Dallas is 28-5 at home this season, but is in a stretch of playing 10 of its final 13 games this month on the road. The Mavs opened a three-game trip with a 109-92 win over Portland on Thursday, just their fourth contest away from home since Feb. 1.
Dirk Nowitzki had 33 points and 10 rebounds as Dallas beat the Trail Blazers for the second time in three nights. Mavs coach Avery Johnson complained that his team was lethargic following a 93-87 win over Portland on Tuesday, but liked the performance on Thursday.
“We put together a decent effort from start to finish,” Johnson said.
Dallas won both games against Portland without swingman Josh Howard (hamstring strain) and small forward Keith Van Horn (sprained left MCL), and point guard Jason Terry said that shows the Mavs are up to the challenge.
“It’s just a matter of getting it done,” Terry said. “(Johnson’s) done all the motivating he can do. He’s not going to need to do no more because the veterans are going to step up and get this going in the right direction.”
Dallas lost 93-82 in Salt Lake City on Nov. 2, and has dropped 25 of 31 games there since the start of the 1991-92 season. The Jazz won their third straight at home Wednesday, 96-93 over Minnesota.
Rookie Deron William scored a career-high 24 points, and Andrei Kirilenko added 15 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and eight blocked shots to help the Jazz win consecutive games for first time since Feb. 6-10.
Utah, which hasn’t won three in a row since Jan. 7-11, is just a few games out of both first place in the Northwest Division and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’re trying to make the playoffs,” Williams said. “That’s our goal. I think we can do it.”
Jazz owner Larry Miller said coach Jerry Sloan’s job wasn’t in jeopardy after Wednesday’s win. Sloan’s 18-year tenure is the longest with one team in all four of the major professional leagues.
“I’m not looking for guarantees. I’ve never looked for a guarantee,” Sloan said. “I’ve always said, ‘The day comes (when) you want me out of here, all you have to do is tell me and there won’t be any hard feelings.’ That’s the way I’ve always tried to do business.”