The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Utah Jazz in the first game of their first round series today, losing at home 99-93. The Jazz were led by Donovan Mitchell’s 32 points. Jalen Brunson paced the Mavericks with 24 points.
The opening frame of the 2022 playoffs saw the Dallas Mavericks engage in a seesaw battle with the Utah Jazz. After starting the cold as ice from the floor, Dallas connected on a number of baskets through a 17-4 run which put the Mavericks on top. Utah rallied back though, as the Jazz continued to attack the rim relentlessly. After one quarter, the Mavericks found themselves up 23-20.
The Mavericks managed to extend their lead to eight early in the quarter, but the Jazz rallied back again to close the lead to 32-30 through Jordan Clarkson’s rim attacks. After a timeout, Dallas scored on a Davis Bertans three and a Reggie Bullock fast break lay in to go back up by seven. But the Maverick offense would go ice cold again, with sloppy possessions mired by over dribbling and the Jazz would go on a 15-6 run led by Bojan Bogdanovic to close the half. Dallas went into the locker room down 45-43.
Donovan Mitchell came out firing for Utah after a bad shooting first half. He drew a flagrant foul on a made lay-in to take a five point lead four minutes into the quarter. The Jazz kept scoring while Dallas couldn’t hit a shot and led by as many as 12 points late in the quarter. A late surge led by Spencer Dinwiddie helped close the gap some, but the Mavericks trailed 73-65 heading into the final frame.
Despite a number of early drawn Maverick fouls, the Jazz ground Dallas down in the first half of the quarter, growing the lead to 11 half way through the frame on the strength of good ball movement and good shooting. The Mavericks kept within striking distance by drawing fouls and hitting free throws. Dallas chipped and chipped, getting to the line over and over and pulled within two points following a Reggie Bullock three from Dorian Finney-Smith. A Maxi Kleber three pulled the Mavericks within one at 2:12 mark but they could not take the lead. After a few missed shots and some take fouls to extend the game, Dallas fell 99-93.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson simply have to be better
With Luka Doncic out, the bulk of the scoring and playmaking was bound to fall to these two but they were not quite up to the task. They scored 36 points on 39 shots combined (they made just 15), which is very inefficient. The two got to the line a ton, taking a combined 22 free throws for Dallas, Spencer in particular missed a whopping six of his 16 attempts (Brunson missed one). In a game decided by six points, those really hurt.
Defensively, both also have to be better. Brunson was often roasted by the bigger Bogdanovic, which happens, but still really hurt the Mavericks. Dinwiddie was nothing short of awful on defense, between some bad gambles and poor boxing out, he made too many mistakes in a role that’s asking a lot of him on both ends.
Poor offensive execution just often enough
Color me more than a tad confused that the offensive game plan looked remarkably similar to a Luka Doncic-led team. Both Brunson and Dinwiddie had usage rates 34% or higher and they gave us the aforementioned inefficient offensive game. With some of the players Dallas has, I was surprised at how much of that game on the offensive end came down to dribbling the ball for 20+ seconds and getting a tough shot off.
Some of that is the presence of Rudy Gobert, but one would think that Dallas might try to find a few more shots for Dorian Finney-Smith who took only four shots in his first 35+ minutes of playing time. Bottom line is the Dallas Mavericks need more offensive creativity if they’re going to take game two. Getting to the line as often as they did helped, but it’s not a regular game plan for success with this group of players.
Cleaning the glass better
One of the many issues of losing Luka Doncic is that he’s a heck of a rebounder and the team has to do a better job of limited second chances. The Jazz are a very good offensive rebounding team and they proved that again today, grabbing 13. But the problem went well beyond Rudy Gobert or Hassan Whiteside; other Jazz players grabbed eight of those boards and the 20-7 second chance points battle was one of, if not the, deciding factor in the game.
Role players are going to have to hit more threes
As a team, Dallas was just 9 of 32 from three. But if we move past the primary ball handlers (Brunson and Dinwiddie were just 1 of 7), Dallas needs one more player beyond Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith to take and hit threes. Josh Green got his chance tonight, but missed all four and his shot form looked very different from in season. Davis Bertans hit one of three and perhaps Dallas should try to find him a couple more looks. It was good to see Maxi Kleber two of five but with how much he plays, he may need to take two or three more and he has to hit them. Most of these looks are wide open and if Dallas is going to have a chance, they have to shoot better.
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