Mavericks Solve Jazz Defense, Take Game Two

Apr 18, 2022, 9:57 PM | Updated: 10:26 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz missed their opportunity to take a 2-0 series lead against a shorthanded Dallas Mavericks, and head back to Salt Lake City even at a game apiece after a 110-104 loss on Monday.

Jalen Brunson diced up the Jazz defense with a career-high 41 points as the Mavericks teed off from the three-point line throughout the night.

Dallas knocked down 22 threes, their most makes from beyond the arc this season as the Jazz defense was left scratching their heads throughout the fourth quarter.

Mavericks Solve Jazz Defense

Just as the Jazz fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in game six of the 2021 postseason, the Mavericks ran through lineup adjustments in game two until they found the winning combination.

Jason Kidd went to reserve center Maxi Kleber for all but 23 seconds of the fourth quarter, allowing Dallas to play five men beyond the three-line line, and the Mavericks took turns penetrating and kicking out to shooters for wide-open threes.

Brunson had 41 points to lead the Mavs, but it was Kleber’s 25 points on 8-11 three-point shooting that broke the Jazz’s back.

Just as Terance Mann torched the Jazz with seven made threes in their 25 point collapse against the Clippers, Kleber repeatedly stood unattended in the corner feasting off the Mavericks’ dribble penetration.

Last season, the Jazz couldn’t stay in front of Reggie Jackson, in game two it was Jalen Brunson.

“The challenge for us is to do a better job containing the ball,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Then, if we aren’t able to do that, to come and be able to protect the rim, and when the ball is kicked out, get up to those shooters.”

The Mavericks targeted Mike Conley in the limited time he was on the floor as the veteran was riddled with foul trouble throughout the night. When Conley was on the bench, Dallas targeted Donovan Mitchell who similarly struggled to stay in front of the Mavericks guard.

Mitchell said despite the similarities in the two losses, he thinks the Jazz can fix the issue.

“I’m not too concerned because I had a bad ankle, Mike had a bad hamstring,” Mitchell said of the Clippers’ loss. “They were supposed to beat us off the dribble. Now there’s something we can fix.”

Last year, the Jazz ran out of time to make adjustments to the Clippers’ small lineup and went into the summer with a bad taste in their mouths.

If there’s a bright side to Monday’s loss it’s that their defense was fully exposed after just two games, and the Jazz have five more opportunities to prove they can right the ship.

Conley And Gobert Disappear Offensively

Even before Dallas figured out how to beat the Jazz on offense, they stifled both Conley and Rudy Gobert defensively.

After attempting just one field goal in game one, the Jazz looked to get Gobert involved in the offensive early in game two, but the big man didn’t reward their effort.

Gobert committed three turnovers in the first quarter, all of which came on catches in the mid-post, and missed a dunk on an alley-oop near the rim.

The center finished the night with eight points on 2-5 shooting to go along with four turnovers, and 17 rebounds.

While Gobert struggled, Conley was hardly noticeable in the little time he spent on the floor.

The guard was in foul trouble throughout the night, playing only 22 minutes in total as he struggled to stay in front of both Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie, picking up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half.

Conley finished the night with zero points on 0-7 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, and four fouls in his worst playoff performance as a Jazzman.

The Jazz will need to get more from two of their three All-Stars on the offensive end if they want to overcome a talented Mavericks defense.

Troubling Trends In Dallas

Though the Jazz are coming back to Utah having split the series, there are several troubling trends they are bringing with them, beyond a defense that was unable to adjust to the Mavericks’ attack.

First and foremost, the return of Luka Doncic now looms large as the guard will be 11 days removed from his initial calf injury. Had the Jazz won game two, it might have put pressure on Doncic to return to the floor earlier than expected, and less than 100 percent.

Now, the Mavericks likely bought themselves more time to get Doncic closer to 100 percent before making his return.

Second, the Jazz haven’t been able to generate any easy looks from the three-point line this series, and it’s dragged down their offense.

Dallas limited the Jazz to just 29 three-point attempts, one game after allowing only 22 threes, while allowing 18 total makes in the first two games. Without the three-point shooting, the Jazz spacing collapses, and when they drive to the paint, the Mavericks have been there to challenge looks at the rim.

Third, the Jazz haven’t been able to force Mavericks turnovers, recording just 10 takeaways in the first two games.

Dallas committed just three turnovers in game two, tying an NBA playoff record, and preventing the Jazz from getting out in transition. The Jazz were outscored in fastbreak points 16-3 by a hungrier Mavericks roster.

If the Jazz want to avoid giving home-court advantage back to the Mavericks, they’ll have to stem these trends before they get worse.

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Mavericks Solve Jazz Defense, Take Game Two