The Utah Jazz arrive in Dallas the hot team. But surprisingly the Mavericks aren't far behind.
The Jazz (27-16) are on a season-high-tying four-game winning streak going into Friday night's clash at American Airlines Center. It's the fourth time this season that Utah has captured at four games in a row.
Getting to five might not be that easy against the Mavericks, despite their 14-28 record. Dallas has climbed out of the Western Conference cellar by winning eight of its last 16 games.
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The Mavs had a season-high three-game winning streak snapped Thursday night at Miami. Dallas faltered down the stretch in a 99-95 loss despite getting 19 points from Dirk Nowitzki.
"It was a really tough stretch for us," Nowitzki said of the fourth-quarter collapse. "We went from being up a couple to down seven or eight and then we put the starters back in or the other unit, so that was a bad stretch."
The Mavericks do catch a break with Rodney Hood out. The Jazz shooting guard is traveling to Dallas, but won't suit up as he continues to recover from a bone bruise and hyperextended right knee.
Hood drained a game-winning 3-pointer last month to give Utah a 103-100 victory over Dallas.
His absence likely means a second straight start for Joe Ingles.
"Coming in, I didn't think I would be playing this much," the third-year swingman told The Salt Lake Tribune. "I've been lucky enough to play when I've got those opportunities."
Ingles had 11 points and five assists in Monday's 106-101 win over Phoenix.
"I've got a lot of confidence in him," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. "That comes from a very, very transparent relationship. I've said hard things to him about what I think he needs to do as a player. ... As a result, I think there's a trust there. I can tell him when I think he's made a mistake."
The Mavericks and Nowitzki do have to deal with Rudy Gobert. Dallas is without Andrew Bogut (hamstring strain) but has found success with Nowitzki starting at center in a small lineup that includes shooting guard Seth Curry.
Gobert, however, is a load down low. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman had 18 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks against the Suns. He has had seven games already this season with at least 15 points and 15 boards.
In addition to Gobert, Jazz leading scorer and possible All-Star reserve Gordon Hayward figures to be a tough matchup. Expect the Mavs to try to contain Hayward with Wesley Matthews.
"I think he's one of the best perimeter defenders we have in this league," Nowitzki said. "When perimeter defense is being talked about, I don't think he's in the discussion enough. The job he's doing this year is incredible."
The Jazz have already beaten the Mavericks twice this season, both times in Salt Lake City. Besides the win last month, George Hill scored 25 in a 97-81 victory in early November.
Deron Williams is averaging 15.0 points and 8.0 assists this season against his former team, and Harrison Barnes is scoring 17.5 points per game against the Jazz.
Utah has won four of the last six meetings overall.