DALLAS — In some ways, the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks looked more than ready for the all-star break. In a game that lacked cohesion or flow, the Mavericks held on to narrowly defeat the Jazz, 87-82, Wednesday night.
Why the Jazz lost: Both teams are depleted by injury and struggled out of the gate. Midway through the first quarter, it was just 4-2 for Dallas. The Mavericks kicked it up a gear while Utah continued to have difficulty. Dallas led 22-9 after 12 minutes, and that point total is a first-quarter season low for the Jazz. Utah battled back in the second, but ultimately, the slow start set the tone for the evening, and the savvy, veteran Mavericks took advantage.
Turning point: The turning point occurred following the game when reports that big man Enes Kanter is requesting a trade. Kanter has played his entire four-year career for the team that drafted him, but has apparently desired a change of location for some time. With the NBA trade deadline looming, this certainly heightens the drama surrounding the upcoming week.
What it means: There will be a different Jazz squad that comes back in nine days. Not only could there be changes on the roster, but the time off might do the team good both physically and mentally. In an ugly game like Wednesday’s, the young Jazz team will hopefully learn that every game counts — even the one right before a long vacation.
Grading the performance: Despite some solid passing by Utah, the offense sputtered much of the evening. Shooting just 37.5 percent from the field in a road game usually does not bode well for a team’s chances. Thanks to the deft shooting of Trey Burke and Steve Novak, the perimeter game helped bring the Jazz back a few times, but costly turnovers down the stretch and clanked free throws offset those spurts. Utah did force the issue with Dallas center Tyson Chandler being out, tallying 30 points in the paint. The Jazz’s rebounding was stellar and their defense was fairly good, though the guards had a tough time staying with speedy J.J. Barea, the X-factor for the game.
Utah Jazz grade: C
The Mavericks were anything but world-beaters, especially with Chandler and Rajon Rondo out (Monta Ellis played but was noticeably less explosive). They, too, could not sustain much consistency offensively. Thirteen-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki was held in check for the most part. The Dallas bench helped inject some energy. The Mavs were more aggressive as a whole, making frequent trips to the free-throw line.
Dallas Mavericks grade: C+
Three telling stats:
— With seven players snaring five or more rebounds, the Jazz easily won the battle of the boards, 52-38.
— Once again, free-throw shooting was a thorn in Utah’s side. It only shot 11 of 21, with many of those errant shots coming in the second half. Dallas was +10 from the charity stripe.
— To illustrate how poorly both teams shot, only five of the 20 players who appeared in the game shot 50 percent or better.
Up next: Last year, the NBA decided to institute a longer all-star break in 2015. As a result, the Jazz will have an extended hiatus, playing next at home versus the Portland Trail Blazers on Feb. 20. Given the injury situation, this time off will be a welcomed change for Utah. Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum and Burke will be the Jazz’s representatives at the all-star festivities.
David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.