SALT LAKE CITY — They've lost two in a row, including a heartbreaking last-second loss in Los Angeles less than 24 hours ago.

Despite a slow start to their season, the Dallas Mavericks look every part the defending NBA champions that they are.

Sparked by a strong first-half showing by veteran Shawn Marion, the Mavericks are enjoying a 59-50 lead in the locker room midway through their TNT-televised game tonight against the Utah Jazz.

Marion has hit 7 of 10 shots, and the 8-7 Mavs have also received eight points from Dirk Nowitzki and seven apiece from traditional Jazz-killer Lamar Odom and Rodrigue Beaubois.

The 9-4 Jazz, meanwhile, are trailing despite a 14-point first half by Al Jefferson. C.J. Miles also has 10 points.

Utah is without former Dallas standout Josh Howard, whose strained left quad is getting better but hasn't healed to the point he's able to play.

Derrick Favors, however, returned after missing one game from a sprained left ankle.

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