The Utah Jazz-Dallas Mavericks game is not quite the matchup the NBA envisioned for Christmas Day when the league scheduled the Western Conference teams for the final game of the holiday lineup.
Though the Jazz will be at full strength, the Mavericks will be far from it when they square off Saturday night at Salt Lake City.
Dallas will be without at least nine players. Seven are out due to COVID-19 protocols — Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock, Trey Burke, JaQuori McLaughlin and Josh Green. On top of that, the Mavs won’t have Eugene Omoruyi (foot) or Willie Cauley-Stein (personal since Nov. 27) either.
However, Kristaps Porzingis will play after having missed the past two games with a sore right foot.
Dallas coach Jason Kidd joked that the NBA should perhaps go back to having just two games on Christmas because of issues related to the pandemic.
“But unfortunately, everybody is going to play,” Kidd said. “That gives other guys an opportunity to play on Christmas that normally wouldn’t, so that will be a special time for them, too.”
One of those players is Marquese Chriss, who signed with the Mavericks ahead of the game in Utah. Instead of spending his first Christmas at home with his family since his high school days, Chriss will be playing thanks to the league’s hardship allowance that enables COVID-19-afflicted teams to sign emergency players.
“It’s part of the business,” Chriss said. “I’m thankful to be playing again, whether it be on Christmas, New Year’s or Thanksgiving. This is our job and what we get paid to do. We’re going to go out and do it to the best of our ability.”
The Mavs also recently signed Brandon Knight, Carlik Jones, Theo Pinson, George King and Charlie Brown Jr. to fill in for missing players.
“You can’t take that for granted because a lot of times growing up we got to see only two games or one game,” Kidd said. “With COVID going on, there’s a lot of guys playing that would normally not get the chance to play on Christmas.”
Chriss scored 13 points in his Dallas debut Thursday, a closer-than-expected 102-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
That same night, the Jazz defeated Minnesota, which had seven players (including four starters) in NBA’s health and safety protocols. Utah was just happy to get a win in a game against a number of Wolves fill-in players.
“When there’s a team that has nothing to lose and a lot of young guys that want to prove themselves, we’ve lost some of these games,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said.
Donovan Mitchell scored 28, while Gobert contributed 20 points and 17 rebounds in the 128-116 victory.
“We executed on both ends. We got stops,” Mitchell said. “We executed really well on offense and it’s something we can capitalize on and continue to build on.”
This is the second year in a row the Mavericks are on the Christmas slate — they lost to the Lakers, 138-115 — while Utah is back after blowing out Portland 117-96 in 2018.
–Field Level Media