We really had to fight until the last second. People think that they are not good but they have good players and when they make shots, they’re a pretty good team. —Rudy Gobert
SALT LAKE CITY — The first 12 minutes were a breeze for the Utah Jazz.
Five players posted five or more points. The Jazz were shooting 50 percent. Utah even ran the lead up to as many as 15.
This was seemingly a blowout against the visiting Dallas Mavericks Saturday, right?
Fast forward to the fourth quarter.
With 5:13 remaining in regulation, Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea banked in a short shot. All of a sudden, the Jazz trailed 87-85 against one of the worst teams in the league.
Somehow, some way, the Jazz sucked it up and went on a 12-3 run fueled by defense to beat the Mavs, 97-90.
Whew, that was close.
“They had a good game,” said Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who ended with 13 points and 10 boards. “We really had to fight until the last second. People think that they are not good but they have good players and when they make shots, they’re a pretty good team.”
The Mavericks have now lost four in a row, while the Jazz have won 12 of 13 after falling to Portland Friday night.
In the process, Jazz forward Joe Ingles logged 12 points, eight assists and four boards in his 200th consecutive game, which is the third-longest active streak in the league. He also nailed two treys to move up to No. 3 in threes in a single season in Jazz history with 150 in 60 games.
He claimed he wasn’t aware of the streak.
“I wish I had an answer for that today,” Ingles said of the ironman streak. “I do everything I can to put myself in position to be able to play. I do as much recovery as I can, and I don’t go in the paint so I don’t really get hurt. You can’t get hurt shooting 3s, so hopefully I can get another 200.”
Utah is now 20-4 this season when keeping teams under 100. Although, they only shot 40 percent from the field as a team, the Jazz also held Dallas to just 41 percent shooting.
At times, Barea and Doug McDermott were able to find their way in the paint, combining for 29 points, but the defensive intensity improved down the stretch, especially in those final five minutes.
“I though we defended well in the second half,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “Sometimes you defend well and someone is going to make a shot and other times they may miss an open look. You just try to control as much as you can. I was pleased that we just continued to compete defensively.”
Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell led the team with 25 points, six rebounds and five assists, posting his sixth consecutive game of 20-plus points. Jae Crowder added 11 off the bench while Derrick Favors posted 14 points and six rebounds.
Barea was Dallas’ leading scorer with 17 points and 12 assists, often feasting in the paint. Yogi Ferrell hit 13 off the bench.
Buckling down on defense is what saved the night for Utah. Otherwise, losing to one of the worst teams in the Western Conference for the second straight game after the All-Star break could’ve been bad. Still, there’s work to be done to look like the team that won 11 straight before the break.
“We need to improve on communication,” Favors said. “Improve on the little things, which is easy and fixable. I think there’s still a little rust from All-Star break, but it’s easy to fix.”
Utah (31-29) will return to action Monday at home against the Houston Rockets.