Mavericks-Jazz Preview


Judging by their season opener, the Dallas Mavericks might thrive despite Dirk Nowitzki's lengthy absence.

After earning a road win over one of the Western Conference's presumed front-runners, the Mavericks will try to keep rolling Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, who are hoping for a good showing from their newcomers as they begin their season at home.

Dallas received a big blow before the season started with the news that Nowitzki is expected to miss around six weeks due to knee surgery. The Mavericks, though, showed they may have enough depth on their retooled roster to endure without their 11-time All-Star after Tuesday's 99-91 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his debut with Dallas, point guard Darren Collison led a group of six Mavericks in double figures with 17 points and helped spoil the Lakers debuts of perennial All-Stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

"It's a great win," coach Rick Carlisle said. "If you execute in this league and have talent, you have a chance to win, and we did that. The Lakers are going to be fine. They've got a lot of new guys and a new system, but we were opportunistic tonight and got the job done."

In terms of rest, the Mavericks won't be on equal footing with Wednesday's opponent. Utah opens its campaign after finishing with the same record (36-30) as Dallas last season, with both teams getting swept in the opening round of the playoffs.

To aid their chances of making a deeper run, the Jazz acquired Mo Williams and Marvin Williams in offseason trades, and signed Randy Foye to a one-year deal.

The Jazz were 27th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (32.3) in 2011-12 and each incoming player shot better than 38.0 percent from beyond the arc last season.

Utah is hoping to improve defensively after it ranked 23rd with 99.0 points allowed per contest, and its offense barely outpaced those efforts with 99.7 points per game.

"I just think we're going to communicate a lot better than we did last year," leading scorer Al Jefferson said. "We've got guys who want to play defense, especially on that second unit."

Utah should have a deep front line with Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Millsap is the only remaining player from the franchise's 53-win team in 2009-10.

"Time catches up with you and at some point you have to change," said coach Tyrone Corbin, who is now under contract through the 2013-14 season.

The Jazz are hoping their new faces will help them turn this series back in their favor. Utah had dropped seven in a row to Dallas until a 123-121 triple-overtime win in Salt Lake City on April 16.

Jefferson had 28 points and matched a career high with 26 rebounds in that victory. The Jazz won't miss Nowitzki, who scored 40 points in each of the last two meetings.

In addition to Nowitzki's absence, the Mavericks might keep Chris Kaman out due to a strained right calf. He could return for Saturday's home opener against Charlotte.