Jazz ride balanced scoring into matchup with Mavs
SALT LAKE CITY -- Only a few games into the season, it is becoming clear that balance defines what the Utah Jazz do on offense.
The Jazz don't yet have a go-to primary scorer as they did with Gordon Hayward last season.
Four players have taken the lead in scoring for Utah (3-3) in six games thus far. Rodney Hood is the team's top overall scorer with 15.3 points per game. The other four Jazz starters all average at least 11 points per contest.
It could lend to a bit of unpredictability for the Jazz in figuring out who will have the hot hand when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night.
"There are going to be different guys on different nights," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "Everyone is going to have to get used to the way this team is, including me. This team is still trying to discover who it is."
Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell is one piece of the puzzle that seems to be falling into place. Utah selected Mitchell 13th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, and he has shown flashes of being a dynamic player on both ends of the court.
Mitchell broke out of a recent shooting slump in a major way in leading the Jazz to a 96-81 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. He scored a career-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting after connecting on just 25 percent of his field-goal attempts in his first five games.
The Jazz newcomer quickly carved out a spot in the rotation with his defense. Now his offense is allowing Snyder to keep him on the floor to close games, as Mitchell did against the Lakers.
"It definitely is big for confidence," Mitchell said. "He put me out there because he trusts that I'll make plays, and that's why I go out there and make them."
Dallas could use a shot of confidence. The Mavericks (1-6) appear to be headed toward another long rebuilding season characterized by tough, close losses. They already have four losses decided by six points or fewer.
A 112-110 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday became the latest in that series of close finishes that didn't turn out favorably for Dallas. The Mavericks had a chance to force overtime, but guard Yogi Ferrell missed a pair of free throws with 0.2 seconds left.
"At 1-6, it's very easy to see things a lot worse than they are," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after practice Sunday. "The reality is five of our games have basically been one- or two-possession games. Cleaning up a few things here and there is the difference between winning and losing in this league right now."
Dallas is starting to find enough consistency on offense to potentially turn things around going into November. The Mavericks shot over 50 percent from the field for the first time this season against the Sixers, connecting on 38 of 74 (51.4 percent) of their shot attempts and hitting 19 3-pointers.
Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews are growing into a reliable one-two scoring punch early in the season. Barnes averages 18.1 points per game while Matthews is chipping in 14.0 points per contest. Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has struggled with turnovers thus far, but he shows flashes of being a capable distributor and facilitator for the offense.
Utah took the season series 3-1 over Dallas a year ago, winning a season series against the Mavericks for the first time since 2012-13. Each of the final three games were decided by seven points or fewer.
Updated October 30, 2017