Stars Shine As Jazz Take Back Home Court Vs. Dallas
SALT LAKE CITY – It turns out the playoffs are about stars, and the Utah Jazz rode theirs to steal game one on the road against the Dallas Mavericks.
Without Luka Doncic, the Mavericks managed just 93 points against Rudy Gobert and the stellar Jazz defense to surrender home-court advantage in the series.
Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with 32 points despite a two point first half.
Gobert Dominates Game One
There should be no doubt that Gobert is one of the game’s all-time great defenders after his performance in game one against the Mavericks.
Despite missing his lone field-goal attempt, Gobert finished with five points, 17 rebounds, and three blocks in 35 minutes on the floor.
The Mavericks managed just 16 shots at the rim in game one and knocked down just eight buckets inside of five feet.
Overall, Dallas shot 38 percent from the floor and 28 percent from the three-point line as Gobert had no difficulties combating the Mavericks’ smaller roster.
Gobert’s rebounds were key as the three-time Defensive Player of the Year outdueled the Mavericks’ starting frontcourt of Dwight Powell, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Reggie Bullock 17-16 on the glass.
“If we can outrebound teams by 20 rebounds, at some point, people are going to have to think a little harder about going small,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game.
The Jazz struggled in their last playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers who went small over the final four games of the series which resulted in a blown 2-0 lead.
Against Dallas, Gobert and Hassan Whiteside punished the Mavericks for attempting to play two undersized centers throughout the game.
“It may seem like a really small thing but Hassan Whiteside, in a minute and a half, got us a couple of stops and offensive rebound, and a putback,” Snyder said of the Jazz reserve big man.
Like Gobert, Whiteside managed only three points in 12 minutes on the floor, but recorded eight rebounds, more than any individual Mavericks player.
Without Doncic, the Mavericks were missing their best scorer and rebounder, a clear reason for the Jazz’s success, but their big men imposed their will against the smaller Dallas roster, and it was the main reason for the Jazz’s series opening victory.
Playoff Mitchell Emerges In Second Half
The Jazz offensive failed to find a groove in the first half, scoring just 45 points as Donovan Mitchell managed just two points on 1-9 shooting.
It was a legitimate cause for concern as Mitchell had historically struggled against the Mavericks Finney-Smith, but the All-Star guard quickly solved the equation in the third quarter.
Mitchell scored 19 of his 30 second half points in the third quarter, knocking down 7-13 field goal attempts in the period, and lifting the Jazz to an eight point lead heading into the final period.
The guard wasn’t perfect in the fourth quarter, converting just 2-7 field-goal attempts to close the game, but scored 11 points and knocked down all six free-throw attempts to prevent the Jazz from surrendering another double-digit lead.
Perhaps most importantly, Mitchell grabbed four rebounds and handed out three assists in the final quarter, showing an ability to impact the game even when he wasn’t scoring when it mattered most.
The guard’s best play came with just under three minutes left in the game and the Jazz leading 90-88. Spencer Dinwiddie had the ball and was driving on the smaller Mike Conley with a chance to tie the game.
Mitchell left Finney-Smith, a 40 percent three-point shooter, to poke the ball away from Dinwiddie into the hands of Gobert which led to a Conley jump shot, and a Jazz four point lead.
The Jazz closer has struggled in fourth quarters this year but found positive ways to impact the team late in the most important game of the season.
Jazz Don’t Buckle
If the Jazz were looking to shift the momentum away from their up and down regular season, avoiding another fourth quarter let down was a good start.
The Jazz led by as much as 11 in the final frame, but a 16-6 Dallas run over a 3:46 stretch trimmed their deficit to just one with 2:12 left to play in the game.
But, instead of buckling as the team had done so many times through the season, the Jazz locked up Dallas during the final 130 seconds of the game.
During their final five possessions, Dallas converted just one basket, shot 0-3 from the three-point line, and didn’t get to the free-throw line when they most needed points.
Prior to that stretch, the Jazz had sent the Mavericks to the charity stripe 16 times in the final quarter, accounting for 13 of their 28 points in the final frame.
On the other side, the Jazz got a massive three from Royce O’Neale with 57 seconds left to play who had otherwise been held scoreless throughout the game. Mitchell scored the Jazz’s final four points at the free-throw line to ice the victory.
How the Jazz close games will be their defining trait over the remainder of the season, and they passed their first test in game one.
Other Notes From Game One
- Quin Snyder played a nine-man rotation that included Juancho Hernangomez in place of Rudy Gay, but the newly acquired Jazz man recorded only five minutes in the game.
- Jason Kidd played only eight players in game one, including three players who recorded at least 40 minutes.
- The Jazz repeatedly challenged second-year forward Josh Green to hit open threes while leaving Gobert in the paint, the Arizona product went 0-4 from the floor in 10 minutes.
- The Mavericks opened the game with Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock defending Mitchell and Mike Conley. That left the smaller Brunson and Dinwiddie to defender Bojan Bogdanovic, and the Jazz forward scored 26 points on 11-20 shots.
- The Jazz’s 22 three-point attempts were their fewest in a playoff game since April 29, 2018, in their series-opening loss to the Houston Rockets during Donovan Mitchell’s rookie season.
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