Dallas • Second night of a back-to-back … no Derrick Favors in the starting lineup … no Alec Burks coming off the bench …
All the ingredients were there for the Jazz to slow down, fade away, and accept that sometimes it’s just not your night and, well, as the postgame music blared over the loudspeakers, “On to the Next One.”
Except that Georges Niang was hitting 3s and bodying people up. And Jae Crowder was ruthlessly efficient offensively. And Dante Exum was running the break to near-perfection. And rookie Grayson Allen was getting to the line. And Rudy Gobert was beasting inside on both ends, as usual.
And all of that proved enough, as Utah won its third straight road game with a 113-104 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday evening at American Airlines Center.
“We’re not a team that’s about any one guy. We’re not about our starters, we’re not about our bench, we’re not about any one player — this is a group that has to perform together,” said coach Quin Snyder. “So when guys play together and play the right way, we’re a better team.”
After all, while Gobert registered another monster line, hitting 9 of 13 shots and finishing with 23 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, and while Donovan Mitchell heated up late to total 20 points and four assists, they weren’t the ultimate difference-makers this time around.
No, with Dallas surging back near the end of the third quarter, Utah turned to a lineup of … Ekpe Udoh, Royce O’Neale, Niang, Allen and Exum?
Indeed. And they saved the day.
Despite that five-man group featuring an alleged dearth of scoring ability, they just kept finding ways to put the ball in the basket. In one sequence, Niang made a 3-pointer; O’Neale converted a lay-in; Exum drew a foul off an inbound pass and made the free throws; Udoh got fouled on a post-up and also hit his freebies.
And by the time the third quarter was over, instead of the lead slipping away due to Dennis Smith’s scorching shooting (27 points on 12 for 19), that group extended it to an 82-77 advantage.
Their teammates and coaches were impressed.
“Those guys compete. Tonight the bench came out and gave us what we needed,” noted Gobert.
“Wooooo … the bench came in and gave us a lot of spark, especially on a back to back. Guys played together on both ends of the court, made it tough for those guys,” added Crowder, who started in place of the injured Favors.
“Those guys were terrific, they gave our team a boost,” Snyder confirmed.
Only Joe Ingles (whose 3-pointer with 1:55 left gave the Jazz 113-101 lead and effectively ended the game) disagreed — and only then because he said he wasn’t actually surprised by any of it.
“I guess for us it’s expected, it’s just what they do,” he said. “We’ve got a deep team, we know that — it’s kind of just what we expect them to do.”
Niang and Allen each scored their career high, with 13 and 11 points, respectively, causing the former to quip, “We sat next to each other on the plane and decided this was where we were gonna do it.”
Crowder, meanwhile, excelled in his start, totaling 15 points and six rebounds, all while displaying a ferocious swagger on the court.
The only downside came with 30 or so seconds remaining in the game, when he was undercut on a 3-point try, came down awkwardly, and immediately limped off the court and back to the locker room.
He confirmed postgame that X-rays came back negative, and declared himself “day to day” with a mild ankle sprain.
It could have been a disastrous ending to an otherwise positive night.
But, like everything else that happened Sunday, it turned out OK in the end.
Jazz 113, Mavericks 104
• Rudy Gobert turns in 23 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, and Donovan Mitchell adds 20 points as Utah win its third straight road game.
• The Jazz get key bench contributions from Georges Niang (13 points) and Grayson Allen (11 points).
• Jae Crowder scores 15 points starting for the injured Derrick Favors, but is injured himself when he sprains his ankle in the game’s final moments.