DALLAS The Utah Jazz won't face nemesis Dirk Nowitzki when they play at American Airlines Center tonight.
But they will have Al Jefferson and Raja Bell in the starting lineup for the 6:30 MT tipoff (ROOT) against the Dallas Mavericks. Jefferson (right ankle tendinitis) and Bell (sore back and right knee) were both game-time decisions even after participating in this morning's shootaround, but they'll give it a go.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said it's "a very fine line" for players to play while injured, but he appreciates their willingness to try to help the team.
I'm encouraged by the fact that (Big Al) want to go and he want to try and not sit out," Corbin said while talking about Jefferson in his pregame interview. "That's a good thing. ... but you have to be smart about it, especially a key guy like him and not risk him getting hurt anymore to be out for an extended period of time."
Some other pre-tipoff tidbits:
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.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: DJJazzyJody