Tom Smart, Deseret News
DALLAS — The Utah Jazz know they won't face nemesis Dirk Nowitzki when they play at American Airlines Center tonight.
But even after this morning's shootaround, they still aren't sure how many players they'll have available from the visitors' bench to take on the Dallas Mavericks.
Starters Al Jefferson (right ankle tendinitis) and Raja Bell (sore back and right knee) participated in the prep session, but they're both considered game-time decisions for the 6:30 MT tipoff (ROOT).
"They're banged up," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We'll see."
Some quick shootaround shots:
Corbin didn't reveal what his starting lineup will be if Big Al or Bell aren't able to go tonight.
Derrick Favors seems to be a no-brainer at the center spot, seeing as he's filled in for Jefferson in the two previous games he missed with the same ankle injury (Wednesday and Dec. 30).
As for the shooting guard spot, several scenarios could unfold, including having C.J. Miles or Josh Howard start at small forward with Gordon Hayward moving over to the off-guard spot. Rookie Alec Burks is another shooting guard starter possibility.
Corbin offered no hints.
"You can't make a lineup until you have the players," Corbin said. "I have an idea. My hope is that everybody's ready to go, then we'll go regular."
Jefferson spoke to media for the first time since he jokingly told reporters that he left shootaround Wednesday to use the restroom.
The 6-foot-10 center said he'll get treatment this afternoon at the team hotel and again at the arena. He'll also take medicine in hopes of minimizing his ankle's tenderness.
"I guess it's just all the pounding and games and practice. I don't know," Jefferson said. "It's irritating. I can't stand it. I wish it would just go away."
In late December, Jefferson's ankle flared up and became inflamed. He even missed the Jazz's first home game, but the pain subsided and he was able to go the next night in San Antonio.
"I feel a lot better today — still a little sore," he added. "Game-time decision, though."
The Jazz have lost five in a row to the defending NBA champions, and they haven't won in Dallas since a 111-93 win on Jan. 9, 2010.
Corbin realizes the Mavs remain a threat despite the absence of Nowitzki, who is taking time off to improve his overall health and allow his sore knee to fully heal.
"It's a team that typically tries to blow you out early," Corbin said. "We've got to make sure that we don't let them get big runs against us."
Corbin wants his team to duplicate the defensive effort it put out in the second half of the Jazz's tough TNT loss to Dallas a week ago Thursday and not the first half. Utah allowed the Mavs to score 59 points in the first two quarters, but stifled Dallas to just 35 second-half points with a 12-point third quarter.
Bell hasn't missed a game all season. In fact, only four Jazz players have missed time due to injuries or illnesses, including Josh Howard (four — quad), Jefferson (two — ankle), Favors (one — ankle) and Jeremy Evans (one — stomach virus).
Howard said his quad isn't bothering him anymore, but Corbin said the team trainers still want his time to be capped for the next couple of games.
Vince Carter (sprained left foot) told reporters he is a game-time decision tonight for Dallas. Guard Delonte West (hamstring) is questionable, while Nowitzki is officially out.
The 10-6 Jazz have lost two of three, but come into Dallas with a two-game road winning streak. The 11-8 Mavericks, meanwhile, had a three-game winning streak (including the Utah win) get snapped by visiting Minnesota on Wednesday after having a ring ceremony for their 2010-11 NBA championship season.
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