DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 6: Jordan Clarkson #00 of the Utah Jazz drives to the basket during a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks on October 6, 2021 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Utah Comes Up Short Against Dallas on Wednesday Night

With Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside out for tonight’s game against Dallas, Utah head coach Quin Snyder elected to go small with 6-foot-6 Eric Paschall as the starting center.

The results early on were positive, but the Jazz couldn’t hold on in the end, falling 111-101 to the Mavericks on Wednesday night.

“I thought we wanted to see the ball move more than the other night. … We had 20 assists in the first half,” Snyder said postgame. “As much as anything, we continue to reinforce the way we want to play even with some guys where it may not be habitual for them. The primary thing is to compete.”

Due to rest, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, and Gobert all sat out tonight. Whiteside (left heel soreness), Bojan Bogdanovic (right shoulder soreness), and Rudy Gay (right heel surgery) were next to them on the bench recovering from injuries. 

The small-ball lineup proved effective early on as the Jazz jumped out to a 31-22 lead with the defense leading the way. Utah was very active on defense despite the massive size differential and switched every on-ball screen, rarely letting the Mavericks settle into a rhythm.

“I thought our activity was pretty good," Snyder said of the small-ball lineup. "We had a breakdown with our communication, or we didn’t get underneath a roller. But I thought, by and large, for having not done that 1 through 5 before, we obviously switched 1 through 4, guys did a pretty good job. And whatever breakdowns we had we made up for with our activity.”

Dallas battled back in the second quarter as Luka Doncic got hot, finishing the opening half with 19 points. Royce O’Neale and rookie Jared Butler kept pace as Utah went into the break down 61-56.

The final 24 minutes showed the Jazz fight but struggle to find consistency on both ends of the court. With O’Neale and reigning sixth man of the year Jordan Clarkson sitting for most of it, Utah had to find different players to initiate the offense, and nothing fully came together.

One of the bright spots was the play of reserve Malik Fitts. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc and was one of two Utah players to finish with a positive plus/minus.

The other player with a positive plus/minus was Butler, who once again stole the show and proved that he could crack Snyder’s rotation in the regular season.

In a much more composed effort tonight, Butler finished with a game-high 22 points. He was more efficient against the Mavericks, shooting 9-of-18 from the floor and 3-for-7 from beyond the arc, adding in four assists.

What was most impressive about his game was that he constantly kept his dribble and rarely appeared to be sped up. He ran the pick-and-roll with incredible efficiency and got into the key with ease. He also showcased a nice little floater and did a much better job staying under control when in the paint against big men.

“I think I improved this game, just like knowing that I can pin down on ball screens and stuff like that. ... I think I improved a little bit today," Butler said. "It’s just about getting adjusted to the game. You know, it’s a lot of ball screens, a lot of pin downs. There’s a lot of it. That’s just what I’m trying to do. ... But all-in-all, I think that they were pretty pleased with my game.”

Paschall also played well for the Jazz, showing off his strength and athleticism while taking on Dallas’ much bigger players in the post. Although not as effective as he would’ve liked shooting the ball, he did put forth a lot of energy on the defensive end that helped the team get out in transition early on.

“I thought his activity on the defensive end coupled with Royce and JC (Clarkson), we were coming up with loose balls and rebounds that we had to do collectively,” Snyder said. “With Eric understanding our bigs are consistently rolling and him trying to mix in popping and rolling, there’s a process there. True of Eric though, I like the way he competed.”

O’Neale finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Elijah Hughes added 13 points and three rebounds. Trent Forrest led the team with six assists, and Udoka Azubuike had a game-high 14 rebounds. 

The Jazz now get five days off before returning to Utah to close out the preseason with two more games. On Monday, they’ll face Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. MST from Vivint Arena.

Utah begins the 2021-22 season on Wednesday, Oct. 20 when Derrick Favors and the Oklahoma City come to town. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. MST. Tickets can be purchased HERE

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