After a close loss against a team they’ve been unable to beat this season, the Dallas Mavericks will try to bounce back against an opponent to which they seemingly can’t lose.
If that’s the case again Monday, the Utah Jazz can probably start making plans for the offseason.
The visiting Mavericks look for an eighth consecutive victory over the Jazz on Monday night, while Utah needs to get back on track in a hurry if it hopes to salvage any playoff hopes.
Dallas (34-27) had an excellent opportunity Sunday to avoid a season sweep against the Los Angeles Lakers - its potential first-round opponent - but couldn’t take advantage of Kobe Bryant’s absence. Dirk Nowitzki had 24 points and 14 rebounds but missed 19 of his season-high 28 shots in a 112-108 overtime loss at Staples Center
“I just have to make some shots,” said Nowitzki, shooting 37.9 percent over his last five games. “I was more of a volume shooter, and that’s not the way I want to play. I want to be an efficient scorer. I’ve got some work to do.”
The Mavericks are 19-21 this season when Nowitzki attempts 15 or more field goals and 12-5 when he takes 14 or fewer.
He took way more than 15 the last time Dallas and Utah got together, but had one of his best games in recent memory. Nowitzki made 14 of 21 shots and finished with a season-high 40 points in less than 29 minutes of a 102-96 home win March 3.
Nowitzki has generally been a model of efficiency against the Jazz (31-30), shooting 61.1 percent while participating in six of the Mavs’ seven straight wins in the series.
If Utah can’t contain him Monday, it might find itself on the verge of elimination. The Jazz are in 10th in the Western Conference, one-half game behind ninth-place Phoenix and 1 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot.
Utah trails No. 8 seed Houston by two games in the loss column, but would own the tiebreaker should it finish with an identical record.
It would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with Phoenix.
The Jazz won’t have to worry about any sort of contingencies if they can’t get some stops. After holding the Rockets to 35.6 percent shooting in a crucial road win Wednesday, Utah let New Orleans and Memphis shoot a combined 51.8 percent in losses to conclude their trip.
“We know it’s going to take a lot of hard work at first, then it is going to take focus,” Paul Millsap said after the Jazz blew a six-point fourth-quarter lead in Saturday’s 103-98 loss to the Grizzlies. “We have to have focus, and we have to stick to what we do for 48 minutes. In the past, we haven’t been doing that, and it’s costing us right now.”
Devin Harris had a team high-tying 20 points Saturday but he’s done next to nothing against his former team since arriving in Utah. The point guard has averaged 6.0 points on 30.4 percent shooting against Dallas this season.
The Mavericks have shot 51.8 percent from the field during their win streak against Utah, making 64 3-pointers to just 27 - on 98 attempts - by the Jazz.