Jazz Adjustments Not Enough In Game 3 Loss

Apr 21, 2022, 11:35 PM | Updated: 11:36 pm
Utah Jazz forwards Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz forwards Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz made major adjustments in Game 3 of their opening round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, but ultimately, it was the same story as their Game 2 loss.

Jalen Brunson and the Mavericks supporting cast proved to be too much for the lackadaisical Jazz defense who find themselves on the wrong side of a seemingly unstoppable Dallas attack.

Donovan Mitchell poured in 32 points to lead all scorers, but the Jazz’s three-point shooting attack was badly outdueled for the third straight game.

Jazz Go Small, Fall Short

The biggest adjustment the Jazz made came in the third quarter when they went small with Eric Paschall at center in place of Rudy Gobert, but the change felt more like a Hail Mary than a pre-planned alteration.

Surprisingly, it almost worked.

The Jazz trimmed the Mavericks 17 point third quarter lead to just one with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter, but Dallas found enough answers to hold onto the win.

Paschall scored six points and grabbed just one rebound in 10 second half minutes, but his energy sparked his Jazz teammates to attack the previously stout Mavericks defense at the paint.

Remarkably, the Jazz shot a perfect 17-17 inside the arc in the third and fourth quarters and knocked down all 15 of their free-throw attempts, but they were unable to stop the Mavericks’ offense.

Despite the Jazz hot shooting, they were outscored by Dallas 29-27 in the fourth quarter, fueled by Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie’s 18 points on a combined 6-11 shooting.

Jazz Still Have No Answer For Brunson

Prior to the radical second half lineup change, the Jazz had no answers for Brunson over the first 30 minutes of the game as the Mavericks built their 17 point lead.

Brunson repeatedly got into the paint in the first and second quarter, regardless of who the Jazz threw at him in the first half.

The Mavericks guard scored 15 points on a super-efficient 6-9 shooting to open the game before a hard foul from Jazz forward Royce O’Neale sent him to the locker room to end the half.

Brunson returned in the second half with 16 points on 6-13 shooting, including 3-4 in the fourth quarter to lead the Mavericks to victory.

“He’s unique in his physical strength and his ability to kind of keep his dribble alive in the lane,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He really uses his body and he’s able to play with his feet on the floor, so if you do come over and try to help he has the ability to find people and spray the ball out. He’s a good player.”

Brunson repeatedly blew past Mitchell, O’Neale, and Mike Conley in isolation situations. When Gobert switched onto him, he knocked down difficult contested mid-range jump shots.

When the Jazz did finally funnel Brunson into a crowded paint in the second half, Brunson made them pay for collapsing. The guard recorded four of his five total assists in quarters three and four to keep the Jazz defense off balance despite their late run.

After the game, Conley hinted at a breakdown in the Jazz scheme as a reason for the team’s shortcomings.

“Each guy has to be better on the ball,” Conley said, “but if we’re going to get beat, [the Mavericks] should be basically seeing bodies.”

Instead, the Jazz are over-dependent on Gobert to clean up their defensive mistakes, leading to easy Dallas threes on the perimeter.

“Those guys out there are making plays, they’re finishing in the paint, they’re making the right reads,” Conley said. “We have to change something, we can’t sit there and continue to hope that Big Fella is going to save us.”

The Jazz will look to make those adjustments ahead of Game 4, but face a difficult reality as Luka Doncic is expected to make his return to the Mavericks lineup.

Mavericks Are Playing Harder Than The Jazz

The expectation with the series shifting back to Utah was that the Jazz would open Game 3 with a burst of energy, and the inexperienced Mavericks roster would have to overcome a hungry team while playing at altitude.

Instead, the Mavericks jumped out to an early nine point lead fueled by the three-point shooting of Maxi Kleber and Josh Green, stunning the Jazz for the rest of the half.

“They’re playing really hard and they’re spacing the floor really well,” Conley said of the Mavericks’ performance. “A lot of those guys came in and have given the great minutes and are taking advantage of the way we’ve played defense on certain segments of the game.”

After two days of practice in which the Jazz lauded their planned adjustments, the Mavericks’ hot shooting carried over from the second half of game Game 2 and killed any chance of building momentum.

“They came out and they hit shots,” Mitchell said of the Mavericks’ first quarter. “That’s a deflating feeling taking the ball out every single possession.”

Dallas’s superior hustle has kept the Jazz off the three-point line throughout the series, attempting fewer than 30 threes in each of the first three games, while the Mavericks’ offensive execution generated another massive shooting night.

Over their last two games, the Mavericks have connected on 40-89, taking, and making more threes than the Jazz have recorded in the first three games combined.

The Jazz will once again make adjustments ahead of a critical game four on Saturday, but time is quickly running out.

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