The Utah Jazz-Dallas Mavericks game isn’t quite the game the NBA envisioned for Christmas Day when the league scheduled the Western Conference teams for the last game in the holiday lineup.
While the Jazz will be full, the Mavericks will be a long way off when they face off Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
Dallas will be without at least nine players. Seven are missing due to COVID-19 protocols – Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock, Trey Burke, JaQuori McLaughlin and Josh Green. On top of that, the Mavs also won’t have Eugene Omoruyi (foot) or Willie Cauley-Stein (staff since November 27).
Oh, and Kristaps Porzingis is questionable after missing the last two games with a sore right foot.
Dallas coach Jason Kidd joked that maybe the NBA should start having just two games over Christmas again due to pandemic issues.
“But unfortunately everyone is going to play,” Kidd said. “It gives other guys an opportunity to play Christmas that normally wouldn’t, so it will be a special time for them too.”
One of those players is Marquese Chriss, who signed with the Mavericks before the game in Utah. Instead of spending her first Christmas at home with her family since her high school days, Chriss will play through the league’s hardship allowance which allows teams affected by COVID-19 to recruit emergency players.
“It’s part of the business,” Chriss said. “I’m grateful to play again, whether it’s Christmas, New Years or Thanksgiving. It is our job and what we are paid for. We’re going to go out and do it to the best of our ability. “
The Mavs also recently signed Brandon Knight, Carlik Jones, Theo Pinson, George King and Charlie Brown Jr. to replace missing players.
“You can’t take that for granted because a lot of times growing up we only saw two games or one game,” Kidd said. “With COVID, there are a lot of guys out there who don’t normally get the chance to play on Christmas.”
Chriss scored 13 points on her Dallas debut on Thursday, a closer-than-expected 102-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
That same night, the Jazz beat Minnesota, which had seven players (including four starters) in NBA health and safety protocols. Utah was just happy to get a game win against a number of Wolves substitutes.
“When there is a team that has nothing to lose and a lot of young people who want to prove themselves, we have lost some of these games,” said Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points, while Gobert contributed 20 points and 17 rebounds in the 128-116 win.
“We performed on both sides. We have stops, ”Mitchell said. “We performed really well on offense and that’s something we can capitalize on and continue to build on.”
It’s the second year in a row that the Mavericks have been on the Christmas slate – they lost to the Lakers 138-115 – while Utah is back after beating Portland 117-96 in 2018.
–Field level media
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