After the Mavericks 100-99 Game 4 loss to the Jazz, I was personally taken aback at the amount of doom and gloom Mavericks fans seemed to have. The Game 4 loss was disheartening and frustrating yes, giving up a four point lead in the final 40 seconds, but the Jazz gave the Mavericks their best shot on their home floor and still only managed to squeak past the Mavericks thanks to some missed free throws and the Mavericks misguided offensive approach in the fourth quarter. Utah didn’t win Game 4 so much as Dallas lost it.
When the Mavericks won Game 3, I wrote about how the Mavericks had all the answers in this series. Despite the Game 4 loss, I still very much believed that. Dallas threw away a chance to go up 3-1, but the advantages they had in the series hadn’t disappeared — if anything, they only amplified with the return of Luka Doncic from an injured calf. Those advantages were once again crystal clear Monday night in Dallas, with the Mavericks dominating Game 5 102-77 to take a 3-2 series lead.
Everything was on full display — the Mavericks renewed defensive approach, the offensive mismatches all over the court, and of course a healthy star leading the way. Where the Mavericks went away from what worked in Game 4, in Game 5, the Mavericks never relented. Doncic and Jalen Brunson repeatedly abused the porous Jazz perimeter defense. Just about every shot for the Mavericks was a layup or a wide open three and indeed, the Mavericks only took six total shots from the midrange in Game 5.
It seems silly to say a team that won by 25 left some meat on the bone, but the Mavericks absolutely did, missing multiple wide open looks from three: Dallas shot 8-of-24 on "wide open" threes in Game 5, according to NBA.com tracking data. Reggie Bullock, Jalen Brunson, and Luka Doncic combined to go 7-of-26 from three, with most of Brunson and Bullock’s threes being wide open. When Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz’s starting backcourt, are on the floor, the Mavericks outscore the Jazz by 11.5 points per 100 possessions, according to stats site Cleaning the Glass. The Jazz defense gives up 112.1 points per 100 possessions with that duo on the court, which doesn’t seem like an awful number on its own, but consider three of the games came without Doncic. Doncic now has back-to-back 30 point games and his performance in Game 5 was an improvement on Game 4 in most ways. While Doncic still sought out Rudy Gobert, he took him to the rim multiple times for scores, compared to Game 4 where Doncic was a little step-back happy in the same matchup. If Doncic can cook Gobert, the Jazz really have nothing left, as Brunson tortured the Jazz’s bad defensive backcourt. The Mavericks offense is a well-oiled machine against this paper-tiger Jazz defense.
While the Mavericks are shooting open threes and getting layups, the Jazz are grinding out 10-15 foot two pointers. Dallas has done a great job running Utah off the line all series and while Game 5 the Jazz got loose a little (30 three point attempts) the Mavericks were able to mostly contain and contest whatever the Jazz did. Mitchell is shooting 37 percent from the floor and 19 percent from three in this series after a Game 5 showing where he was 4-of-15 from the floor and missed all seven of his three pointers. Dorian Finney-Smith has been glued to Mitchell’s hip, pestering him at the three point line and using his length to contest almost everything inside the arc. As much as the Mavericks have thrived on offense despite Doncic’s absence, the defense, and particularly Finney-Smith, deserve deeper consideration. So many times in the past a small, trigger happy guard would torch the Mavericks and their conservative drop coverage. The Mavericks coaching staff has Finney-Smith more aggressive than ever before and it’s working. Dallas has done a splendid job limited Utah in three attempts for most of the series that the Jazz must have been shocked they were able to get up 30 attempts Monday. Maybe that explains the 3-for-30 shooting mark.
At this point, what is left for Utah? Perhaps more Jordan Clarkson, the only Jazz player showing a pulse. But even for all his offensive prowess this series, the Mavericks are killing the Jazz’s defense whenever Clarkson is on the floor. The Jazz had their chance with Doncic out of the lineup and they lost two of those three games. That’s all we needed to now about this matchup. The Mavericks have outclassed the Jazz so far and there are no signs of anything changing.
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