If we are going to call that game the biggest game of the season, then we better be quick to offer compliments when they beat that opponent like a drum. Utah arrived in Dallas 3 days ago, and were quite rested and ready for the Mavs. That didn't matter too much, now did it?
The Mavericks took over early with high energy, and the Jazz never seemed to threaten after Jason Terry hit back to back 3's late in the first Quarter. The route was on as the home side was carried by 31 points from Dirk, all in the first 3 Quarters (his 24th 30-point performance this season). Terry added 21, and JJ Barea played a fabulous 26 minutes with 18 points and 9 assists.
Now, the Jazz and the Mavericks are locked in at 47-31, and thanks to a New Orleans loss at home against the Phoenix Suns, the Hornets can be tied for 6th on Friday night when they visit the Mavs. Crazy. If Dallas can just win the rest of their home games, it would seem most likely that they will avoid the dreaded #8 seed.
It was clearly the type of game that on the heels of the Miami and Phoenix performances have you believing that adding Josh Howard back to this team is putting them back in a confident form.
Random notes from the absolute, positive, drilling of the Jazz:
* As we said yesterday,: I put Deron Williams in that group of “Elite Point Guards Jason Kidd cannot guard”.We all knew it, and it is nice to know the Mavericks' Coaching Staff knew it, too. The Mavs opened the night with Antoine Wright guarding Deron. Then, JJ Barea took his turn with surprising effectiveness, and finally with about 3:00 left in the 2Q, I saw JKidd take his first shot at staying with the dynamic PG of the Jazz who had 5 at the half. Hey, the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results, right? Well, the Mavs took a different shot at Williams, and I was pleased with Wright's efforts. He can defend pretty well - even a PG. The problem remains with Wright that he is still punch-less enough on offense that his presence on the floor is not required when the chips are down. Then, in the 3rd Quarter, did you notice Williams started going crazy when the Mavs felt the lead was big enough that they could stick Kidd on him? If it wasn't for Dirk countering Deron on the other end hoop for hoop, that could have been a real critical coaching error.
* Good job, Josh. I cannot believe how much better this team is defensively with the active hands in the passing lanes of Josh Howard. The Miami game was good. This performance seemed even better. 7 Steals?!? I wouldn't call him a glove as a lock-on stopper, but as a free-lance roamer on the weak side, he is our own little Scottie Pippen-type when he is plugged in.
* Good gosh, Josh. We all are impressed with your ability to hit jump shots. When you were first drafted, there was no way you could do what you can do now. Congrats on the improvement. But, Josh, please stop the take-3-dribbles-over-half-court-and-jack-a-3 routine! You can drive. We have seen you do it. Enough with the 3's at every chance. In fact, this team doesn't need to take 13 3-pointers in the first half last night or 24 for the game.
* James Singleton is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. I love his spot in this rotation, and his energy is such a valued element to his play. Keep up the high energy, Mavs Man, and I will continue to campaign for your efforts. You know quietly, the Mavs have really built a high-energy 2nd unit with JJ Barea joining Singleton and of course, JET. The rotation of Rick Carlisle actually is starting to make some sense.
* Erick Dampier's back to back chippys that he missed in the first minute of the 3rd Quarter were not becoming of a player who has a $73 million contract , but his double-double was. I need to think positive thoughts about him - like the way he hit the offensive glass, because there may be a more frustrating metroplex athlete to me right now, but I cannot think of who that would be.
* For you trivia buffs (ME), I thought you might enjoy this great stuff from Jerry Sloan's Wikipedia page : He has coached for one team longer than anyone in NBA history. The 2008-09 season will be his 21st season (and 20th full season) at the helm of the Jazz. After Tom Kelly stepped down as manager of the Minnesota Twins in 2001, Sloan became the longest tenured head coach in American major league sports with their current franchise. The only manager in any top professional league that has headed their current team for longer is Alex Ferguson of English football team Manchester United.Wow! I worked Sir Alex into a Mavs recap! I am very proud of that.
* Utah is a tough team to figure, in my opinion. Aside from their very troubling road record, there is still that question of who is "the guy". I think Deron Williams is an exceptional PG, but the rest of the team is all over the place from time to time. Carlos Boozer, AK-47, Okur....too many of them just fade in and out of the game and do not provide any sort of consistency. When Boozer opts out of his deal this July, the Jazz are going to have to ask some interesting questions of the build of the roster. I love Williams, but I am not sure what else on that team is special. Sound familiar to any other team you know?
* Well, now it is that old, familiar nemesis, the Hornets. Home and home. Must win 1 to preserve these good vibes. The easier task will be Friday. Antoine Wright on CP3? I would think so. Meanwhile, the Jazz, now 2-17 on the road against teams with winning records, must go to San Antonio to try to stop a 22-game win-less streak in the Alamo city. Another "Biggest game of the season" awaits.