The Utah Jazz soundly defeated the Dallas Mavericks, 116-104, despite the Mavericks getting back Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, and Dwight Powell, and the Jazz missing Donovan Mitchell. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 30 points. Sixth man Jordan Clarkson led the Jazz with 31 points, while Rudy Gobert posted a rare 29 point, 20 rebound performance.
The Mavericks started off unable to stop Gobert especially in the pick-and-roll, which put the Jazz up 20-10. A second unit including Jalen Brunson and James Johnson entered around the five minute mark and proceeded to go several minutes without a made field goal. The Jazz were up 32-19 after one.
The Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson was red hot to start the second quarter, hitting a three to push the lead to 16, 43-27. Tim Hardaway Jr. found his stroke late in the quarter, hitting three of three from the perimeter, but the Mavericks defense were unable to slow down the Jazz. Dallas trailed at the half 69-48.
The Mavericks had short-lived runs throughout the third quarter that brought the Jazz lead to around 14 points at multiple occasions, but a couple of Jazz threes or alley-oops would reverse that progress. The Jazz maintained their grip on the lead to start the fourth, and by the time Doncic checked in with half a quarter remaining, the game was out of hands, and the Jazz won 116-104.
The “structural problems or temporary setbacks?” debate intensifies
It has understandably been very difficult for Mavericks fans to diagnose the issues they have faced over the last ten or so games. Dallas has had important role players missing time to COVID protocols and others recovering from injuries. And yet when looking at the nature of some of these recent losses, with their large margins and to supposedly lesser teams, the question becomes if these are symptoms of bigger problems with the Dallas roster.
The Mavericks getting outrebounded 50 to 36 tonight can be chalked up to their bigs recovering from injury. Dorian Finney-Smith and James Johnson shooting 1-7 on open corner three’s can be attributed to a first game back or being placed in an unnatural temporary role. Brunson and Burke’s inability to create offense for others can be called a result of the lack of team chemistry due to the absences. The season has a long ways to go, and we’ll get some clarity on the answer to this debate sooner than later.
The Mavericks effort to open the game was abhorrent
In several ways, tonight’s game had the traits of being a “trap” game for the Jazz. Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors were out, forcing the Jazz to trot out a new starting lineup (they’ve used the fewest in the league so far). They were also on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Mavericks just got back three starters. None of this mattered whatsoever to start the game, as the Jazz looked fresh and ready to go.
The Mavericks got beat on every 50-50 ball, tons of defensive rebounds, and were outclassed in terms of strength inside the paint. Luka Doncic finished the game with a quiet 30 points, but in the first half he seemed disengaged and didn’t touch the ball on multiple possessions. This may have been due to him getting roughed up early, as he signaled pain in his knee, ribs, and wrist at different points in the half. The fatigue resulting from the Mavericks’ grueling schedule and absences might be best reflected in this picture showing the stark difference between the two teams at that moment:
(Porzingis realized I was screenshotting and quickly got out the hands-on-knees stance before I could capture the photo)
The Jazz matched every Hardaway shot with three of their own
The Jazz perimeter trio of Ingles, Clarkson, and Mike Conley was completely unstoppable tonight. Together, they went 14-of-30 from three and supplemented that performance with a barrage of mid-range shots and drives to the rim. It has to be said that they had a hot shooting night, but the Jazz offense was very conducive to such shot creation, with Gobert commanding so much attention in the paint allowing for easy kick-outs. The Jazz have the second best three-point percentage in the league at over 39%.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was the only Maverick who matched their efficiency from three, going 4-of-6 from behind the arc. It was good to see him consistently hit shots, especially after some of the really poor performances he’s had recently. But the Jazz were able to replicate his performance from three different players, and no other Maverick was nearly as effective shooting the ball.
The only silver lining I could find
Apparently, the Jazz have a program where they donate $50 to various charities in the area for every alley-oop they score throughout the season. Utah had at least eight completely open alley-oops thanks to defenders such as Porzingis and Hardaway being completely lost in the pick-and-roll, likely their season-high. The Jazz announcers let me know every time, (very slightly) softening the blow of what was otherwise an extremely difficult game to watch.
The Mavericks stay in Utah for a rematch on Friday at 9 p.m. CT, and will hope for a different result. That game can be viewed on ESPN or NBA League Pass.