The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz 111-103 Monday night in Dallas. The Mavericks are within striking distance of the Jazz in the standings, so the matchup had the feel of a playoff game early on.
The Jazz, though, were on the the second night of a back-to-back, as well as their fourth game in six nights and the last game of a five-game road trip. It was apparent early on that they had tired legs and if the Mavericks stayed aggressive and stuck to their game plan, a win would be easy to secure.
The first half played out exactly that way. The Mavericks were quicker to every loose ball, but more importantly, took care of the ball themselves. The Jazz had nine turnovers in the first half, compared to the Mavericks’ four. When teams are tired, they’re sloppy with the ball, and that’s exactly what happened to Utah early.
The second half was more of the same, though the Jazz did curb their turnovers. But it was clear the Jazz had tired legs and just couldn’t match the shot making of the Mavericks. They stayed in the game by junking things up and crowding the paint, but in the end, Dallas outshot them the whole 48 minutes.
Here are three observations from the game:
Rudy Gobert usually makes life miserable for the Mavericks, but they solved it tonight
The Jazz deployed Gobert in a variety of ways tonight. Sometimes he was in drop coverage, hovering at the free throw line when the Mavericks set screens for Luka. Other times he met Luka or Spencer Dinwiddie even with the screener and contained the dive to the basket (usually when Dwight Powell was on the floor). When Josh Green was on the floor, Gobert was ostensibly defending him, but really just played free safety near the rim, clogging the lane for Luka’s drives. Sometimes they switched the screens and let Gobert take on Luka one-on-one.
Gobert’s length and mobility allow the Jazz to stay at home on the Mavericks shooters while preventing penetration to the rim. They’re willing to let role players like Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber shoot 3-pointers while Gobert sags into the paint. Tonight, the Mavericks’ role players hit those shots.
The Mavericks also made slight adjustments to help clear the paint. They used Gobert’s man to set screens for Luka higher out on the floor in order to draw Gobert out further, or staggered screens above the break, forcing Gobert to make more decisions about where to go to defend. Perhaps more importantly, Luka just beat Gobert when he got him in isolation. Dallas forced Gobert to defend more space than even he is capable of, and it paid off.
Spencer Dindwiddie gives the Mavericks a new dimension
Going into this season, everyone said the Mavericks needed a secondary ball handler to take the pressure off of Luka. Goran Dragic seemed like the best option, but the Mavericks never worked out a deal to bring him to Dallas. But then Jalen Brunson had a breakout year, and suddenly the Mavericks didn’t need Dragic. The only problem was there were times when Brunson was contained, and it always seemed to be against teams with length and defensive skill. Playoff teams, in other words.
When the Mavericks traded for Dinwiddie, no one knew what to expect. He’d been awful with the Washington Wizards, but then again, the Wizards weren’t exactly a basketball paradise. Now we know that Dinwiddie had more in the tank than many people thought, and maybe his poor play was the combination of recovering from a torn ACL and a less than ideal basketball situation.
The thing is, he brings the exact same skillset and game as Brunson, but he’s just bigger. Sometimes basketball is as simple as that. Brunson might be the better defender right now, but Dinwiddie can finish against bigger defenders in a way that Brunson can’t. Dinwiddie gives the Mavericks the comfort of versatility. He can fulfill that secondary playmaker role the Mavericks have needed so badly, no matter the size of the opponent. If Dallas faces a team with a smaller guard who is quicker than Dinwiddie, they can go with Brunson instead.
The Jazz weren’t too big for Dinwiddie. He finished in the paint tonight in a way that Brunson has failed to do consistently against quality playoff teams, finishing with 23 points on 15 shots. It’s a nice luxury to have both Dinwiddie and Brunson on the roster.
The Mavericks outshot the Jazz and sometimes it’s that simple
The Jazz are seventh in the NBA in 3-point shooting, hitting 36% of their shots from deep. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are 20th, only hitting 34% of their 3-pointers. But tonight, Dallas hit 17-of-46 and the Jazz went 13-of-30. Dallas hit just enough 3-pointers to win the game.
Again, the Utah game plan was to wall off the paint and see if the Mavericks’ role players could beat them. Tonight Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith did. The Jazz wanted to force Luka into taking deep 3-pointers instead of feasting at the rim. He hit those deep shots, going 5-of-11 from behind the arc.
The Jazz made a run late in the fourth quarter. The reason? The Mavericks went from shooting 40% from deep in the first three quarters to shooting 22% in the fourth. Dallas only went 2-of-9 on 3-pointers in the final period. If not for the hot shooting early in the game, the Mavericks might have lost.
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