The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Utah Jazz on the road Thursday night, 98-96. Dallas closes out the series with the win. Luka Doncic led the Mavericks with 24 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
In what felt more like a tightly wound college game, the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz had a grindy and sloppy opening quarter. Dallas shot just 32% from the floor and missed 10 three point attempts, most of them coming in the form of open looks. Utah, on the other hand, had five turnovers but managed to connect on three of their 12 three point attempts and that helped give them a 21-15 lead after one quarter.
Scoring picked up on both sides in the second quarter, as Dallas quickly tied the game at 22. The Mavericks finally retook a 34-33 lead with a Luka Doncic step back over Bojan Bogdanovic. Donovan Mitchell didn’t look like a player with a hamstring injury and he relentlessly attacked the rim, helping the Jazz keep pressure on the Dallas defense. The Jazz entered the half up 53-41 as the Maverick defense was no where to be found.
The opening of the second half felt foreboding for Dallas, but foul trouble with the big men pushed Jason Kidd into an unorthodox small-ball line up that resulted in a quick 8-0 Maverick run to pull Dallas within four. The shots continued to fall for Dallas, but the Jazz answered time and again, keeping Dallas at bay with a 3-4 point margin. In the closing minutes, Dallas took a lead on yet another three, this time from Dorian Finney-Smith. Spencer Dinwiddie closed the quarter with a made lay-in and Dallas headed into the final quarter up 77-72.
Dallas opened the quarter, hitting a three and looked poised to run away with things playing small ball. But the Jazz rallied within two by the eight minute mark. The Mavericks once again pushed the lead out to eight, but the Jazz responded with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 88. Dorian Finney-Smith connected on a wide open three on a broken defensive coverage to give Dallas a 91-88 lead with four minutes left. The Jazz tied it at 94 all on a huge Boganovic three but was answered immediately by a Brunson make in the corner. Rudy Gobert scored to pull within one, but neither team could score on ensuing possessions. Following a Mike Conley travel, Jalen Brunson hit one free throw to give Dallas a two point lead. Bojan Bogdanovic missed the final attempt and the Mavericks hold on and win 98-96. Dallas closes the series 4-2 and will face the Suns in round two.
Now, some thoughts.
Advancing in the playoffs is good, no matter how it happens
Dallas did not play a great basketball game. There was a lot of confusing decision making on offense, some poor defense at times, and guys looking really, really tired.
They won anyway.
There are things that concerned me, but much of what we saw that wasn’t great (primarily clutch time) felt motivated by exhaustion. Winning a playoff series is HARD, seeing as the team we watch haven’t done it since June of 2011. There might be some criticism of the execution and that’s reasonable, but any time you get irritated with the conversation, remember that the Mavericks advanced and that’s AWESOME.
The small-ball line up for Dallas is worth breaking out a bit more often
We’ll talk about the Suns a lot in the coming days and weeks, but keep the small-ball line up Dallas used in the back of your mind. The Mavericks found a spark by spreading the Jazz defense out with Dorian Finney-Smith playing center on offense and Doncic playing it on defense. The shot making in the third quarter (8 of 12 on threes) was outstanding, but the shot quality was also good too. I don’t know if they can get away with that too often against the Suns, as DeAndre Ayton is a monster, but I certainly hope we get to see it. Raining threes off of drive and dish basketball can be fun to watch if the shots are falling.
Welcome to the playoffs, Spencer Dinwiddie
Spencer Dinwiddie was 23 of 71 over all and just 6 of 27 from three coming into tonight’s Game 6. Dallas does not win without Dinwiddie’s 19 points, including 4 of 7 from three. He had a few catch and shoot chances and a few terrible step backs that went down anyway. Hopefully, this game can be a spark for Dinwiddie, who Dallas needs if they’re to surprise the Suns in the next round.
Dorian Finney-Smith comes up big when it matters most
The Dallas iron man once again played a spectacular game on both ends. Not only did he play Donovan Mitchell fairly well on the defensive end, he poured in 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out five assists. Finney-Smith played just over 43 minutes per game the last six contests, so hopefully he and the other Mavericks can get some rest before playing the Suns Monday night.
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.