Jazz Hope Dirk is Resting

The Dallas Mavericks rested Dirk Nowitzki and three other key players in their last game. The slumping Utah Jazz can only hope they'll do it again when the playoff-bound teams meet in Dallas on Friday night.

Dallas (65-13) has nothing left to play for after clinching the best record in the NBA.

Oddsmakers have made Dallas -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 190.5 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Dallas -5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Mavericks can match the second-best record in league history if they win their final four games, but coach Avery Johnson made it clear Wednesday that he's not interested in that.

Johnson gave MVP candidate Nowitzki, Jerry Stackhouse, Devin Harris and Erick Dampier the night off in a 105-88 victory at Minnesota, with only Harris even making the trip out of that group. It's unclear what Johnson will do Friday in the Mavericks' next-to-last home game of the season, but with five games in eight days to close the season, the coach seems likely to give substantial rest and nights off to his key players again.

Utah (48-30) has clinched the Northwest Division title, but the Jazz aren't in position to sit anyone. A season-high five-game losing streak has dropped them 1 1/2 games behind Houston in the race for home-court advantage in the teams' first-round playoff matchup.

The Jazz turned in another awful defensive effort in a 115-106 loss to Denver on Wednesday, as the Nuggets shot 53.5 percent to continue a disturbing trend.

Utah's last four opponents have combined to shoot over 54 percent and the team has surrendered more than 100 points in four straight games for only the second time this season.

"There are lessons to be learned from the last two or three weeks. We've kind of destroyed a little bit of a great season," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, whose club hasn't been to the playoffs since 2003. "Look at where this team could have been if we just had a little more effort on three or four different occasions."

While Wednesday's loss was at home, the Jazz have been dreadful on the road in recent weeks, losing nine of their last 10. The Mavericks own the league's best home record at 35-4.

Dallas has also won seven straight home matchups with Utah. This is the Jazz's only visit of the season to the American Airlines Center after the teams split two meetings in Salt Lake City.

Along with resting his stars, Johnson is looking to fine-tune his rotation heading into Dallas' final four games while giving seldom-used players more minutes. Austin Croshere scored 19 points in a season-high 29 minutes against Minnesota and DeSagana Diop recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds.

"I think a lot of guys who don't play a lot still have a lot to prove," Croshere said. "My real goal is to show Coach that I can contribute in the playoffs."

The fiery Johnson wasn't happy with his team's effort in the first half Wednesday as Dallas was down by three points against a Minnesota team playing without Kevin Garnett. The Mavs responded with a 38-point third quarter.

"We really didn't want to come out and just waste this game," Johnson said. "We wanted to win. These guys are competitors."

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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