Something must give with streaking teams

December, 3, 2010
12/03/10
9:44
AM CT

The Utah Jazz have undergone some changes. Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver defected to Chicago. But, in came big Al Jefferson and veteran agitator Raja Bell, and the Jazz might be better than ever.

With arguably the league's best point guard, Deron Williams, running the show, the Jazz are off to a 15-5 start, have won seven in a row and are always one of the most difficult road games for the Dallas Mavericks to leave a winner.

Also riding a seven-game win streak, the Mavs (14-4) will shoot for their first win at Utah in six games tonight in what should be an action-packed showdown at 9:30 p.m. (ESPN). Utah has won four straight at home. The Mavs are 6-1 on the road.

"They're winning games and we are, too," Mavs forward Caron Butler said, "so it should be a good one."

Utah has won 10 of the last 13 over Dallas at home and have had a habit of breaking out to fast starts, working their crowd into a lather while putting the Mavs on their heels. And, of course, strange things seem to happen in Utah. In successive years, Dirk Nowitzki left Salt Lake City with a one-game suspension. In 2007, a rough takedown of Andrei Kirilenko under the basket got Nowitzki suspended, but not ejected. The next season, an incident with Matt Harpring got him ejected and suspended.

Harpring no longer plays for the Jazz, but the always antagonistic Kirilenko does, although his new-look, long, stringy hairy makes him difficult to recognize.

'"They're always one of the best teams in the West, obviously well-coached," Nowitzki said. "They always play hard there, their fans are great, so it's definitely a great test for us. But, if we can just keep doing what we're doing we should be all right. If we defend well, get the rebounds and then spread the ball around, let everybody touch it, let everybody score, we're a tough team to beat."

The Mavs had serious interest during the offseason in dealing for the 6-foot-10 Jefferson, but the Minnesota Timberwolves preferred the Jazz's offer that included no salary dumps. The Mavs were determined to ship Matt Carroll and his overpriced salary in any trade. So Jefferson is with the Jazz and is averaging 16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds. He and Paul Millsap (18.4, 8.5) form a tough-to-handle combo at the 4-5 positions.

Dallas ended up trading Carroll's salary and Erick Dampier to Charlotte for 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler, and the Mavs are pretty happy with how that's worked out.

The Jazz make their first visit to Dallas in eight days, but in this first of four meetings, the Mavs are expecting a Jazz team to be at their high-energy, agitating best.

"They make you play on every single possession and in many cases they make you play 22, 23 seconds," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "You can never relax against this team."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9