The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz 126-118. The Mavericks got off to a dominating start before the Utah Jazz chose to employ the “if you can’t beat them, BEAT them” strategy with Royce O’Neale being overtly physical with Jalen Brunson with zero consequences. The dirty play culminated with O’Neale taking a running start before elbowing Brunson in the back in a completely non basketball play. Brunson came out of the game which likely prevented him from a second consecutive 40 point game. But he did return and contributed to an entertaining Mavericks victory.
Here are the stats to know.
1: Number of turnovers for Jalen Brunson
Brunson has been absolutely amazing in the last two games. His efficiency has always been his calling card. For as amazing as Luka Doncic is, he can get careless with the ball which leads to turnovers. (This is in no way meant to downplay Luka’s greatness or importance.) Brunson’s combination of scoring and taking care of the ball over the last two games put him in some pretty elite company.
12 and 6: Number of points and assists for Josh Green
I was critical of Green’s play when discussing the incredibly heavy minutes Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith have played throughout the series. He proved me wrong. Green made three of his five threes and was an absolute difference maker with his energy and shot maker. This was the best game of his young career given the circumstances.
46:49: Number of minutes played by Dorian Finney-Smith
Luka Doncic is often chided for his fitness, but Finney-Smith should receive a ton of praise for his. Finney-Smith played virtually the whole game while having a massive defensive workload. Finney-Smith chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and four steals despite struggling with his jumper. Despite his struggles, when the Mavericks needed him most, Finney-Smith was there. He made an incredibly clutch three with 1:56 remaining to push the Mavericks’ lead back to 10 points. That shot will not show up in NBA.com’s clutch database, but it was absolutely a clutch shot.
44:29: Number of minutes played by Reggie Bullock
Bullock was 3-for-6 from three and chipped in 12 points. He is not a superstar but his ability along with Finney-Smith to both play solid man while also providing help to his teammates has been integral to the Mavericks’ defensive strategy. The fact that both have essentially played ALL of this series has made coaching decisions much easier for Jason Kidd.
17: Number of points for Maxi Kleber
Kleber has been a revelation. Over the last two games he has channeled his inner Dirk Nowitzki while making 12-of-16 threes. Kleber finished the regular season in a major slump but he has played the two best games of his career over the last two and it is a delight to watch. Kleber has been by far the best big man on the team, but he also just found his rhythm so Kidd will have an interesting decision regarding the starting center in Game 4.
63:41: Number of game minutes between Mike Conley points from Game 1 to Game 3
Conley is an important part of the Jazz attack. He is the only guard who has any chemistry with Rudy Gobert in the pick and roll but the Mavericks have done a fantastic job of bottling him up defensively. He got off for 21 points today but the team has shown the ability to bother him and they need to continue to do so.
14: Difference in the number of threes attempted by the Mavericks and the Jazz
One of the concerns preceding Kidd’s hiring was that his offenses and defenses had historically had a bad relationship with the three point line. His aggressive trapping defenses surrendered too many quality threes and his antiquated offenses did not generate enough quality looks from three. In this series it is very clear that he understands the math of the modern NBA. The Jazz created better quality looks from three than any team in the league all season but the Mavericks have stopped that during this series. This is a credit to the players for executing the scheme but the coaching staff also absolutely deserves credit.
2: Number of points scored in 31:51 by Royce O’Neale
While O’Neale was able to take Brunson out of the game for a bit in the second quarte, that was about all he was able to do. The Mavericks outscored the Jazz by 13 while he was in the game and he did not even attempt a shot from he field.
2: Number of games the Mavericks still need to win to win this series
The Mavericks have been incredibly impressive in the last two games and they should be getting their superstar back very soon. But they were up 2-0 on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers last season before losing in seven games. That series should provide the reminder that this team needs not to take this series for granted.
2212: Number of days since the Mavericks last won in Utah
Utah is an incredibly tough place to play and the Mavericks have struggled mightily. They had not won a game since March 30, 2016 in Utah. They have now.
Here’s our latest episode of Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you’re unable to see the embed below, click here to be taken to the podcast directly. Or go to your favorite podcast app and search Mavs Moneyball Podcast.