The Dallas Mavericks are set to take on the Utah Jazz twice in three nights at Salt Lake City, and while the Jazz have won nine consecutive games, the visitors might finally have some help on the way.
The Mavericks are close to getting a good chunk of their roster back, perhaps even in time to suit up against the Jazz on Wednesday.
Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell flew to Utah with Dallas on Tuesday after being sidelined due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. They are expected to play Wednesday, according to coach Rick Carlisle. The three players have been out of commission 16-20 days.
“It was tough,” Finney-Smith said, according to the Dallas Morning News, “just knowing some of the young guys were forced to go out there and do stuff that guys like me and J-Rich could have helped them with.”
The Mavericks can use all the help they can get after going 2-5 the past two weeks. In that stretch, Dallas dropped from the second-best defensive team to No. 17 in defensive efficiency, according to the Morning News.
Maxi Kleber, still dealing with COVID-19 protocols, remains unavailable and didn’t travel to Utah.
“It’s been a long road for these guys,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “They’re not going to be back in game shape overnight, but it’s great to have them back on the floor. It’s great to have them in practice. It’s three of our best defenders and most unselfish guys. Having them back in the fold is a big plus.”
Impressively, the Jazz have not lost during the same amount of time that the Mavericks have been without their pandemic-affected players.
Utah rallied to beat the visiting New York Knicks 108-94 on Tuesday after trailing by as many as 15 points.
“We kept battling and didn’t feel sorry for ourselves that shots weren’t being made. People talk about winning ugly,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, adding that “ugly was really pretty” in the victory over the Knicks.
All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell had an uncharacteristically bad offensive performance, scoring only nine points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Coincidentally, that came hours after a Utah state legislator, Rep. Kera Birkeland, sponsored a light-hearted bill during a legislative session to honor Mitchell in the aftermath of him being awkwardly called out in a TNT interview by Shaquille O’Neal.
“This resolution honors Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell,” the bill states. “This resolution recognizes the exemplary service of Donovan Mitchell to the Utah Jazz and the Utah community; and suggests consideration of making the ‘Spida’ (Mitchell’s nickname) the official state arachnid.”
A player with a similar last name to Shaq’s had Mitchell’s back on Tuesday. The deep and versatile Jazz were bolstered by Royce O’Neale, who produced a career-high 20 points and grabbed six rebounds. Utah also benefited from Mike Conley’s 19 points and Rudy Gobert’s 19 rebounds, 18 points and four blocked shots.
Conley called it “one of those situations where we found ourselves in a hole. Each individual guy just stepped up another notch.”
Utah has outscored its opponents by an average of 116.8-101.1 during its winning streak, which is the longest in the NBA this season.
–Field Level Media