BEN ANDERSON

Jazz Turn In Playoff Worthy Performance Against Dallas

Feb 25, 2022, 10:29 PM | Updated: 11:47 pm
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz played one of their best games of the season in their 114-109 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points on 11-19 shooting while Rudy Gobert added 14 points, 17 rebounds, and three blocks.

Luka Doncic scored 23 points to lead the Mavericks but shot just 8-24 in the Dallas loss.

Jazz Impressive In Playoff Preview

The matchup with the Mavericks was billed as a potential playoff preview, and it more than lived up the hype.

Like a truly great postseason matchup, the game featured superstars playing at an extraordinary level, role players hitting big shots, and clutch plays on both ends down the stretch.

Mitchell scored seven of his 33 points in the fourth quarter including a huge three with 4:12 left to play to give the Jazz a 105-102 lead.

The guard carried the Jazz offense all night with one of his most impressive shooting performances of the season, knocking down 7-12 three-point attempts.

Dallas answered Mitchell’s late three with a 5-0 run to retake the lead and began trapping Mitchell more aggressively on defense.

That forced the All-Star guard to make plays for his teammates and they reward him.

The Jazz answered with a 7-0 run of their own thanks to four points from Gobert, and a crucial three from Bojan Bogdanovic.

“As much as I want to take the shot, we have four other guys on the floor that want to get the shot,” Mitchell said. “Make the right play, make the right read, and it’s all about trust.”

On the other end, Gobert strung together an impressive stretch of defensive stops against Doncic to slow the Mavericks’ offense.

Doncic managed just eight points on 3-8 shooting in the fourth quarter as Gobert matched the Dallas star step for step on the perimeter.

“Most guys have things that they really like to do, so I’m always aware of that,” Gobert said. “Then I’m always aware of the foul situation, I know when I don’t have a lot of fouls, and we have team fouls, I can get a little more aggressive and force them to drive. Then once they drive I’m pretty much in my comfort zone and I get them where I want them to be.”

As the best rim protector on the planet, the Jazz have traditionally hesitated to pull Gobert away from the hoop to defend on the perimeter. It just so happens, however, that the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is also the team’s best perimeter defender.

The Jazz have been eliminated in each of the last two postseasons due in large part to their subpar perimeter defense. Against Dallas, Gobert made sure to slow that trend, and it won the Jazz the game.

Quin Snyder Lofty Luka Comps

The NBA is undergoing a statistical revolution, especially on the offensive end with players across the league putting up historical numbers seemingly every season.

Doncic falls into that category with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Nikola Jokic of star players recording video game-like numbers in recent years.

Though his 23 point, 11 assist, five rebound performance didn’t match his play leading into the All-Star break, Doncic was averaging 35.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 9.8 assists over his last 10 games while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 43 percent from the three-point line.

Snyder offered some lofty comparisons for Doncic and explained why he’s so dominant on the floor.

“He’s got a post-up game, he can play isolation, he can play pick and roll, he’s an elite passer, he can rebound the ball,” Snyder said. “You can point to isolation from what we saw, I think of James Harden in Houston.”

The Harden comparison has grown in popularity in recent years, but Snyder didn’t stop there.

“A Magic Johnson type, height and passing ability,” Snyder continued. “It’s one of those things where you can merge all these great players — those are the things that he’s capable of doing.”

Last season Doncic gave the Los Angeles Clippers everything they could handle in the opening round of the playoffs when he averaged 35.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 10.3 rebounds before getting eliminated in seven games.

The Jazz survived Doncic behind Gobert’s brilliance, but he’ll find counters to the areas he struggled on Friday and be ready for the team’s next two regular-season meetings, and potentially, the postseason.

Jazz Face Suns Sunday

The Jazz now turn their attention to a marquee matchup on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns.

Phoenix has the best record in the NBA by more than six games and has won at least eight games in a row for the fourth time this season, including a 16 game winning streak earlier this season.

The Suns will be without Chris Paul, however, who during the All-Star break was diagnosed with an avulsion fracture in the thumb of his shooting hand.

The injury is expected to keep the All-Star guard out through much of the remainder of the regular season, and potentially into the playoffs.

That sets up an opportunity for the Jazz to snap their six-game losing streak to Phoenix dating back to October 2019, the last time they got a victory over the Suns.

The Jazz were without either Gobert or Mitchell in their two losses to Phoenix this season and were without Mitchell and Conley in their late-season loss last year.

The last time the Jazz played the Suns with their full arsenal was in a 117-113 overtime loss to Phoenix on the road when Mitchell poured in 41 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Without Paul, Sunday’s game won’t be an accurate depiction of what a future playoff matchup could look like, but it’s the best opportunity the Jazz have had to snap their losing streak in almost a year.

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