The uniforms said Utah Jazz.
But the Mavericks’ first opponent
after the All-Star break didn’t much look like any of the Jazz teams that
have rolled through American Airlines Center in recent years.
Without Jerry Sloan and without Deron
Williams, the Jazz couldn’t put up the same sort of rock-hard battle they
usually do. When the Mavericks tapped out a third-quarter push, they opened up
a double-digit lead and charged to a 118-99 win Wednesday night.
With the trade deadline Thursday at 2 p.m.,
the Mavericks still looked like a team that doesn’t need much more help.
The Jazz? They looked like a team that had
been gutted. They were down to 10 healthy players after trading all-star point
guard Deron Williams to New Jersey earlier in the day for former Maverick Devin
Harris and rookie Derrick Favors.
Peja Stojakovic had half the
Mavericks’ points in a 14-4 blitz that set them free with a 77-67 lead.
It great to 101-83 in the fourth quarter and the Mavericks had little trouble
Dirk Nowitzki had another efficient
offensive night with 23 points on just 15 shots. Stojakovic nailed four of five
3-pointers and finished with 18 points as seven Mavericks reached double
figures. It was their biggest victory margin of the season.
If there was a negative, it was a defense
that gave up a high shooting percentage to the shorthanded Jazz and the slew of
turnovers the Mavericks had, many unforced.
Even so, they now have won 14 of their last
15 and continue to look like they are ready for the playoffs now, even though
there are 25 games left in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the other side of the equation
was much different.
The Jazz players were floored by the trade
of Williams, who went to high school at The Colony just north of Dallas.
It would be wrong, two Jazz players said, to
categorize Williams as a malcontent.
“We’ve been through some stuff,’’
Jazz guard and former Maverick Raja Bell said. “It all started really
quick. First with Jerry and now with Deron, it’s been a lot to digest.
It’s hard not to let your motions get involved.
“But I don’t think
there’s a bad guy in this situation. All of the things that happened came
from competitiveness. And I can tell you that anything about Deron being the
bad guy is unfair.’’
Bell isn’t the only one. C.J. Miles,
the Skyline product, echoed Bell’s sentiment.
“I don’t think he was completely
unhappy,’’ Miles said. “I just think he had some bad moments.
Him and coach (Jerry Sloan) had their thing. And there were things from
frustration from us feeling like we should have been playing better.
“Because he was Deron
Williams, it was made more known. If he’s mad, then something must be
terribly wrong. And I think it was just a little frustration that got to him
here and there, as it did everybody because of the way we were playing.
“And now this happens and it
makes it seem like he was this tearing-up-the-locker-room person the whole
year, which is not true. You can ask one through 12 and the coaches. That
wasn’t him. That’s just the way it looked.’’