Playoff basketball is finally, finally here! After an entire work week without Dallas basketball, the Mavericks host the Utah Jazz for game one of the first round of the NBA playoffs. Yesterday, Josh Bowe took a look at the entire series, which you can find here.
We’re here to talk about game one of the series, which starts right at noon and will be played on ESPN. The Jazz are currently five point favorites, despite playing on the road. That likely has to do with the fact that Luka Doncic is listed as “doubtful” on the injury report. That all but seals his fate, it’s extremely unlikely he Luka doesn’t play as the NBA frowns upon players getting listed as doubtful then getting upgraded before the game.
So, understanding that, we should talk about the guys who are playing and what we’ll be watching for.
Pushing the pace
One thing that’s flown a little under the radar is how the Jazz have not played an iteration of the Mavericks like this. They played the Luka-less Mavericks on Christmas day, but that was a Jalen Brunson-led team with Kristaps Porzingis still on the team. Dallas played the Jazz three times after All-Star break, going 2-1, but those games all had Luka Doncic at the helm and Doncic prefers to control the pace (Dallas is 30th).
The Utah Jazz, as Iztok Franko pointed out to me yesterday on our preview podcast, are 23rd in the NBA in transition defense. So perhaps without Doncic dominating ball after defensive rebounds, the Mavericks will push against the Jazz and try to get some easy baskets. However, that leads to the next point.
The Jazz are one of the best rebounding teams in the league, led by Rudy Gobert who grabbed a ridiculous 14.7 per game. The Mavericks, at one point in the season, were pretty good at rebounding but without Kristaps Porzingis have fallen off a cliff.
If Dallas is to test the bad Utah transition defense, they’re going to need to actually box out and grab defensive rebounds.
Who is going to be the hero for the Mavericks?
If the Mavericks are going win game one, they’re going to need someone to rise up and play lights out. A team cannot simply replace 28-9-9, it’s not reasonable to ask if we’re being honest. I expect Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson to have productive games, they’re going to have opportunity with Luka Doncic out.
But it’s going to take more than just those two. It’s going to take high production game from Dorian Finney-Smith or Maxi Kleber; basically someone’s going to have to take and make open shots. The Jazz play drop defense so there will be open shots. Someone will have to make them.
How to Watch
The Dallas Mavericks play the Utah Jazz on ESPN at 12:00 pm.
If you’re looking for a preview podcast, Kirk talked with both Iztok Franko and Bobby Karalla here. If you can’t see the embed below, look up Mavs Moneyball Podcast on your favorite podcast app and subscribe! Again here’s a direct link!