SALT LAKE CITY — Tuesday’s matchup between the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks was a fitting microcosm of the season of struggle for this young Jazz squad. A poor start defensively created a hole from which Utah could not escape. It then had to battle from behind and while it had some moments, it simply ran out of gas, falling 95-83.

Dallas came out blistering the nets, connecting on 16-of-17 field goals in the first quarter for a franchise record 94.1 percent clip. The dominating 39-25 first quarter was both a mix of the Mavericks firing on all cylinders and the Jazz offering little resistance defensively. While Utah had solid stretches, it did not have enough firepower to come back.

It is much akin to a 1-14 start to the year that set the tone for a tough 24-54 record with just four games remaining. While there was a good month of .500 ball, the end of the year has resembled the rough start. It has all culminated in a season with some positives amid a sea of challenges and growing pains.

The loss to Dallas keeps Utah with the NBA’s fifth-worst record, while Dallas continues its battle for the last few playoff spots in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

Nowitzki’s dominance: The greatest player in the Mavericks history added another accolade to his Hall of Fame career. Forward Dirk Nowitzki led the way for Dallas by hitting 9-of-11 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers. He came out on fire and that continued throughout. He finished with 21 points and six rebounds. Besides leading his team to victory, he supplanted all-time great Oscar Robertson to become the 10th-leading scorer in league history.

Kanter’s improvement: Third-year pro Enes Kanter has turned it up as of late. After some slow midseason spells, he seems to be putting his game together the past two months. In his last 19 games, he has 16 games with more than eight rebounds — 11 with double-digit caroms. During that same span, he has 14 games with 11 or more points. He had another strong outing versus the Mavericks, ending the game with 15 points and 19 rebounds. Kanter is exuding confidence and while he had a long ways to go on the defensive end, his future is looking quite bright.

This and that:

- With Marvin Williams having to shut down early due to injury, Jeremy Evans saw 32 minutes of playing time and grabbed 11 rebounds.

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- Five Mavericks scored 10 or more points. Former Utah point guard Devin Harris, who is thriving in a reserve role, had nine first-half points.

- Dallas had 24 assists and just nine turnovers, resulting in a 2.67 assist-to-turnover ratio as a team.

- Utah missed 20 of its 24 3-point attempts.

David Smith provides instant analysis for Deseret News' Utah Jazz coverage. He works for LDS Philanthropies and also writes for Salt City Hoops (ESPN's Jazz affiliate). He can be reached at mechakucha1@gmail.com or on Twitter at davidjsmith1232.