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SALT LAKE CITY -- The battle for extending a seven-game winning streak was stripped down to defensive execution, and to the Dallas Mavericks went the spoils as they pounded out a 93-81 win over the Jazz Friday night.
"We ran into a good team playing as good as us - better, tonight," Deron Williams said. "Their zone defense stifled us a little bit, and then they went back to man and we never got back to executing."
Once we got our defense going, we got out in transition and finished well.
The Jazz and Mavericks changed leads nine times before the night was over as both teams capitalized on the defensive breakdowns of the other. After eight solid minutes on both ends of the floor, the Jazz suffered from a handful of simple mistakes that wiped away their six-point lead and gave Dallas a three-point advantage and a glimpse into weaker areas of their defense to end the first quarter. The Jazz committed six turnovers in the first, with five coming in the last four and a half minutes.
Despite lapses in offensive efficiency, Utah's defense hung tough and limited Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki to just four points in the first quarter. Jason Kidd posted seven points and three assists but was held to just two rebounds in the second quarter.
For over 10 minutes of the second quarter, Utah's bench defense stalled Nowitzki at just two points before the forward added five points to the Mavericks' tally on two fast break plays that wrapped up the half at EnergySolutions Arena with the Jazz leading 43-39.
Utah's offense also experienced a surge of adrenaline and swagger behind the effort of its bench, but as the reserves returned to the sidelines in the third quarter, the Mavericks were allowed to establish some momentum of their own.
When they started zoning us, we lost our position on the floor a few times and looked confused.
"Offensively, we were a little out of rhythm, but once we got our defense going, we got out in transition and finished well," Dallas' Jason Terry said.
As expected, Nowitzki came out of his slumber and put up eight points in the third on 4 of 5 shooting. Kidd, apparently given a second wind by the performance of Dallas' go-to shooter, added eight points himself on 3 of 4 shooting. Kidd also handed out four assists in the quarter and led the Mavericks to a nine-point lead over the Jazz, who couldn't find an answer for the way Dallas spread the floor on offense.
On defense, the Mavericks caused just as much disruption.
Williams, who put up 11 points and three assists in the first half, added just a single point to his tally in the third. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson kept the Jazz in competition as they posted eight and seven points, respectively, but were unable to bring Utah all the way of its hole. The same would prove to be true for the entire team as the Jazz attempted to regain control of their game in the fourth quarter.
All the credit goes to our defense - we got the stops when we needed to.
"I thought defensively holding them under 40 percent (from the field) in their own building, that really put us in transition - especially there in the third quarter when we got the lead," Nowitzki said. "All the credit goes to our defense - we got the stops when we needed to."
Nowitzki continued to rattle the Jazz with 3 of 5 shooting for seven fourth quarter points, and was complimented by six bench points from Terry as the Mavericks built a lead as large as 18 in the final quarter.
Dallas' offensive success was made even worse by the fact that Millsap, Jefferson and rookie Gordon Hayward were the only three Jazz men to post any points against the Mavericks' defense in the fourth quarter, notching seven, seven and five points, respectively.
"Dallas came out and beat us in the second half. They really pushed the ball up the floor, and we had a tough time getting back on defense and trying to recover," coach Jerry Sloan said. "When they started zoning us, we lost our position on the floor a few times and looked confused."
Nowitzki tallied 26 points and six rebounds in the Mavericks' win, while Williams' 12 points and seven assists marked just the fourth time all season that the Jazz point guard didn't put up at least 15 points. Millsap led the Jazz with 21 points and seven rebounds.