“It’s A Good Win For Us” | Five Things To Know Following Utah’s Victory Over Dallas
Saturday’s showdown between Utah and Dallas was just another fun chapter in what’s quickly emerging as an entertaining rivalry between the two teams.
A late 9-2 run by Dallas had trimmed Utah’s 19-point third quarter lead down to five with just over two minutes. But as he’d done all season, Lauri Markkanen answered the call for the Jazz — delivering a knockout three-pointer on the ensuing possession.
Utah would eventually hang on for the 108-100 victory, their sixth win in the past nine games.
“I want to give our guys a lot of credit,” head coach Will Hardy said. “That’s not an easy game to play in. … It takes a ton of mental focus to maintain an understanding of what’s going on for 48 minutes. We stayed with it and executed what we wanted to.”
Here are five things to know following the win:
1.) Markkanen Makes Statement
Although he would never admit it, Markkanen made a statement on Saturday night.
After speaking with the media on Friday following the announcement of the All-Star game starters on Thursday, Markkanen acknowledged that he saw who was listed for the upcoming showcase in February.
While his name was absent from the list — despite garnering a tone of fanfare and respect from the national media — Markkanen insisted that he would keep doing what he’s been doing all season long.
He more than lived up to those words with another strong performance against Dallas and its contingent of talented wing defenders. He finished with 29 points and five rebounds, shooting 11-of-20 from the floor and 4-for-8 from deep. Most impressive, he rose to the occasion when the Jazz needed him most, scoring 12 points in the final 12 minutes.
2.) Beasley Breaks Out
After the beginning of the year scorching hot from beyond the arc, Malik Beasley had cooled down in January after connecting on just 30.7% of his threes.
On Saturday night, he looked like his old self again.
Again giving the Jazz a huge spark off the bench — particularly in the second half — Beasley finished 5-of-11 from three-point territory en route to 19 points. He also added four rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes.
“I thought Malik took some good ones,” Hardy said. “Malik is somebody that we have the utmost confidence in shooting the ball. Any good shooter can go through a slump, but I thought his legs had a little more pop tonight. … I thought he did a good job.”
3.) Trapping Defense Has Success
Just 72 hours after Damian Lillard torched Utah for 60 points on 29 shots — making a living by getting to the rim — the Jazz faced another talented isolation scorer on Saturday in Dallas’ Spencer Dinwiddie.
Rather than letting Dinwiddie get on a heater like Lillard did, Hardy and the Jazz implored a different type of defense — they aggressively trapped Dinwiddie and forced him to give up the ball and make someone else beat them.
The plan worked as Utah communicated very well, and their rotations were impressive as they still contested three-pointers on the regular. The Jazz also did an excellent job of protecting the rim, limiting Dallas to 28 points on 27 shots in the paint.
“I thought we were way more connected tonight,” Hardy said. “We didn’t give up many layups, which I thought was huge. … I thought our rotations were much cleaner, we forced a few more turnovers, and I think the shots that did what he did make were very hard. They only had 28 points in the paint, which means we were able to maintain our concept without giving up points in the paint.”
4.) Kessler Stays In The Starting Lineup
With opening-day starter Kelly Olynyk returning against Dallas, one of the first questions asked of Hardy was whether or not Walker Kessler — who replaced Olynyk admirably — would remain in the starting lineup or go back to the bench.
Without hesitation, Hardy said Kessler would start alongside Olynyk and Markkanen, giving Utah three 7-footers in their opening lineup. Kessler made good on the faith shown in him, finishing with his 10th double-double of the season and fifth this month.
Kessler stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists on 6-of-7 shooting from the floor. He was also dominant on the defensive end, finishing with five blocks, the third-most in his young career.
5.) Wild Wild West
Saying that the Western Conference is adventurous doesn’t even begin to break down just how convoluted the standings are.
The Sacramento Kings — yes, those Sacramento Kings — currently sit in the No. 3 seeds at 27-21. The Los Angeles Lakers — yes, those Los Angeles Lakers — currently sit in the No. 13 seeds at 23-27. That means the Kings now have a five-game lead on the Lakers, with nine other teams sitting between them.
Now back to .500 at 26-26, the Jazz are one of those nine teams. They currently sit in the No. 10 seed, just one game out of fifth and a 1/2 game of 11th.
The good news is that Utah appears to have found its stride over the past two weeks, winning six of nine. With the return of Olynyk, the Jazz haven’t been this healthy since the season’s opening month — when they started 10-3. Utah has four straight home games over the next 10 days and a chance to make a statement and continue its climb up the rankings.