Through the first three games of the Dallas Mavericks first round series against the Utah Jazz, the Mavericks made a concerted effort to attack Donovan Mitchell on the defensive end. Mitchell is a dynamic scoring talent but he is only 6’1” and is not particularly interested in the defensive end of the court.
The Mavericks were only 4-of-9 shooting against Mitchell in Game 1 but they ramped up their attacking of him in Game 2. They ramped up their attacks of him shooting 9-of-16 against him in Game 2. Jalen Brunson in particular punished him in route to a career high 41 points.
Mitchell also failed to close out on Mavericks’ three point shooters multiple times including this wide open three by Maxi Kleber.
The Mavericks were an even more efficient 9-of-14 shooting against Mitchell in Game 3 as they erupted for a series high 126 points. Spencer Dinwiddie joined the action blowing by Mitchell for an uncontested layup.
Mitchell also wandered off in to no man’s land failing to give help on the initial drive or box out, allowing Dorian Finney-Smith an easy put back dunk.
All of this is meant to say that Mitchell was very bad defensively throughout the first three games and the Mavericks did a very good job of taking advantage of it. Coming into Game 4, with Luka Doncic returning it would seem obvious that either Mitchell would continue to be a focal point as there is no 6’1” guard in the league who can defend Luka. Further, the Jazz still had to defend Brunson, whom they had shown no ability to defend whatsoever.
The Mavericks chose not to do so. The only basket the Mavericks made with Mitchell as the defender was a Brunson twisting short jumper on a scramble after an offensive rebound.
Mitchell played better defensively as he did not appear as a video game character who’s controller had become disabled at any point during the game. But the Mavericks let him off the hook. Luka made it a point to attack Bojan Bogdanovich and Rudy Gobert who were the Jazz’ two best defenders in this game.
Luka and Jason Kidd are too smart to allow this to happen again. The Mavericks were 22-of-39 attacking Mitchell in Games 1-3 and only 1-of-3 in Game 4. The Mavericks should make it a point to attack Mitchell more going forward. If they do so, there is a very good chance that they will win their first playoff series since 2011. And Luka Doncic will have the first playoff series win of his hall of fame career.