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Mavericks play rough with Jazz

Utah falls victim to the games within the game

He didn't like that the Jazz got away from their early success inside, especially the way they failed to go to Karl Malone when the going got rough. He didn't like the flagrant foul one of his own players committed, a play that tipped the tone. He didn't like how his guys got caught up in games within the game, and there plenty of those.

In short, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan did not like much at all about Utah's 98-90 Delta Center loss to Dallas on Monday night — except, perhaps, the way the 45-25 Mavericks came to play on an evening they would overcome an 11-point halftime deficit.

"They kept after us," said Sloan, whose 47-22 club did itself no favors in its quest to catch within-reach Western Conference-leader and NBA co-leader San Antonio.

"They came in here with a great deal of enthusiasm," Sloan added, "and they came at us hard."

Real hard.

In a game that featured two flagrant fouls and six technicals, including the first-half ejection of Mavericks head coach Don Nelson, Dallas won on what amounted to a fourth-quarter TKO.

The Mavs shot just 28.9-percent from the field in the opening half, but — much like Portland did when Utah lost to the Trail Blazers Thursday night — they managed to overcome the slow start because the Jazz would falter in the second half.

"We start the third quarter," Sloan said, "and instead of executing, we start hanging out."

And making turnovers. And taking ill-advised 3-point tries.

Sound familiar?

"They saw us play Portland," Sloan said, "and they saw what effect it would have if they took us out of our offense."

And they knew Utah — which finished a four-game homestand 2-2, and now has lost its past four against sure-bet Western Conference qualifiers — would be vulnerable.

On five consecutive third-quarter possessions late in the third quarter, Utah went inside to Donyell Marshall. He came up empty on all five.

By the time Dallas took its first lead of the second half — when, in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, 33-point game-high scorer Michael Finley buried one of his five 3s — the Jazz were showing signs of a bad-habit pattern.

They took their game to the perimeter late in the third and early in the fourth, shooting a series of outside shots that didn't all fall as they would hope.

And most of the while in that last period, Malone wasn't involved like he was while scoring 20 of his team-high 21 points in the game's first three quarters.

That perturbed the coach.

Malone's late-game touches, Sloan said, "were not as many as I'd like . . . that's why I was disappointed."

Guard John Stockton suggested the Jazz only took what was given them: "Nobody was making shots, so everybody else was open," he said. "They were paying a lot of attention to (Malone). I think for the most part guys had decent shots, open ones, late anyways, and we just weren't able to knock any down to loosen things up for him."

Still, Sloan wasn't buying it.

"We've got to take 3-point shots for some reason," he said. "It wasn't just one guy."

(For the record, Marshall, Stockton and John Starks all hoisted 3s in the fourth quarter, and only Marshall made everything he put up then).

"That," Sloan added, "really caused a difficult time for us."

The Jazz got into even bigger trouble, though, when Marshall, who had just committed a turnover, pounded Dirk Nowitzki as the Mav forward drove for a layup with one minute and 59 seconds remaining, and the game tied at 84.

Nowtizki made the basket. Marshall was flagged for the flagrant, and Nowitzki, after a few moments spent sprawled on the floor, made the second of two free throws. That put the Mavs up 87-84, and over the next 59 seconds they increased their lead to 8 with a jumper and three more free throws by Nowitzki. The Jazz would never cut it to less than 4 after that, leaving Sloan most displeased.

"I don't think that's necessary," he said of Marshall's foul of Nowitzki. "I didn't see all of it, but that's not part of basketball."

Marshall knew he did wrong.

"It was one of those things where, I know, a couple of times he threw his elbow towards my way — and, you know, I think it's probably pretty much more of a frustration foul," Marshall said. "It wasn't nothing intentional — I didn't try to hurt him."

Sloan was also upset with the way the Jazz handled calls made by a crew that slapped technicals on Malone, Nelson, Stockton, Sloan himself and Nowitzki.

"We were still talking to the officials," Sloan said, "while we were running back down the floor."

Again, the Jazz — who were playing their first game in a stretch of four in five nights, including Tuesday night's visit to Houston — knew they did wrong.

"We started to get caught up with the referees and how they were calling the second half, and not focusing on the Dallas Mavericks," Starks said. "When you do that, you lose concentration."

You lose games, too.

"We let it get away," Starks said. "We did it to ourselves."

They did. Like it, or not.