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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Callie Caplan

Mavericks ‘steal one’ against Jazz without Luka Doncic, newly-acquired Kyrie Irving

SALT LAKE CITY — The Mavericks played the Utah Jazz on Monday night without superstar Luka Doncic … and new trade focal point Kyrie Irving … and trade departees Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith … and injured forward Maxi Kleber.

And yet they still won.

In Dallas’ 124-111 victory, third-year wing Josh Green and rookie Jaden Hardy each dropped a career- scored a career-high 29 points, while center Dwight Powell notched a double-double with 12 points and a personal-best 16 rebounds.

Coach Jason Kidd and crew knew this night of piecemeal lineups and low expectations served as a short-term sacrifice as they transition to their All-Star backcourt — but the Mavericks snapped their 0-7 skid in full games without Doncic anyway.

But not so fast.

While the Mavericks plan for Irving and Markieff Morris to meet the squad for practice Tuesday in Los Angeles before making their Mavericks debuts Wednesday night against the Clippers, Doncic won’t be part of the on-court excitement.

Kidd said the 23-year-old superstar will rejoin the team Wednesday but not play the national TV contest against the Clippers, what will be his third consecutive absence since suffering a right heel contusion last Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

That means the earliest Doncic and Irving could play a game together would be the Mavericks’ Friday-Saturday back to back against the Kings in Sacramento.

After losing their seven games Doncic didn’t play this season, the Mavericks showed signs Monday that they can remain competitive and victorious, especially with Irving in tow, until their leader returns at some point in this crucial Western Conference stretch before the All-Star break.

Dallas grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, accounting for 24 second-chance points, despite the Jazz maintaining a size and production advantage in the frontcourt with All-Star Lauri Markkanen and rookie Walker Kessler.

While Green and Hardy combined to shoot 18 of 29 from the floor, including 7 of 12 from three, the Mavericks won their first regular-season game in Vivint Arena since April 2016, snapping a 12-game skid.

After beating the Mavericks here Jan. 28, also sans-Doncic (left ankle sprain), the Jazz likely didn’t expect such force from a Dallas rotation in flux.

Two-way guard McKinley Wright IV started his first NBA game alongside Tim Hardaway Jr., Green, Reggie Bullock and Powell. In his return from missing eight consecutive games with a left thumb fracture, center Christian Wood played 18 minutes off the bench.

Kidd also mixed in extended time for rookie Jaden Hardy (26 minutes), two-way guard AJ Lawson, 10-day contract forward Chris Silva and center JaVale McGee (who played for the second time in nine games after losing his starting job three weeks into the season).

Quite a victorious mix.

The Mavericks and Jazz entered Monday’s contest at No. 6 and No. 10 in the West, respectively, but just one game apart in the uber-close conference standings.

The win allowed Dallas (29-26) to add another game of separation with matchups against the No. 4 Clippers (31-26), No. 3 Kings (30-23), No. 7 Timberwolves (29-27) and No. 1 Nuggets (37-17) in succession before the All-Star break.

After the team’s morning shootaround in Vivint Arena, center Christian Wood discussed trade rumors and speculation the Mavericks could move him before the NBA’s 2 p.m. Thursday deadline — but also remained focused on the game.

“Got to try to steal one tonight,” he quipped.

The Mavericks did just that.

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