position will consist of a steady rotation of Dwight Powell, Al-Farouq Aminu, Charlie Villanueva, Greg Smith and Nowitzki. Hopefully some day soon, Jermaine O'Neal is part of this mix. For now, Bernard James gets a 10-day contract to pitch in. (Fish has the scoop here.)

Dallas will have to execute well on offense because the Mavs likely won’t get many second chance opportunities. The Jazz have the potential to crush Dallas on the boards.

Dirk Getting Some Favors

Derrick Favors should have trouble guarding Nowitzki because he is a human being and so far that has been the case with most mere mortals. That being said, it certainly isn’t an ideal matchup for Nowitzki.

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The 23-year-old Favors is 6-10 and 242 pounds. He is a very strong player and has a first step that the 36-year old Nowitzki is not well-equipped to handle. Favors is having a great season while still being kept fresh at just over 30 minutes a game. He will attack Dirk off the dribble and he has the quickness and tenacity to give him fits on the boards. Nowitzki barely jumps for rebounds at this stage of his career. He simply fights for good position and relies on his height and strong hands to get the rebound. That positioning will be very tough to get against Favors.

Stat-minded good news: Nowitzki has always played well against the Jazz, averaging 26 points over his last 19 meetings. In two Dallas victories over Utah alreadythis year, he scored 21 and 27 points.

Two Well-Paid Free Agents

Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward were two of the most sought-after restricted-free-agent wing players on the table last summer. Both were rewarded with some version of a max contract, with Utah opting to keep Hayward.

Halfway through the season Hayward has the advantage over Parsons in basically every statistical measure. To be fair, Hayward is depended on by the Jazz much more as their primary scorer. Parsons, on the other hand, has been asked to simply fit in around his teammates and complement them with his all-around game. Over the past few games Parsons has done a much better job of that. He seems more comfortable in the offense lately and, more importantly, he is asserting himself with his rebounding.

It’s silly to waste much time comparing Hayward and Parsons as they are two different players in two different situations, but with Rondo, Ellis and Chandler all likely out, Parsons will have to step into a role more similar to the one Hayward occupies. If Parsons can meet the challenge it might silence a few people claiming there is a big gap between the two players.

Feisty Jazz

Don’t let the Jazz’ record fool you. They have been playing .500 basketball over the past few weeks. They are coming off of wins against the Pelicans and Kings and they recently lost to the Blazers by just one point a few days after beating the Warriors by 10.

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They are by no means tanking, as in vogue as that seems to be with other clubs with sub-.500 marks. They have quite a few very good young NBA players and they are keen on developing them into winners. Dallas really needs the upcoming eight-day rest. But they’ll have to fight and claw for a win in tonight's 7:30 tip on FOX Sports Southwest before that rest gets here.




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