The Dallas Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, despite being without superstar Luka Doncic. One of the biggest reasons was Jalen Brunson, who absolutely exploded for 41 points. The Jazz had no answers for the Mavericks guard. The 41 points was a career high for Brunson, and he became the fifth Maverick to score 40+ points in a playoff game, joining Dirk Nowitzki, Luka Doncic, Rolando Blackman, and Nick Van Exel.
“He didn’t wait,” Jason Kidd said after the game. “He took up the space and was aggressive from the jump ball. We talked about it earlier. Again, don’t wait, get to your spot, and do what you do best. He ran the team extremely well. He found spots to score and make plays.”
Brunson torched the Jazz in almost every way imaginable—3-pointers, midrange fadeaways, floaters in the paint, free throws, and impossible finishes at the rim. Look at the shot below. The Jazz should’ve known they were in for a bad day when Brunson hit this shot”
But there was more to Brunson’s game Monday night than the points he scored. Despite a usage rate of 33.3, the highest on the team, Brunson committed zero turnovers. Only 18 players in the history of the NBA have scored 40 or more points and committed zero turnovers. That list includes Chris Paul, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kevin Durant, among others.
As if that wasn’t enough, Brunson also led the team in rebounding. You read that right. The 6’1” guard grabbed the most boards on the Mavericks, eight, and the only player in the game outrebound him was Rudy Gobert with 13. Royce O’Neal grabbed eight as well.
Even more important, his rebounding was clutch. Four of his eight rebounds came in the fourth quarter, when the Mavericks needed them the most. In fact, Brunson outrebounded Gobert 4-3 in the fourth. Yes, Dallas got crushed on the boards in the box score, but they were only outrebounded 9-8 in the fourth quarter. Brunson was a huge part of that.
When you add in his solid defense, it’s hard to imagine a more complete game than what Brunson just played. Considering that it came when the Mavericks needed it the most, it’s one of the best playoff performances in franchise history. Whether Luka returns for Game 3 or not, the Mavericks will need Brunson to stay aggressive.
“The mentality stays the same,” Brunson said. “You can’t fluctuate whether [Luka] is in or out. You need guys to make plays. He has a lot on his shoulders. We need guys to get into the paint and make plays to take pressure off of him.”
Brunson has proved he’s got the ability to the put the team on his shoulders for at least one game. The Mavericks are hoping he can do it a few more times before this postseason ends.