Mavericks, Jazz meet in Western Conference showdown

NBA Basketball
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Playing without All-Star Luka Doncic for an extended period has forced the Dallas Mavericks to cultivate other reliable sources of offense during his absence.

Doncic will be sidelined for his seventh straight game with a right ankle sprain when Dallas hosts the Utah Jazz on Monday night. The Mavericks originally anticipated he would be out for at least six games. They are hopeful to get him back against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday before the NBA All-Star break.

“Our hope is that he’ll be able to play before the break,” coach Rick Carlisle told the Dallas Morning News after Saturday’s 116-100 victory over Charlotte. “That’s the hope. It’s not definite, but we’re hopeful.”

The Mavericks have split the six games without the second-year guard in the lineup, in part, because players such as Kristaps Porzingis and Seth Curry are successfully shouldering a larger scoring load.

Porzingis is averaging 29.0 points on 51 percent shooting over his past four games – including 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He sat out against the Hornets, but had a string of 30-point games against Houston, Memphis and Indiana from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5. The former All-Star said he feels as if he finally is finding his form again after a nearly 19-month hiatus while recovering from a knee injury.

“I’m in a good rhythm now, and I’m going to keep it going,” Porzingis said after scoring a season-high 38 against the Pacers on Feb. 3.

Curry is averaging 19.3 points over his past four games, while also shooting 50.9 percent from the field. From the perimeter, Curry has been otherworldly. He is shooting 62.5 percent from 3-point range in February, while making an average of five 3-pointers per game.

Against the Hornets, Curry made 10 of 14 field goal attempts and poured in 26 points to help Dallas avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season.

Keeping momentum going against Utah will not be an easy task. The Jazz took Houston to the wire on Sunday night and edged the Rockets 114-113 on Bojan Bogdanovic’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer from 28 feet out.

Utah got in position to capture its second straight win after a standout performance from Jordan Clarkson. The veteran guard scored 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting off the bench. It marked his third 30-point game of the season and second with the Jazz.

Since acquiring him in a December trade with Cleveland, Clarkson has turned into the sort of instant-offense-providing sixth man that Utah lacked earlier in the season. He is averaging 15.6 points in 22 games with the Jazz so far, while shooting 46 percent from the field.

One thing that has helped him excel with Utah is his ability to create shots for himself off the dribble. His energy on offense has lifted the entire second unit.

“There’s a passion about him,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He wants to improve. Anytime you see a guy that loves the game and that’s talented and wants to improve, as a coach, those are fun guys to coach.”

This will be the second meeting between Dallas and Utah. The Jazz beat the Mavericks 112-107 on Jan. 25, overcoming 25 points and seven assists from Doncic. Utah countered with 25 points and five assists from Donovan Mitchell.

Monday’s game carries some long-term playoff implications for both teams. The Jazz have a 2.5-game lead over Dallas in the crowded Western Conference standings. Utah can earn a crucial tiebreaker with a win over the Mavericks.

–Field Level Media

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