Jazz ride bench boost into tilt with Mavericks (Dec 16, 2016)

BY AP • December 15, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY -- One positive side effect has materialized for the Utah Jazz from battling injuries early in the season. The Jazz bench is stronger and ready to make major contributions than at any time in the past few seasons.

Utah will need those contributions when it hosts the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Eleven different players have started two or more games for Utah this season. Those eleven players are all averaging at least 18 minutes on the court per game. What it means for the Jazz is that they are a team that's can utilize a bench flush with players already used to playing major minutes together.

"It helps," guard Rodney Hood said. "When you got a guy that's playing starter minutes, and then he goes back to the second unit, he's definitely much better and much more confident in certain situations. It will be great to see how it comes to fruition."

The bench played a key part in helping Utah overwhelm Oklahoma City 109-89 on Wednesday night. The Jazz outscored the Thunder 45-38 in bench points. Utah's second unit shot 17-for-28 (60.7 percent) from the field -- including 7-of-9 from 3-point range.

Reserve guards Joe Ingles and Shelvin Mack did the most damage. The duo combined for 26 points on 9 of 11 shooting, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Such hot shooting is not a new development. As a team, Utah (16-10) ranks fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage (.468). The Jazz shot 42 of 72 (58.3 percent) from the field against Oklahoma City.

"It's nice to see it go down for everyone," Ingles said. "It gives everyone else confidence. We started out moving the ball, got some good looks early and it continued for the (whole) game. When you got a team that's so unselfish, and everyone moves the ball, it makes life easy."

Stopping Utah's hot shooting offense will certainly be a chore for the Mavericks. Dallas could not do it in a 97-81 loss to the Jazz on Nov. 2. Playing without injured leading scorer Gordon Hayward, Utah shot 12 of 25 (48 percent) from 3-point range and led by as many as 20 points in the contest.

It doesn't help that the Mavericks are being attacked by the injury bug. Dallas (6-19) is playing without Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles strain), Andrew Bogut (knee) and J.J. Barea (calf strain). Salah Mejri could be joining them on the sidelines after leaving during the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's 95-85 loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Nowitzki has been out 17 games, Barea has been sidelined for 14 games and Bogut has been out for four contests. Deron Williams also missed eight games with a calf strain earlier in the season. The lack of healthy players has made it tough for Dallas to generate positive momentum.

It showed against the Pistons. Detroit overcame a 12-point deficit in the third quarter, and a season-high 19 turnovers, to run away from the Mavericks.

"Obviously, it's frustrating," guard Wesley Matthews said. "We fought hard tonight, but a couple of sloppy plays, scoring drought, and it wasn't from a lack of effort. We'll look at where things went wrong and get ready to go back and get it back in Utah."

Dallas has won 10 of the last 13 games with Utah overall. The Jazz hold the upper hand recently, however, winning two of the last three in the series.