With Luka Doncic returning to the starting line up after injuring his left calf in the final game of the regular season, the Dallas Mavericks jumped out to a fast 8-1 lead. Both teams settled into a health flurry of bricks, though Utah managed to climb back within a single score late in the quarter. Maxi Kleber picked up three fouls in the quarter, which would affect the Dallas defense as the game moved along. The Jazz briefly took a one point lead but Rudy Gobert picked up a technical foul arguing a foul call and Dallas retook the lead on free throws. A Jordan Clarkson three gave Utah a 24-23 lead after one period.
Utah continued to attack Dallas and the offensive struggles of Spencer Dinwiddie resulted in the Jazz extending their lead to seven in the first four minutes of the quarter. Dallas went very small with Dorian Finney-Smith at the five due to foul trouble, but it didn’t matter on offense with the Mavericks unable to hit much of anything. Utah inched ahead as the frame wore on and Maxi Kleber picked up his fourth foul on a rebounding situation. But, despite falling behind by as many as 16 and shooting just 32% from the floor, the Mavericks trailed at the half by only 12 points. Utah took a 54-42 lead into halftime.
Offense was the order of the day for both teams to start the third quarter. Dallas roared all the way back within two in the first three minutes of the quarter on spectacular three point shooting from anyone taking an attempt. After a Jazz timeout, they regrouped and pushed the lead back up to eight. But with Luka Doncic going back to the bench, Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith came to life and led a charge to retake the Dallas lead. The Mavericks held Utah off to close out the quarter and entered the final frame up 81-78.
After an incandescent third quarter, neither team could score in the opening half of the fourth. Then it delved into a possession by possession game, with repeated stoppages as each team scored through free throws and television timeouts. With the game tied at 90 with around four minutes left, Dallas repeatedly went to Luka Doncic and it did not pay off. The stoppages in play continued with a reviewed scrum following another Gobert offensive rebound and Dwight Powell gave Dallas the lead back on free throws following the jump ball. Donovan Mitchell would answer with a drive but Doncic answered right back with a lay in. Doncic hit a step back three to give Dallas a four point lead with forty seconds left, but a Donovan Mitchell responded with an and-one. Powell missed both free throws on an intentional foul and then Gobert finished a dunk from Mitchell. Dallas fell 100-99 as the series heads back to Dallas tied 2-2
Now, some thoughts
Too much Luka Doncic down the stretch
If you watched this game like I did (in a straightjacket) you might have been screaming at Doncic down the stretch when he attacked Rudy Gobert and took difficult shots when he could’ve passed. And yes, he did hit a huge three to give Dallas a four point lead, but he also fouled Mitchell on an and one to give the lead right back. We’re all huge Doncic fans here, but he tried to do too much and it cost Dallas in a big way.
Maxi Kleber’s fouls changed the game and the rotation
The three bad fouls Kleber picked up in the first quarter resulted in so many downhill problems it’s hard to know where to start. For one, it meant more Dwight Powell who played 24 minutes. He might’ve played more anyway with Doncic back, but Powell got worked on rebounds and defense despite how hard he tried.
Kleber has to play smarter and better, he’s too important to the team.
Spencer Dinwiddie has to do something when he’s on the floor
While this simply may not be the series for Dinwiddie, his ineffective play for huge stretches of this series is not good enough. He’s forcing shots when he should pass, surveying the court when he needs to attack, and playing really unaware defense. I wish there was more to say, but shooting 20-of-63 for the series stinks. He’s got to do something while he’s on the floor as his minutes cost the Mavericks the game in a very tangible way (minus-14 in his 24 minutes in Game 4).
The refereeing needs to be better
I am not a refs guy, it’s a boring complaint. The Mavericks committed a ton of fouls, there’s no question there. But this was a game where the physical contact allowed was strongly in favor of the Jazz. Bojan Bogdanovic probably should’ve fouled out twice over with the amount of contact he was dishing out. It happens, of course, it’s a road playoff game, but the 42-23 free throw disparity partially tells that tale.
Keeping Rudy Gobert off the glass
This is directly related to the Maxi Kleber fouls, but Gobert getting 10 offensive rebounds is another element which cost the Mavericks the game. Group rebounding has to do the job and against the Jazz, it did not.
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