By Mark Milligan Jr
Oct. 28, 2018
Utah took advantage of a tired and short-handed New Orleans team on Friday night by handing them their first loss of the season. Shortly before tip-off it was announced that Anthony Davis would not be available due to a sprained
eyebrow, er…ahem, I mean elbow. (My apologies.) Had the MVP candidate played, it surely would have been a much more difficult night for the Jazz. But with the Pelicans’ leading scorer and defensive anchor on the bench, Gobert had approximately zero resistance rolling to the basket for dunk after ally-oop dunk.
Gobert finished the night with 25 points on 11/13 field goals, along with 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, and a steal. He was one of three Jazz players to finish with more than 20 points. Ricky Rubio also shined with a game- and season-high 28 points and 12 assists while Donovan Mitchell added 22 points and 6 assists in the win.
After defeating two Western Conference playoff-likely teams in a row (including the Houston Rockets before the Pelicans), the Jazz will try to stay perfect in the 3rd game of their 4-game road trip. By most accounts, the Mavericks aren’t considered to be a playoff-bound team but we’ve seen the Jazz fall to trap games like this before. Not to mention, Dallas is sporting a mix of experienced vets that have hurt the Jazz many times in the past as well as a number of young and talented up-and-comers.
We’re all familiar with long-time Mavericks such as Dirk Nowitzki and J.J. Barea, and although Nowitski isn’t what he used to be, both he and Barea are still capable of being a thorn in Utah’s side. They aren’t the only vets, of course. The offseason addition of Deandre Jordan, who is averaging 16 points and 13.8 rebounds per game, will be a familiar foe for Rudy down in the paint. Other vets include Harrison Barnes and once-upon-a-time-Jazzman Wesley Matthews who is tied as the Mavs’ leading scorer at 19.6 points per game.
But really, the two reasons you’ll want to watch this game are Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Dončić, the two young budding bright stars that are leading the Mavericks into the next generation. You may remember Dennis Smith Jr. as one of Donovan Mitchell’s peers at last season’s dunk contest. However, this will be Utah’s first look at the #3 pick of this recent draft, Dončić. At only 19 years old and only having played 5 NBA regular season games, he is already leading his team by averaging 19.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists as their starting small forward.
Unfortunately, Coach Snyder had to play his starters a bit longer than he would have liked against the Pelicans, as New Orleans ended up putting together a decent come-back attempt late in the game. It forced Coach Q to forego the luxury of resting his starters in preparation for Dallas the following night. So legs may end up being a factor later tonight.
On paper, the Jazz should control all four quarters at the American Airlines Center. But as we all know, NBA games aren’t played on paper. Utah’s biggest struggle will be keeping the pedal floored against an inferior team on the second night of a back-to-back. The Mavericks’ vets and young guns are plenty good enough to make any team pay for slacking on effort. Here’s hoping the Jazz are able to attack early and not give the Mavericks the kind of confidence that can last an entire game, as well as continue the effort for a full 48 minutes. We’ll get to see what the Jazz are mentally made of tonight at 5:00 pm (MDT)!
*Featured image via Dallas Mavericks Turkey (@Mavs_Tr) on Twitter