It’s probably a really good thing that the NBA All-Star break is finally here for the Dallas Mavericks.
The week-long break gives them plenty of time to lose the film from Wednesday night’s game against the Utah Jazz.
The Mavericks shot just 37.3 percent from the field and got outrebounded by 14. But they somehow were able to get out of their own way enough to score an 87-82 victory over the Jazz before a sellout crowd of 19,947 at American Airlines Center.
Now comes the All-Star break for the Mavericks (36-19), who won’t play again until Feb. 19 at Oklahoma City. By then, the Mavericks hope to have center Tyson Chandler and point guard Rajon Rondo back on the court.
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Chandler missed Wednesday’s game with a sprained left ankle, and Rondo sat out his sixth consecutive game as he recovers from a nasal fracture and an orbital fracture to his left eye.
J.J. Barea picked up the scoring load for the Mavericks with 13 unanswered points in the third quarter as he finished with with a game- and season-high 22 points. Without Barea, the Mavericks were an offensive nightmare, and Dirk Nowitzki (15 points) was the only other player to score more than nine points.
“I think my teammates were just telling me to keep shooting,” said Barea, who was 8-of-15 from the field. “They kept giving me the ball and the ball was going in. [The Jazz] were going under the pick-and-rolls, and then I got going a little bit, and I think that was big for us in the third quarter.”
Monta Ellis shook off a hip injury and played in his 219th consecutive game. Ellis was just 1-of-6 from the floor and scored only seven points, but he used a solid defensive effort to produce a career-high-tying seven steals.
After a turnover by Ellis led to a breakaway dunk by Gordon Hayward — that sliced the Mavs’ lead to 83-82 with 15.3 seconds remaining — Ellis made amends by burying two free throws less than two seconds later for a three-point lead.
Then on Utah’s ensuing possession, Ellis stole a pass by Hayward, and Barea closed the scoring by banging in two free throws with 0.5 seconds left.
“He set an all-time individual team record with 12 deflections in the game defensively, so he played well,” Carlisle said, while defending Ellis. “You guys just look at the shooting stats and whatever his turnovers were, but there’s a lot more to it.
“He even hit the big free throws that decided the game, and he came up with the steal that decided the game. So it’s not all about points.”
On this night, this was just a contest of survival as the game had a terrible flow and it lasted for the entire 48 minutes.
The Mavs missed their first seven shots, Utah missed its first five, and neither team scored until Hayward found the basket with 7:47 remaining in the first quarter.
“I think it was a little off, especially at the beginning,” Barea said. “And I think that carried over into the game. I think I got it going during the third and that helped us a lot. And then we finally got a little groove there.”
Bernard James, released by the Mavericks in training camp and who recently played in China, signed to a 10-day contract Wednesday morning and proceeded to provide a spark with nine points, three rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes off the bench.
“The guy just got off a plane from China a couple of days ago,” Carlisle said. “We were jumping through hoops trying to get his letter of clearance from FIBA and all that, and [he’s on the] other side of the world. All that stuff came through basically with one minute before shootaround [Wednesday]. Without him, I don’t know if we would have been able to pull it off.”
The same could be said about Barea.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760