SALT LAKE CITY -- Forget ghosts and goblins. The Dallas Mavericks are facing something much scarier on Halloween night: Figuring out how to contain an opponent that makes a living around the basket, even while two of their best big men nurse injuries.
The Utah Jazz have a quartet of big men who are as talented as any in the NBA. Al Jefferson is a prolific low post scorer. Paul Millsap is a defensive nightmare. Derrick Favors is the future face of the franchise and Enes Kanter looks like a rising star after an impressive preseason.
"They're a wrecking crew in the paint as always,” Mavs coach Rick Carlise said. “Their stats point to an all-out brawl in there the entire game. They're extremely effective.”
The Mavs must find a way to gain an upper hand in that brawl without either Chris Kaman or Dirk Nowitizki in the lineup. That's where Elton Brand and Brandan Wright come into the picture. Both did a serviceable job in Dallas' 99-91 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. Brand had eight points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes. Wright scored 14 points and collected five boards and three blocked shots in 20 minutes.
A similar level of production is crucial if the Mavericks hope to also subdue the Jazz. Carlise feels confident Brand and Wright can make it happen
“They compliment each other well,” Carlise said. “There's enough length there to compete on the boards. We can get the ball in the basket if we move the ball.”
Wright admits going up against the likes of Jefferson and Millsap is a huge motivator. The Mavs want to prove they can thrive against all types of opponents during Nowitizki's absence.
“You tend to focus more when you play more dominant players,” Wright said. “It's just the nature of the beast. Our coaches do a good job of keeping us involved and keeping us focused on the task at hand."
For Dallas, it will come down to being tenacious on defense and being scrappy on the glass to keep Utah from having its way in the paint for four quarters. Accomplish that and the Mavs can start to feel good about how this team will look when Nowitzki and Kaman finally return to full health.