The Mavs desperately needed to get on track when they visited the Jazz on Wednesday night, and with the return of Dirk Nowitzki to the lineup, hopes were renewed for"Our Boys in Blue. Unfortunately, neither Dirk, nor new headlining acquisition Harrison Barnes could get much going, as the Mavs fell to Utah 97-81, dropping to 0-4 in the process.
''We weren't in the game, really from the start,'' said Andrew Bogut. "Whatever it was, we were kind of chasing our tails from the start.''
It was a rough night for the Mavs, who shot just 26.9 percent from three, and got little help from the rest of the lineup outside of Barnes’ team-high 14 points ... and as that came on 4-14 shooting, it really wasn't much help. Wes Matthews and Deron Williams each scored 12 points, while Dirk and J.J. Barea each contributed nine, and Dwight Powell contributed just 11.
Well, at least they were balanced.
After trailing by as much as 20 for a good portion of the third quarter, the Mavs closed the gap to seven at the end of the period, outscoring the Jazz 15-2. But the Jazz would take control in the fourth, icing the game on a George Hill three to put them up 1:50 to go.
Dallas battle hard in the paint against Utah, drawing even in points-in-the-paint at 28 a piece, but once again lost the battle on the boards with the Jazz edging the Mavs by a mark of 41-36.
Rudy Gobert was a big part of that success for Utah, scoring 12 points and adding 12 rebounds and three blocks. Gobert, who just signed a new four-year $102-million deal to remain in Utah, showed exactly why he is worth that kind of money. He is a game-changer in the paint, and one of the elite shot blockers in the world. Players like that don’t just grow on trees these days, and you can see why the Mavs themselves were chasing one just like him in Hassan Whiteside this past summer. (The guy Dallas did get at center, Bogut, is struggling to get untracked; he had nine rebounds but just two points.)
Gobert altered shots and made things very difficult for the Mavs bigs all night long, but the difference in this game was the play of Utah guards, with George Hill contributing 25 points on 9-15 shooting, and Rodney Hood adding 22 points and seven boards of his own. The Mavs perimeter defenders just could not handle the former Pacer Hill, as he had his way with the Mavs all night long -- including on this buzzer-beater to end the first half ...
Both teams shot 77 times from the field, with Dallas shooting 26 threes and the Jazz shooting 25. The Jazz were able to make those looks count they, as they shot 48 percent from three as opposed to the Mavs 26.9 percent. Another big factor: the Mavs got the line just 10 times in the contest, and made eight of those attempts. The Jazz though, got to the line 26 times, and while they hit just 15 of those chances for a mark of 57.7 percent, those added chances resulted in a hefty difference for them.
Dallas also had a goose egg in the fast-break points department, something that in today's NBA, just doesn’t happen very often. The Mavs are slowish in many ways, certainly in the starting lineup. But when you have guys like D-Will, J.J. Barea, Justin Anderson and Barnes, you’ve got to think you can get the ballhandling, passing and running to at least milk something out of the transition game.
At any rate, the Mavs will have to forget about this one quickly, because they will head back home to seek their first win against a very talented and athletic Portland Trailblazers squad that has one of the best perimeter scoring tandems in the game of basketball with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum -- a duo that has combined for 54 points-per-game through their first four games of the season.
''It's been a tough start for us,'' Bogut said. ''No one is going to give us anything easy, so we got to dig ourselves out of this hole.''